The Natural Capital of Middlebury, Vermont
According to Green and Haines, natural capital represents “a healthy and functioning environment [that] provides valuable ecosystem services, such as food, timber, wildlife habitat, flood control, and recreational opportunities, which are essential for human life” (Green, Haines 2012). The town of Middlebury possesses a wealth of natural capital in these forms that has allowed the community to thrive. One example of abundant natural capital in Middlebury is the undeveloped landscape that provides for wildlife habitat, flood control, and recreational opportunities. In fact, the Middlebury Land Trust has preserved 1,099 acres within town lines, representing 9.3% of the land within the town that is protected from development, motor vehicles, and sprawl (Peterson 216). Middlebury’s wetlands and floodplains served as flood control during the devastation of tropical storm Irene in 2011. The Gund Institute estimates that the wetlands and floodplains ability to act as a sponge to hold excess water diverted damage from the storm and protected Middlebury from as much as $1.8 million in flood damage (Shapiro 2016). This is an example of a Systems View of Community where the ecology of the community served to benefit both society and the economy as the encompassing system. An additional benefit of Middlebury’s natural capital is its recreational opportunities. One of the best representations of this is the community-based organization Trail Around Middlebury (TAM). The TAM is a footpath over 18 miles long that has been in existence for 25 years and has continued to grow throughout that time (Get Involved TAM 2016). It provides a well-maintained recreational space that connects hundreds of acres of town land for walkers, runners, cyclists, and other outdoor enthusiasts. TAM is a valuable example of natural capital because it brings economic benefits to the town, especially its use for Middlebury College and its students, and it also serves to bring the community together to maintain it. Groups from Middlebury College, Middlebury Union High School, and businesses throughout the town volunteer to help keep the trails clear, safe, and well maintained for the benefit of the community.
- Peterson, W. Scott. “Latest News.” Middlebury Land Trust, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2016. .
- Shapiro, Carolyn. “University of Vermont.” Wetlands Prevent Millions of Flood Damage: Study. Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, 07 June 2016. Web. 24 Sept. 2016. .
- Green, Gary P., and Anna Haines. Asset Building & Community Development. 4th ed. Los Angeles, Calif.: SAGE, 2012. Print.
- “Get Involved TAM.” TAM – Trail Around Middlebury. Middlebury Area Land Trust, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2016. .
- “Dirty Miles in the Green Mountains.” Sweat Once a Day. 6. July. 2013. Web. 24. Sept. 2016. http://www.sweatonceaday.com/2013/07/dirty-miles-in-the-green-mountains.html