Vermont River Conservancy received an $10,000 Upper Missisquoi & Trout Rivers Wild & Scenic grant as part of the River Community Grants Program, to create a management plan and conduct site improvements for a public access site on the Missisquoi River. Several years ago, VRC worked with landowners Bruce and Anne McKay to help realize their vision of merging a portion of their property with the Village of North Troy parcel below Big Falls State Park, to improve public access and increase conservation benefits of this important land on the Missisquoi River (link to completed project details here). With the Village’s recent approval at the end of 2019, this property will be conserved by VRC and transferred to the Village with an approved management plan and site improvements in place in 2020, for people to enjoy access to the river and fishing hole below Big Falls.
The McKay Big Falls parcel is dominated by Silver Maple – Ostrich Fern Floodplain forest, which visitors pass through to arrive at the open field / well-head area and move on to the River Cobble Shore below the Falls. In 2019, after years of leaving the metal gate on River Road closed and locked, the Village of North Troy opened the gate allowing public access to the site. Whereas before, limited parking in the pullout on River Road kept site-use low, vehicular access to the property’s driveway and lower field allowed public use to increase substantially. Allowing public access is the intent of conserving the McKay Big Falls parcel, but it must be done with proper management and site improvements.
Without any management in place, vehicles were able to drive to the water’s edge and near the well head, camping and campfires were unchecked, and no signage provided visitors with site rules. These actions can damage sensitive areas quickly and intensively. Designated parking and campfire locations are important management decisions, and can allow for desired uses while protecting natural resources. VRC understands how many people enjoy accessing the river here, as originally intended by the McKays, and wants to ensure it is managed well for long-term enjoyment.
The Village of North Troy depends on the public’s respect of this property and ensured respect for the water well head area and infrastructure. VRC will vet community needs and concerns so that the management plan robustly supports hassle-free future ownership by the Village of North Troy. Management planning will address topics including: Naming of property, signage, parking, trails, dogs, litter / trash, vehicles, picnic areas, campfires, loitering, human waste, seasonal uses, hazards, river buffer vegetation, invasive species control, flooding, erosion, long term maintenance and seasonal site stewards.
VRC collaboratively manages several popular swimming and fishing holes and river access parks throughout Vermont. Partner and funding support from the UMATR River Community Grant Program will help ensure VRC can initiate this process with a strong partnership and collaboration from the Village of North Troy. Community involvement is critical for a successful plan with the goal of river access to this beautiful spot on the Missisquoi River to be enjoyed by all.