Friends of the Winooski River was founded in 1998, to garner citizen awareness and activism around our vital waterway. Michele Braun has been the executive director of the Friends since 2017 and led our transition town talk in March.
Michele described three aspects of the Friends programs: Learn, Restore and Paddle (they host both an annual race and full moon paddle during the summer)
Michele said that the Winooski River is the largest watershed to Lake Champlain on the Vermont side, flowing 90 miles from Cabot to Lake Champlain in Colchester; there are seven tributaries to the Winooski and several smaller sub watersheds.
Locally, the watershed in Jericho is the 9.5 mile long Mill Brook. (The Browns River that also flows through Jericho and is part of the Lamoille River watershed). Mill Brook is considered a reference water source because of its relative health.
The biggest challenges to a clean Winooski are phosphorus from fertilizer which causes algae blooms, sediment which transfers the phosphorus and worsening erosion, smothering the stream beds.
Solutions recommended by the Friends are eco restoration, open floodplains, removing dams, and planting trees, among others.
Last year, the Friends successfully developed a floodplain in Northfield on the Dog River, a tributary of the Winooski River. Besides ecological, benefits included recreational; Michele went on to describe the town’s involvement and excitement around this project.
The Friends offer advice to landowners (check out their website for details!) including the ‘slow the flow’ concept; using rain roofs, barrels and other mechanisms to give runoff a chance for aeration.
Currently, the Friends are helping Jericho’s Conservation Commission work on a rain garden for the town green, next to the new pollinator garden.
Volunteer opportunities this spring involve planting 3,000 trees and shrubs along the Winooski, including a planting of 650 shrubs and trees on Mill Brook in early May.
Check out winooskiriver.org for numerous volunteer opportunities!