Celebrating clean water every day at Hildene
visitors alike are invited by Governor Scott to join in, "Celebrating Vermont's waters, and the efforts of businesses, organizations, and communities to protect
and restore clean water statewide, so all can drink, swim, fish, boat and admire the scenic beauty" of the Green Mountain State.
For its part, Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, driven by its mission "Values into Action" and core values of sustainability, conservation and civic responsibility, is
committed to caring for Vermont's water in general and the Battenkill, specifically. The 412-acre estate of presidential son and captain of industry, Robert Todd Lincoln, is bordered to the east by a half mile of the historic river, famous for its catch and release flyfishing.
Environmental education that includes water related topics starts at a young age at Hildene with programs for grades 1-5. Students discover the importance of
clean water through experiential learning in school programs focused on answers to questions like: What makes a stream healthy? Why are wetlands called working lands? Why are ponds and vernal pools important to a healthy ecological system?
Hildene does not stop here. Its commitment to environmental education runs the gamut from grade school through adulthood. Take for example their newest
initiative, entering into an innovative agricultural collaboration with Burr and Burton Academy, with high school students taking classes such as sustainable
agriculture, food systems and ecology. By their very nature, such courses delve into the importance of protecting water sources. All this learning is taking place
on the lower portion of Hildene's 412 acres. Known as the Dene, the area includes meadows, farmland, a wetland and land buffering the Battenkill, making
the importance of clean water intrinsic to all studies there.
The Dene, like all of Hildene, has deep historical roots in the past, so when this fertile land that lies below the Lincoln family's home was recently returned to
agriculture after a century long hiatus, it was done with intention. The meadow lies near the wetland that borders the Battenkill. Any roots put down must go
into healthy soil, enriched with carbon and organic matter so when used it acts more like a sponge and not like a sieve. Hildene's adherence to restorative
agricultural practices, assures that students and guests will observe first hand an agricultural operation committed to the protection of clean water.
Further protection from runoff into the river comes from the forest buffer that Hildene's 25 year Forest Management Plan recommends. Students learn
practices like this one and others such as rotational grazing and cover- cropping that further protect the soil, in turn protecting the water from runoff, thus
keeping it clean. The opportunity to learn from its farm, forestry and conservation efforts, and protection of water extends to and enriches not only the student
experience but that of the tens of thousands of guests who visit Hildene each year interacting with them and the environment.
In conclusion, guests arriving or departing Hildene often ask if they can purchase a bottle of water for the hike ahead or the ride home. The answer they get is a
surprise to many, as Hildene no longer sells water in plastic bottles but it can be gotten from the tap and they need not worry about its quality.
Hildene is open daily, year round from 9:30 to 4:30. Check in at the Welcome Center. Admission required. To learn more about Hildene, visit www.hildene.org
or like us on Facebook.
Paula Maynard is Group and Press Director at Hildene.
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