The 123-acre Green Mountain College campus on the Poultney River provides a rich environment for academic programs, student life, and ecosystem services. It is divided into three distinct regions: 39 acres of natural areas including the Poultney River buffer zone, 40 acres on Cerridwen Farm, and 44 acres of designed buildings, landscapes, and athletic fields.
In addition to the natural areas on campus, St. Catherine Mountain is home to the College's Deane Nature Preserve, which is 85 acres of land open to students and the public for education, research, recreation, and leisure, located 5 miles southeast of campus.
Over 300 native vascular plant species are found in more than 15 plant communities on the main campus and at the Deane Nature Preserve, ranging from riverine floodplain forests on the Poultney River to dry oak forest at Deane. The campus recently adopted a campus-wide native species landscaping policy, highlighted by six 'native species' gardens that display portions of the regional flora.
The Poultney Community Trail, located near the Poultney River, is maintained for skiing and hiking. The trail links campus with the town of Poultney and its rail trail.
Values of Campus Lands
Green space on the Green Mountain College campus provides ecosystem services, and is vital to education, research, and recreation. Campus lands are outdoor classrooms and field sites for projects by both students and faculty. They are used in practical application of skills learned in courses, and provide a healthy and attractive living area for GMC and Poultney community members.
Several campus sustainability initiatives focus on campus lands. The Land Use Committee advises the Provost and College Cabinet to maintain and enhance the values of campus lands in keeping with the mission of the College. It provides recommendations to the Cabinet on land policy, and on any proposed projects that will change land use, appearance, safety, maintenance requirements, ecosystem function, or species composition.
The Poultney River, which runs near the western boundary of campus, lies within the Poultney-Mettowee watershed and the Lake Champlain Basin. This watershed is 309,000-acres, and provides water for 17 towns in Vermont and New York. The Poultney is one of the cleanest rivers in the state, and supports diverse fish and freshwater mussel communities including 8 threatened or endangered species such as the eastern sand darter and the pink heel-splitter.
Floodplain wetlands and forests associated with the Poultney River form one of the least-developed riparian corridors on a warm-water river in Vermont. The College maintains a 35 meter wide buffer zone along the river to decrease erosion, maintain high water quality, and moderate water temperature. The buffer zone and other natural areas also play a vital role by providing habitat for native plants and animals, biomass production, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, and waste processing, among others.
To ensure that these ecosystem services continue, vegetation in natural areas is allowed to develop primarily through natural processes. Invasive species are managed, native flora is planted to restore some areas, and studies of restoration are conducted.
The campus lands provide many opportunities to enhance our liberal arts education for both campus and community members. Several academic programs depend on campus lands for field studies, including Biology, Natural Resource Management, Environmental Studies, and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Production.
For the senior capstone course - A Delicate Balance - and the Student Campus Greening Fund, several student projects each year focus on campus lands. Some examples of this include a recently completed outdoor classroom, and a garden of bird-dispersed, fruit-bearing native shrubs. Service learning projects have also initiated land management and policy. Relationships with community partners such as the Poultney-Mettowee Natural Resource Conservation District's Watershed Alliance program enhance land use.
Faculty and students are engaged in research projects in a variety of disciplines on campus lands and in the region. Some field labs are designed to give students the opportunity to contribute to long-term studies while they learn field and lab skills. For example, students have collected most of the plant specimens in the College's herbarium and made it possible to compile a flora list for campus and Deane Nature Preserve.
Beginning in 2001, Ecology students have monitored old fields on campus to compare the course of succession following release from hay and corn. Faculty and students in the Biology program conduct research on campus lands and in the Poultney River. Topics include:
Genetic structure of northern brook lamprey populations in the Champlain Basin
A spatially explicit study of environmental influence on Beech Bark disease
Carnivore surveys in the Southern Lake Champlain Valley
Effects of coarse woody debris on tree seedling establishment in floodplain forest restoration
Genetic structure and its implications for the ecology and conservation of fish populations in the Champlain Basin
Ecology and Systematics of Dragonflies and Damselflies in Vermont
Recreation & Leisure
A sense of place produced by the natural areas and green spaces found throughout campus is an important aspect of our connection with the land. With a section of the Poultney Community Trail and other recreational trails located on our main campus, there are many opportunities for students, faculty, and community members to enjoy the lands.
The scenic Poultney River attracts students to swim, study, meet, jump from the rope swing, and otherwise enjoy their surroundings. At Deane Preserve, two routes to the top of St. Catherine Mountain offer a choice of moderate and steep ascents, and the west-facing bluff on top offer great views of Lake St. Catherine and the distant Adirondacks.