Geographic walk brings seminar to life

By Greg Duggan
Observer Staff

A group of local teachers and town officials stood atop Five Tree Hill Saturday morning, taking in the view of Lake Champlain as part of a three-hour ecological tour of town.

Now, armed with interesting facts about the natural and human history of Williston, the group plans to share the knowledge with students and residents.

“My goal is broad-based, to bring the connection to the landscape to all residents of Williston,” said Carrie Deegan, the town’s environmental planner. “We’re working on that in the school level and in some adult presentations. We hope to culminate in a community visioning event early next year.”

The walk occurred as part of the Williston Geographic workshop meant to educate residents about the town. The three-month program is sponsored by Shelburne Farms, the University of Vermont PLACE Program, the Williston Conservation Commission and the Williston Historical Society.

Led by Jesse Fleisher, a graduate student in the UVM Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, and naturalist Alicia Daniel, the walk followed and supplemented a presentation on Sept. 26 entitled “Forests, Fields & Rocks: the Natural Landscape of Williston.”

Fleisher said he chose Five Tree Hill because so many elements of the human and natural history of Williston are visible, from old cellar holes and stone walls to exposed bedrock and views of forests and waterways.

Several teachers from Allen Brook School and Williston Central School left the walk eager to bring the lessons back to students, as many classes are planning or in the midst of projects tied to nature.

“I wanted to learn more about Williston and help students feel more connected to their home base,” said Marybeth Morrissey, a Journey House teacher at Williston Central School.

Margaret Munt, a Discovery House teacher at Allen Brook School, learned on the walk that leaves from a cedar tree can be used to make tea for a source of vitamin C.

“It’s tidbits like that I’ve been able to share with my children that they’ve been completely fascinated by,” Munt said.

Debra McConnell, a teacher in Verve House at Williston Central School, and Michael Kellogg, a teacher in Calliope House at Allen Brook School, both said they enjoyed learning about the former shoreline of Lake Champlain, which extended into Williston more than 10,000 years ago.

A tour for residents followed later in the day.

“Plenty of people these days don’t get out as much as they want to into the woods,” Deegan said. “You lose touch with the landscape around you, if you’re just going to work and coming back to the house. It’s good for people to get out and see what they’re living in.”

The next presentation in the Williston Geographic series is scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Williston Central School Auditorium. The presentation is titled “People and the Williston Landscape: A History of Change.”