Thank you to Tom Estill for his observations through out the park year round.
As of late Monday September 7th, our newest trail, Milk Run, is fully open!!
We started building this trail with YES plan from Rutland High School and Youth Works volunteers in 2018. That first year we completed about 1300′ of trail with 400 volunteers and 1600 volunteer hours. In 2019 we completed about 1000 feet of trail with 1225 volunteer hours, 286 volunteers. 2020 the year of corona and no major volunteer groups like YES plan or Youth Works we accomplished quite a bit.
The trail is just under 3900 feet (.74 mile) long. FYI, the longest trail in the park is Stegosaurus at 4100 feet.
The Vermont Youth Conservation Corp (VYCC) came in with 4 crew members for 2 weeks and we completed just under 1500′ of trail. With VYCC removing organic material and our three Pine Hill Partnership volunteers doing finish work behind them it was a perfect combination utilizing the work force. We completed just under 1500′ trail in a little over 500 hours. We did have an extra hand two days that really helped with getting a couple of small banked corners built along with finish work. Having a trained work crew was instrumental on getting this trail done.
VYCC is a paid trail crew. We are still soliciting donations and contributions to help defray the cost.
The trail still will need a touch of refinement next year (hopefully our big volunteer groups are back). We expect to build two banked corners on the new section.
Update October 28, 2020: We received a check from IMBA/Shimano for $2300. to help pay for the VYCC crew we had in the park the end of July. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this fund.
We have been selected as one of 10 recipients of the IMBA Dig In Grant program. With the support of Shimano, IMBA is doing a grant to pay for trail building at Pine Hill Park. Read the announcement from IMBA here.
This program will help us raise money needed for the VT Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) to come in at the end of July and help finish off a couple of trails in the park that volunteers have been working on. (map below)
Thanks to COVID-19, large volunteer groups are not happening in 2020. VYCC will be a big help, but we will have to pay for their services.
Our newest trail, Milk Run, was started in 2018 with the help of volunteers. At the end of July we are having VYCC come in and hope to use their time to get all the organic material off so that we can open the trail up to the top of Upper Halfpipe. This is about 1500′ of organic top layer to be removed.
Why remove organic in Pine Hill Park? We have found for long term sustainability, our trails hold up better by removing it early. Early on in our learning process of building trails we would do a ‘rake and ride’. Those trails now have been rebuilt at least once if not twice.
If you’d like to help us with this effort, please consider making a donation here. As always, thank you for your support!
Thanks to Tom Estill we have these great nature reports.
Driving up to the pine hill park parking lot on the first day of spring, I was pleasantly surprised to see my first robins of the season scurrying about the ground looking for worms and other food to eat. Otherwise, the only other birds I saw that day were downy and hairy woodpeckers, crow, Canada geese at Muddy Pond, and tufted titmouse. At Rocky Pond, I observed a pair of turkey vultures circling above the rocky overlook, then land among the rocks. Thinking they might be considering nesting there, I walked up the trail and took a closer look but found no birds, nor nest. Rocky Pond was mostly open water, with a thin layer of ice covering the south and east shores. Numerous Eastern newts could be seen swimming near the shores where there was open water. Two days later, all ice was gone from Rocky Pond. Muddy Pond, on the other hand, still had a small amount of ice on its west side shore. At Muddy Pond, you could see Mallards, wood ducks and Canadian geese, along with 2 osprey flying overhead.
March 26th found Eastern bluebirds sitting on the trailhead area bird houses, occasionally flying in and out of the boxes. Very exciting to see, but tempered with the knowledge that they probably would not nest so close to all the park visitors going into, and coming out of, the park. And after watching the boxes closely for a few weeks, that’s exactly what happened. On this day, all ice was gone from both ponds, and numerous wood ducks could be heard calling in the wetland area just south of Rocky Pond. The first butterflies of the season, the mourning cloak and the Eastern Comma were seen, as well as the first wildflower of the season(as usual), the Coltsfoot. The last thing of interest on this day was the sighting of an Eastern garter snake near the quarry cliffs.
The last day of March found the oak trees starting to bud, common mergansers at Muddy Pond, and barred owls “hooting” near Trail sign #14.
The first week of April found both hooded and common mergansers on Muddy Pond, white breasted nuthatches building nests in tree cavities, osprey nesting for the 4th year in a row at Muddy Pond, and spring peepers starting to make their presence known with their piercing calls. While walking along Crusher Rd., I heard numerous gray squirrels and Eastern chipmunks sounding their alarm calls, then watched a beautiful red fox run across the road. During an evening walk, I noticed how quiet the forest was but knew that soon it would be filled with the sound of numerous birds as they established their territories, and began their mating rituals.
On April 19th, bluebirds were still flying in and out of the birdhouses, which surprised me very much. Were they actually going to nest in those exposed boxes, I wondered. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers had returned, and you could not walk anywhere within the park without hearing the drumming of those birds. It seemed the park was filled with them. I had never heard so many.
A broad-winged hawk was seen flying through the forest with a chipmunk hanging from its talons. Hermit thrushes had returned, along with the first warbler of the season, the American Redstart. And at Muddy Pond, Canada geese had begun nesting atop beaver dens.
By April 23rd, the forest was alive with numerous southern migratory birds having arrived, wood frogs calling during the day, Canada geese and Osprey nesting, trailing arbutus flowering, and turkey vultures continuing to fly over the Rocky Pond lookout. I had the feeling that they were probably interested in nesting there, but the presence of hikers would keep that from happening. The evening was still very quiet.
By the last week of April, spring peepers were being heard all over the Rutland Area, trout lily was flowering, tiny wood frog tadpoles were emerging from their eggs, painted turtles were sunning themselves, and the forest was filling with birds. On one birdwalk April 28th, I saw a cardinal, tufted titmouse, yellow-bellied sapsucker, rufous-sided towhee, yellow-rumped warblers, white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee, robin, crow, Eastern phoebe, ring-necked ducks, Canada geese, red-shouldered hawks, osprey, and yellow-throated vireos.
The first week of May found a pair of broad-winged hawks checking out a nest near Trail Marker 12. But its proximity to hikers would keep them from nesting there, unfortunately. And on May 2nd I saw something I had never seen before. A yellow-bellied sapsucker and hairy woodpecker were fighting up and down this tree for the longest time until they both flew off into the forest. Fiddleheads were emerging, wood anemone, barren strawberry, painted trillium and purple violets were flowering, and on May 2nd, dozens of painted turtles could be seen sunning themselves on Muddy Pond. Black-throated blue warblers, black and white warblers and black-throated green warblers were seen for the first time.
On May 7th, adult Canada geese were seen swimming with their 4 goslings at Rocky Pond, and gay wings and dwarf ginseng were in flower.
On May 14th, night temperatures reached near 32 degrees F, which turned out to be the last near freezing temp. of the season. During that day, I saw my first blue-headed vireo.
Two days later, the American chestnuts began “leafing out”. All 50 chestnuts had survived the winter except for one. One of the trees is now 11 ft. tall!
By the start of the third week of May, summer resident birds had all pretty much returned with the exception of only a few birds. Residents now included the beautiful scarlet tanager and indigo buntings, Eastern towhee, ovenbird, and various flycatchers.
On May 19th, while walking along Crusher Rd., I once again heard numerous chipmunks giving warning calls to one another, and sure enough, a moment later, a barred owl came flying across the road right in front of me. Gray treefrogs could be heard throughout the whole forest with their distinctive call.
On May 21, Shelley Lutz and I went on an interesting bird walk. While I used my Bird Calling App. to attract birds, she had her camera ready to take close ups of the birds as they came near to investigate. You can see some of her amazing photos on the Pine Hill Park Partnership website. I’ll tell you, she got some amazing photos. See for yourself!
On May 23rd, while walking on the Carriage Trail, suddenly out of the woods right in front of me jumped a mother ruffed grouse with “fluffed” up wings, coming at me aggressively, and making a high pitched squeaking noise. Hiding in the shrubbery nearby were her chicks. I just casually moved away not wanting to bother her anymore than I had to.
During the last week of May I saw the ruby throated hummingbird feeding on honeysuckle flowers, a small toadlet crossing the carriage trail, 2 broad-winged hawks fighting near the quarry, a beautiful tiger beetle, and a chipmunk feeding on red oak leaves. By the way, leave the tiger beetles alone, they have a nasty bite.
On May 28th I found a chestnut-sided warbler nest being built just a few feet away from Trail Marker #11. A few days later, the nest had 2 eggs in it. Then a few days after that, the eggs were gone and the nest abandoned. I have no idea what happened. The nest hadn’t been damaged. That same day, I saw a rose-breasted grosbeak in the forest. In fact, Shelley identified its call, before I even saw it.
By the end of May the common buttercup, forget-me-not, pink azalea and starflower were all in bloom.
Mid June found 2 families of geese on Rocky Pond, yellow wood sorrel, dwarf cinquefoil, thyme-leaved speedwell, common fleabane, king devil, and dame’s rocket all in flower, adult veery were feeding their young, schools of baby brown bullheads could be found in Rocky Pond, and fireflies were seen the first time on June 17th.
On the last day of spring, I saw a gorgeous white-tailed deer crossing Crusher Rd. Since then, I see THEM almost everytime I hike in that area on my early morning hikes.
That’s it for this issue. Please stay on the trails, and enjoy your walks, hikes, and times at Pine Hill Park.
We are reaching our limits of trails in Pine Hill Park. We currently have 17 miles. With Milk Run, Bone Spur and Maximum Capacity all adding about another mile and a half we will have reached our limit for density of trails inside Pine Hill Park.
This is a rough map of where Milk Run is completed in 2018, 2019. 2020 we hope to break open the rest of Milk Run with a VT Youth Conservation Corp crew in July. They are a paid crew so we are trying to raise money to cover this expense.
Bone Spur will be a pretty bony section off Milk Run.
Maximum Capacity will branch off Milk Run and head towards Intersection 20. We hope to have a mini halfpipe on this trail if all goes well.
If you are able to donate money to help defray the cost of a VYCC crew it would be greatly appreciated. We are applying for multiple grants-we have been turned by a couple and are patiently waiting to hear on other applications. https://pinehillpark.org/donate-2/
Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the Board of Directors voted today to cancel the 2020 Annual Meeting.
While we are very disappointed in not being able to see you all and tell you about our plans for next year, we are hoping to see you on the trails (at the appropriate social distance, of course) as we all enjoy what the Pine Hill trails have to give to help us to get through the challenging times ahead. For now, look to the web site and social media for updates and plans as we move ahead.
Thank you for your continued support of Pine Hill Partnership. Stay healthy and we’ll meet again soon.
Andrew Shinn, Joel Blumental, Dave Jenne, Claus Bartenstein, Peggy Shinn, and Shelley Lutz—Board of Directors
Our volunteer Nate N has been out grooming the last few days. He’s been able to lay down a pretty sweet path in the woods and down around the ball field. Like what you see? Please consider a donation to the Snowdog fund. More snow in the forecast so the riding/skiing/walking should get better! If temps go above freezing please refrain from biking/walking/skiing on the groomed trails please.
Come join MTBVT and us for a pretty exciting fat bike event. Sunday, February 2nd, 9-4pm. Great rides on groomed trails, food and beverages will be served. Tickets are available here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rutland-cold-rolled-registration-86801177659
Wild Times at Pine Hill Park by Tom Estill
Summer, 2019 Summary
Wild Times At Pine Hill Park
Summer, 2019 Summary
The first day of summer turned out to be a gorgeous day this year. Many birds could be found in the park including, American redstart, hairy woodpecker, black and white warbler, red-eyed vireo, hermit thrush, robin, ovenbird, immature yellow-bellied sapsucker, and great-crested flycatcher. Gray squirrels and Eastern chipmunks were a common sight.
A week later, on June 27th, I spent the day at the park clearing weeds from around the base of the 50 American chestnut trees, cutting down encroaching saplings, and spraying the leaves of the chestnuts with deer repellent. All the 50 trees are doing well, with one of them now over 10 feet tall! The big question now is, will one or more of them FLOWER next spring? Birds seen on this day included robins, scarlet tanager, hermit thrush, veery, ovenbird, red-eyed vireo, American redstart, chestnut-sided warbler, and black and white warbler. A few years ago, I would hear only one scarlet tanager singing in one place in the park, but this year, scarlet tanagers were singing on Crusher Rd., lower, middle, and upper Giorgetti trails, Carriage trail, and near Rocky Pond.
On July 2nd, the chestnut trees were watered as they always are after a dry spell. A red admiral butterfly, a not uncommon butterfly, was seen flying about. Many species of butterflies inhabit Pine Hill Park. I was particularly happy to hear from many park visitors that they had been observing more monarch butterflies in the park this season than they had in the past. Each year, local school students plant more and more milkweed in the forest in an attempt to increase the dwindling numbers of Monarch butterflies. Milkweed seeds are collected in the fall, refrigerated until spring, grown in the classroom, and then planted near Rocky Pond. The Rocky Pond milkweed population is an official Monarch Waystation. Also on this day, a young yellow-bellied sapsucker could be heard calling from its nest near Intersection 12. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers have successfully nested in that same tree, but different holes, for the last 4 years. Birds seen that day included cardinal, tufted titmouse, wood thrush, hermit thrush, scarlet tanager, great blue heron, red-eyed vireo, yellow-throated vireo, American redstart, and myrtle warbler.
On July 8th, an adult osprey was seen sitting on its nest at Muddy Pond, and an Eastern Peewee could be heard nearby. We all wondered if the adult was brooding eggs.
On July 21, an Eastern garter snake and tiny American toad toadlet were both seen on Crusher Road near the old quarry. And on July 23rd, I noticed that the forest was suddenly getting much quieter than it had been in the recent past. Also on this day I saw monarch, painted lady and great spangled fritillary butterflies flying about.
By the last week of July, the blueberries had ripened, and there were areas where the ground was covered in blueberries. Fawns could be seen walking about with their mothers, and other adults could be seen walking about by themselves looking for those blackberries and blueberries to feed upon, no doubt.
On the last day of July I took a walk through the VERY QUIET forest and saw American goldfinch, robins, red-eyed vireos, hermit thrush, crows, and great blue heron and one osprey at Muddy Pond.
The first week of August found a very quiet forest, a kingfisher at Rocky Pond, cedar waxwings nesting in pitch pine trees at the south side of Rocky Pond, and button bushes flowering along the shore of that pond. Button bush seeds are collected each fall by local school children, refrigerated during the winter, then planted in the spring along the shores of Rocky Pond in an attempt to attract more waterfowl to that pond. The seeds are eaten by waterfowl. This time of year you can still see red-eyed vireos, Eastern pewees, American goldfinch, great crested flycatcher, tufted titmouse, and yellow-bellied sapsuckers.
On August 6th, 2 young ospreys were seen in the nest, while 2 adults were flying overhead, with one of the adults holding a fish in its talons. That’s two years in a row now those ospreys have successfully raised young in their nest. On this same day, I saw my first Lichen Moth, one of the most beautiful moths I have ever seen. The contrast between the yellow and black colors of its wings was quite striking.
During a walk in late August, I heard barred owls calling near Rocky Pond and saw a double-crested cormorant flying overhead. Small wood frogs and toadlets were a common sight along the rain soaked trails.
On Sept. 8th, I took a late afternoon walk to Rocky Pond, and during that slightly over two hour walk, I didn’t see or hear a single bird. That’s the first time that has ever happened to me at Pine Hill Park.
Ospreys were seen at Muddy Pond until around the middle of Sept. when they abandoned the nest for the season. Will they return to the same nest next year? My guess is that they probably will.
The week before the fall equinox gray squirrels and chipmunks could be seen scurrying about collecting acorns and other seeds in preparation for the approaching cold weather. Though the forest was very quiet, you could still find flying about, birds such as yellowthroat, broad-winged hawk, black-capped chickadee, blue jay, song sparrow, belted kingfisher, great blue heron and wood ducks. It was nice to end the summer season with the sight of a beautiful, healthy looking red fox up near the quarries.
That’s it for this issue. Please stay on the trails and enjoy your time at the park.
Spring, 2019 Summary
At the beginning of spring, lower Giorgetti trails were all bare ground; while throughout all the upper trails one could still find patches of snow and ice, especially on the north facing slopes.
The last day of March found both Rocky and Muddy ponds covered in ice with a few puddles of water dispersed throughout the ice cover. A few Canada geese were seen at Muddy pond and pair of mallards were seen at Rocky Pond swimming in a few small patches of open water on the perimeter of the ponds. The only birds I saw that day were a pileated woodpecker, crow, and the waterfowl mentioned above.
By April 7th, the snow was almost completely gone from the park, but both ponds were still covered in ice with the exception of a narrow band of open water around the perimeters of both ponds. I was terribly disappointed to see the old osprey nest tree blown down by a recent storm. Osprey had successfully nested there the last two years. Eastern newts were seen for the first time this season, along with a few northern migrating birds including yellow-bellied sapsucker, hermit thrush, wood ducks and osprey.
In mid-April, all signs of ground snow and ice were gone, and ice was completely gone from both ponds. Streams were running high, red oaks were budding, trout lily leaves were emerging from the ground cover and coltsfoot was flowering. Water level at Rocky Pond was so high; it was flowing over the top of all 3 beaver dams. More and more northern migrating birds were seen each day. In mid-April you could see Turkey Vultures flying overhead, and common mergansers at Muddy pond. Wood frogs, in large numbers, were calling from a wet wooded area just south of Rocky Pond.
In April, Lauren White made contact with representatives of VELCO in an attempt to get them to install an osprey platform on a power pole they were installing at the north end of Muddy Pond. Her efforts were successful and in the third week of April, 2 osprey were seen building a nest on the platform, after starting one on the top of an adjacent power pole, then leaving it.
On April 22nd, spring wildlife was out in full force. Birds seen that day included tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee, yellow-bellied sapsucker, hairy woodpecker, crow, black and white warbler, turkey vulture, mallards, Canada geese, osprey and white-breasted nuthatches. Spring peepers were calling, and painted turtles were sunning themselves. Many insects were flying about including the Mourning Cloak, the first butterfly to always appear in the park. 2 deer ticks were found crawling up my pant legs. I always do a thorough job of checking for ticks after each of my walks.
By the first week of May, many flowers were blooming including trout lily, wood anenome, white violets, trailing arbutus, wild oats and partridge berry. A few days later, the forest floor could be seen covered with fiddleheads, barren strawberries, white and purple violets, jack-in-the-pulpit, coltsfoot, and trout lilies, with Solomon’s seal starting to emerge.
In mid-May, polygala and toothwort were flowering, and the great crested flycatcher, catbirds, and rufous-sided towhees could be heard singing in the park. Gray treefrogs were calling and red efts could be seen on the trails, especially after a rain. All 50 American chestnuts survived the winter except one. That dead tree was replaced by an American chestnut obtained from the State of Washington.
By the end of May, foamflower, starflower, and pink Lady’s slipper were all flowering. Indigo buntings were once again nesting in trees under the powerlines on the Carriage trail, and a two-lined salamander was found under a rock.
At the beginning of June you would find false Solomon’s Seal, Canada mayflower, smooth Solomon’s seal and pink Lady’s slippers all flowering. New birds seen included the yellowthroat, broad-winged hawk, Eastern peewee, and least flycatcher.
Mid-June found yellow swallowtails flying about, Eastern chipmunks and gray squirrels scurrying about, and Osprey sitting quietly on the nest, probably keeping 2 or 3 eggs warm.
That’s it for this issue. Enjoy your time at Pine Hill Park, and please, remember to stay on the trails.
UPDATE JULY 6th: Exit Strategy is now open.
UPDATE JUNE 14th: A mountain biker and runner felt they were entitled to run and ride on Exit Strategy despite the orange snow fencing saying the trail is closed. We have put in 220 volunteer hours to repair it for two people to basically set us back another couple of weeks before the trail can open.
UPDATE June 11: Exit Strategy has been repaired with new material added to the corners. Thank you YES Plan. The last day the two girls crushed it as their classmates decided to play hooky.
Thank you Omya for donating the crushed marble/quartzite material.
We are letting it firm up before the trail opens which hopefully will be in the next 2 weeks. Thank you for your patience.
UPDATE as of Friday 5/31: Material is here and lots of it. Monday YES Plan will move as much as possible in a couple of hours. We will be holding a Community Work night Tuesday at 5pm. Come when you can to help us finish the repair work. Meet at the top of Exit Strategy with lots of bug spray and water.
Monday, June 3rd we are hoping to repair the corners on Exit Strategy where the under lying material is ‘surepak’.
When Exit Strategy was built in 2013 we moved 17 tons of surepak into the corners for the foundation. We then covered those corners with dirt that was dug out from borrow pits. Between the heavy use Exit Strategy receives, the hard rains we’re getting and the people that felt it was ok to ride it when the trail was super fragile. The dirt is being eroded off so the surepak is starting to show.
We have material coming this week (5/27) that we hope will set up and provide a firm top coating. YES plan students will be moving the material on June 3rd but they are not allowed to run machinery. We will be using Nemo and buckets to move material.
What we’re really looking for is an adult(s) that can run the whacker packer and help with Nemo. YES plan runs from 9:30-1:30. If you could help us out for 4 hours great, only an hour or two-that’s great too. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.