Centennial woods is 70 acres of woods that was designated a natural area by UVM in 1974. This area has a long history before being part of UVM’s campus but now it is a place for students and the community to enjoy. Nature and culture have intertwined in many ways to form Centennial woods, they have not always been as luscious as they are now, it even once was farmland. Nature and Culture are able to intertwine at centennial woods when the Burlington community and students are able to use it as a place for walking, birding, and other recreational activities as well as for educational reasons. The last time I was in my spot there was a large overturned tree that roots made ‘a natural wall’. it looked like there had been someone using it as a shelter because there was lots of trash and some evidence of drug use, so not all uses of the woods are positive but it is also a representation of Burlington’s population.
I remember at the beginning of my time at UVM I was taken to Centennial Woods with my NR-15 class and we found ‘sit spots’ and were instructed to write about why we came to UVM and how we were feeling. It was maybe the second week and I remember feeling so absolutely lost and scared being at college and not having real friends after leaving my childhood best friends, but when sitting in the woods journaling I felt very at peace and optimistic. Every time that I go into the woods to check on my spot, no matter how stressed or sad I might be, I always feel at peace and more centered after my visit. I consider myself part of my place in the sense that I am a student who utilizes the woods and has a connection to a specific area. Without this blog, I would have never gone to Centennial Woods as much as I did and I am thankful that I found a sense of place in these woods of Vermont.
I really never thought the Vermont winter would end, but it seems we have reached the long-awaited break in temperature! I got a sunburn just going outside due to my definite vitamin D deficiency. With warmer temperatures, there are signs of life coming back to Vermont! In my recent visit to my phenology site in Cenntenial woods, there are soft green buds and mosses bringing color back, as well as lots of water flowing through the area. There are many paths that look beaten down by the water flowing over it when there were heavy rains and snowmelt. I was hoping to see some spring flowers poking through the pine layer but I actually did not see any due to the heavy pine needle cover. I saw lots of moss in the areas of water flow, which would be due to the amount of moisture and warmer temperatures (aka anything above freezing). The most noticeable change in the trees that I noticed was that there were so many that had fallen over! I counted well over ten trees that I guess had fallen in the recent storms, as well as a few that looked to be chopped over by humans and intentionally burned, which was interesting to me. There was also human traces left behind the large overturned roots, it looked like someone had been using them as a shelter and left many articles of trash when they moved on.
Back in December when it was dreary and dark seemingly all the time, I told my mom how much I wanted to see green trees again and have the sun feel warm on my skin. We planned a trip to San Francisco for spring break and I excitedly counted the days until I could see leaves on trees again. My brother and Dad heard about it and decided to tag along and my mom took the joy of planning the trip. So for spring break, I was not at home next to the Charles River but instead in an Airbnb in San Francisco. The town-house we rented had a backyard, which apparently is rare for San Fran. It was so different from being home because all the trees were green and alive! and the flowers were blooming! I have a tree identifying app on my phone and the species that it identified in the backyard were so different from anything that is able to grow in Massachusetts. There was an orange tree in one corner, next to a 7-foot wide aloe plant. There was a banana tree along one of the walls, next to a 6-foot tall cement Buddha. My favorite vegetation that could be found all around San Francisco was the variety of succulents that could be found naturally growing outside. This was so different from what I was used to because living in the Northeast I have only seen succulents growing inside due to the harsh weather conditions. San Francisco showed me a very different environment and ecosystem from Northern Vermont or Boston, MA and I am very grateful I got the opportunity to explore it… thanks, mom.
In my recent visit to my phenology site, the snow was melting due to the warmer temperatures and there was lots of mud forming in the natural valleys and the path running through the woods. Personally, I love mud, so this mad me excited for mud season and the new plants to grow back and to have greenness again. I think that the natural community of my phenology area is an Oak-Pine-Northern Hardwood Forest Formation due to the amount of oaks and pines that are found in the area.
It has probably been around two months since I had visited my phenology site. Over the past two months, there have been many changes to my site, mostly due to the winter setting in and the snowpack that has formed on the landscape. The trees have all lost their leaves and are bare except for the Eastern white pines and the Hemlocks. There were many tracks in the snow, most were from humans that previously walked along the packed down snow. I fresh dog prints that I know was from a dog because I saw the dog form them. I also found some prints that were older not as obvious because of the rain and melting snow. I noticed there were fungi growing on the trees that had not been there during the warmer months, it was like a fan of different shades of green.
From just observations it is clear that Centennial woods is not an old growth forest, most of the trees appear to be adolescents ( mostly maples and white pines). Centennial woods has not always been a part of the University of Vermont, and it has also not always been a forest. The sandy soil found in parts of Centennial woods can be traced back to when the Champlain sea took residence on the land. There most likely was Abenaki and European settlements along the river that was once more The land was owned by C. Baxter Est., H. Stevens, a white man who most likely used the land for agricultural reasons. There are still stone walls that can be found that can be traced back to when the woods were a farm. The oldest part of the forest is most likely 1860 when the farm was abandoned, and UVM officially bought it in April of 1974.
Natural Areas, University of Vermont: a resolution of the Board of Trustees [PDF].University of Vermont Natural Areas. University of Vermont Environmental Program, http://www.uvm.edu/~uvmsc/Centennial%20Woods/UVM_Natural_Areas_1974001.pdf
Watertown is accurately named due to the body of water that creates a border running along our town from Boston to Waltham. The Charles River technically starts in Hopkinton and runs to the Boston harbor where it then deposits into the Atlantic ocean. The Charles has a reputation for being a city river, people assume it is dirty and not well taken care of. While that might have been the case in the 1980s when citizens and companies polluted directly into the river, it is now clean enough to swim in (in certain areas). In the past 30 years, there has been a large effort to make the river a clean and enjoyable element of Boston and surrounding towns. Every year the river gets a letter grade, it used to be around a D average but recently it receives a solid B.
Only one side of Watertown borders the river and my house is three houses up from the river. When I go to bed at night I can see the river from my pillow (fun fact: I can see people, bikes, cars, boats, trains, and planes from my room) I have also always had dogs which means at least two walks a day along the river for as long as I can remember. I have seen it through every season, time of day and weather. I personally have seen the river look very pretty, I always try to defend it. There is a path that runs along the edge of the river with trees on one side and the river on the other. There are many small species that are a constant presence, such as squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and many types of bugs. My mom is a biologist and for as long as I can remember she has pointed out the patterns of species and their characteristics.
I like Centennial woods a lot because it reminds me of the Charles river path at times. I live directly next to the city so there are a lot more paved surfaces and fewer trees. The river path definitely is not as thickly settled with trees but it is a nice piece of nature next to the city. The bottom of the river in Centennial woods is definitely nicer than the Charles River. The Charles River has a history of pollutants being in it and while the water is clean enough to swim in, the bottom has so many chemicals deeply layered that it is better left untouched and hopefully buried more. The area surrounding the Charles River has more pollution due to it being in a very urban area. There are often beer cans, plastic bags, paper scraps and other things that fall out of garbage trucks or people being sloppy. The land that Centennial woods sits on has many more hills and valleys than the Charles River which is essentially flat, Massachusetts does not have a very mountainous landscape. The Charles River water levels are controlled by dams, which are controlled by humans. The amount of rain can greatly affect both the Centennial woods river and the Charles River but the Charles is tightly managed by humans.
After this past visit to my phenology site, I saw some changes, especially since my first visit to my site. The foliage is not as bright as it was a few weeks ago, most of the leaves are on the ground except for a few beech trees. I went later in the afternoon and forgot about daylight savings had just happened so it got darker much quicker than I remembered. The stream that runs through Centennial woods was running much higher and faster than my other visits, most likely due to a large amount of rainfall recently. The ground was very moist and I noticed lots of different kinds of fungus.
This past Saturday I took a walk in Centennial Woods and visited my Phenology site. From the first time I visited and to now, I have definitely noticed changes. The leaves have changed colors because the season has transitioned to fall, so there are colorful leaves on trees and on the ground. I have seen holes in trees that I can assume were from birds or bugs. There were white mushrooms growing on tree stumps, and leaves decomposing on the ground.
My phenology site is along the stream of fresh water that runs through Centennial Woods. I follow the stream until I see the logs that have fallen across it. I like this area because I feel like there is a wide variety of vegetation and many unique species due to the brook. There are many large pine cones that are on the ground nearby, telling me there are eastern white pine trees in the area. The logs that are fallen across the river are former eastern white pines. There are a lot of bush type species in the banks of the stream. The picture is from my first visit to the spot but the leaves have started to change colors and drop to the forest floor. The water flows through but not at a fast pace, and the rocks look to possibly be shale.