Taking a Step Back

Centennial Woods is a fascinating area. I find it so interesting how we can explore the land and human use of an area in order to understand its pieces, patterns, and processes better. I have always been interested in knowing the why and how of things and investigating into the land use and human history essentially allows me to read the landscape better and feel more connected to the place I’m exploring. In conjunction with using the pieces, patterns, and processes framework, I’m able to really satiate my genuine curiosity about my phenological site.

According to the Burlington Geographic, Centennial Woods was once entirely forest without any human intervention. That was until European settlers came in the mid 1700’s and over several generations came and the forests were clear cut in order to transform the land into more suitable farming and agricultural land. This drastic landscape change is responsible for much of the cultural landscape that people see in Burlington, VT. Today, Centennial Woods is actually just a piece of a larger wooded area that lies along the Burlington-South Burlington city line. It is one of the University of Vermont’s nine natural areas.

It’s also interesting to think about how Centennial Woods has turned into such a frequent place for UVM students, Burlington locals, or visitors to visit or explore. This results in increased human traffic and activity, increased maintenance of trails, therefore more noise pollution and general disturbances. And as I’ve learned in my classes, even the slightest changes in the landscape can have long-lasting effects on wildlife habitat or plant communities in Centennial Woods and other areas in Burlington.

As Burlington Geographic notes, “we know that human impact has changed Vermont’s ecological landscape enormously over the last 400 years,” and these changes may be obvious or subtle. Introduction of invasive species, extinction of species, or changing ecological habitats are all possible in the landscape. Even changes in the soil structure, its chemistry, or changes in water levels or quality can have drastic effects on the landscape.

I think it’s fascinating to analyze these cause and effect relationships and how they effect my perception of the landscape now. The human history of Centennial Woods is dynamic, intricate, and inevitably helps us understand the landscape in ways I would’ve never thought or cared about so deeply.