Burlington riverfront property permanently conserved

Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 3:45 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - There’s no shortage of public green space in Burlington but starting Tuesday there’s a new option for people to enjoy.

What used to be a boater’s paradise has now turned into an oasis for nature lovers.

“You can fish, bird, walk, picnic, paddle, and canoe,” said Jeff O’Donnell with the Lake Champlain Land Trust.

Up until a few years ago, Derway Cove was the site of River’s End Marina. But the 2.4-acre lot of land is a floodplain and with flood waters came a flood of issues for the business and local neighbors.

“You can see that there’s a lot of material that’s built up over time, and it got to the point where they couldn’t get boats in and out of the marina. There used to be 37 slips here,” said Nick Warner with the Winooski Valley Park District. He says they purchased the property in 2018 for about $355,000-thousand dollars, most of it through fundraising. A $37,000 FEMA grant paid for the removal of the residence that was on the property, as well as other buildings that needed to be taken down.

Now, the Lake Champlain Land Trust, and the WVPD have been working to let Mother Nature reclaim it while allowing the public to enjoy it, too.

“Essentially, what you see in terms of management is really the management plan down here. It’s a floodplain, it’s a light-touch, it’s public access,” Warner said.

The Winooski Valley Park District will maintain the property but the Lake Champlain Land Trust is taking things a step further. “Bringing back native species, removing some of the non-natives that were here, and helping some of the natives return,” O’Donnell said.

They’ve planted over 150 trees and shrubs on the property to encourage regrowth. But this project isn’t about the greenery alone. “There are five rare plant species here in the wetland that are now protected. There are several rare animal species including several fish and a mussel species, a salamander species, that are now protected off the shore,” O’Donnell said.

The surrounding neighborhoods also lie in a floodplain. With added vegetation, the property could help to retain floodwaters when the water levels of the Winooski River begin to rise. “So, when the Winooski River floods, now the sediment and any of the pollutants that might be coming down the Winooski River are going to be allowed to settle here,” O’Donnell said.

Derway Cove joins over 150 acres of surrounding conserved land, between Burlington and Colchester and is the Winooski Valley Park District’s 19th property. It’s what they’re calling a ‘best case scenario’ for both people and wildlife.

The property has easements that will prevent any future development. However, there is the option for the addition of recreational facilities, like a dock, if they decide they’d like that in the future.