A Riparian Buffer Success Story

Abbey outlines the task

On September 16th a group of volunteers gathered to plant a buffer of native vegetation along several hundred feet of Lake Fairlee’s shore.  In recent years this unpaved section of Robinson Hill Road has been washing into the lake.  It is well understood how runoff harms lakes and streams, accelerating their eutrophication and contributing to harmful algae growth.  Thanks to a grant from the Better Back Roads Program we have begun the process of restoring a healthy lakeshore.

The Better Back Roads program is in its 15th year helping Towns and private organizations keep silt and sediment out of our waterways with better maintenance practices.  Late last spring a small group of residents learned that a grant might be available for a project that would “promote the use of erosion control and maintenance techniques that save money while protecting and enhancing Vermont’s lakes and streams.”  They approached the Lake Fairlee Association and the Town of Thetford, inviting both to help provide the ‘local match’ required by the grant.

Ready for planting

A plan was developed, an application filed, and by early July the grant was awarded.  The project was scheduled for September.  Several hundred feet of Robinson Hill Road would be regraded to provide a wider shoulder for the new planting.  The grant of $1980 paid for screened topsoil, 26 plants, winter rye seed, and bales of straw mulch.  The Town of Thetford donated their heavy equipment (a backhoe and dump truck) with two men to operate them, as well as labor to dig the ditch, dispose of the fill they dug, transport the topsoil, and distribute it along the ditch.

Volunteer labor

A dozen volunteers provided labor, including representatives from the Lake Fairlee Association, the Thetford Conservation Commission, the West Fairlee Conservation Commission, and a few unaffiliated friends of the lake.  Two staff members from Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources were present at the site with shovels in hand: Ben Copans, Coordinator of the Ompompanoosuc Watershed District, part of the state’s Water Quality Division, and Abbey Williard, Manager of the White River Natural Resources Conservation District, who consulted about the buffer plan, and oversaw the project.

Mulching finishes the job

The planting date was delayed by tropical storm Irene, but the morning of September 16th was sunny and brisk as our volunteers met along the old Camp Norway shore.  Many hands (and shovels and rakes) made easy work.


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It is a pleasure to report some really good news once in a while!

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More photos of the planting party can be found HERE.