The purpose of our Summer Naturalist Program is to provide community outreach and education in support of our conservation mission. Our program has grown over the years, and we now base our education programs on a variety of conserved properties across Stowe as well as on-site at some of our partners' facilities. The Summer Naturalist Program provides learning opportunities, especially for children, which inspire local citizens to engage with their natural world and foster a life-long love and appreciation for the land.
Thanks to generous support from Bowie and Helen Duncan, our Summer Naturalist Program was launched in 2013. In 2016, we began partnering with the VHCB AmeriCorps Program to hire a Summer Naturalist whose primary role is to run the program. Through the EpicPromise Grant Program, Vail Resorts has supported the funding of our Summer Naturalist Program in 2019 and 2020.
When we started, we based our programming exclusively at the 31-acre Mill Trail Property. This property was purchased and conserved by SLT in 2003. With a historic cabin, old mill site along the West Branch of the Little River, and the remains of a hill farm long grown up to forest, it is an ideal site to explore and connect with Stowe’s rich natural and cultural history. There is a trail through the property which begins at a trailhead off Notchbrook Road and continues 1 mile upstream to Bingham Falls. This short and easy walk is a great trip for hikers of all ages.
Today we continue to use the Mill Trail for public open house programming during the summer and as a home base to teach elementary students about habitat, river ecology, and the cultural history of the land. We also now lead outdoor programs and events on a variety of conserved and public land across town.
Summer Naturalist programming includes guided walks for all ages and active programs for children and families on topics from trees to insects to streams – all with an emphasis on our connection to the land both past and present. Our number one goal is to get people outside.
Visitors and locals alike learn about the Stowe's ecology, wildlife, history, and other wonders through our open house programming at the Mill Trail and other Family & Friend events. All our programs are free and open to the public. Click here to see our upcoming events.
We partner with school and summer camp groups to connect children with our natural world. Our Summer Naturalist brings expert knowledge of the outdoors and strives to instill passion and excitement for the land in program participants. Our program partners also help us with trail maintenance tasks, invasive species removal, and countless other fun projects that teach children how to care for and give back to the places they love.