Friends of the Mad River is recruiting volunteers for a newly-imagined version of its Mad River Watch (MRW) water quality monitoring program that will launch this summer across The Valley. Sponsored by Lawson’s Finest Social Impact Program and incorporating lessons learned from decades of volunteer-driven monitoring, the program builds on a foundation of citizen science and community-valued water quality data that have been the hallmark of the last 30 years.
“We have learned that many of our community’s water quality challenges occur when rain washes pollutants from the land and we’ve learned where E. coli and phosphorus levels tend to be high and resolved many problems,” explained Kinny Perot, Friends’ co-founder and board member. “We’ll still track many of these long-term trends, but I’m also excited about new learning and opportunities from the updated Mad River Watch program.”
Volunteers’ data will inform a more complete story about the health and well-being of the Mad River watershed to share with the community, guide the questions Friends of the Mad River (FMR) asks next and contribute to building climate resilience. This summer, volunteers will again spread out across the watershed, this time using in-the-field methods to guide their observations, responding to changing conditions as they arise. “We’ve built MRW 2.0 around the idea that thoughtful observations are the basis for sound scientific inquiry. And, because we value the diverse perspectives this community can contribute, we are inviting anyone’s inner scientist, artist, naturalist or curious river-goer to play an important role,” said Lisa Koitzsch, Friends’ MRW coordinator.
FMR plans to continue sharing information about the state of the watershed with the broader community, though its regular updates in The Valley Reporter will look a little different. “When we say, ‘inviting your inner artist,’ we really mean it. The health of the river is not just about crunching numbers, but about the way we all connect with and celebrate the watershed,” noted Corrie Miller, FMR executive director. “Our hope is to not only share the data collected, but also the stories and artistry that come from our volunteers -- and to inspire all of us to explore our own connections to the land and water around us.”
For decades, MRW has helped drive the conversation around the importance of monitoring and protecting clean water, and the new program will continue that tradition. “Lawson’s Finest is thrilled to partner with Friends of the Mad River,” said Sean Lawson, CEO and founding brewer at Lawson’s Finest Liquids. “A healthy watershed starts with clean water in our streams and rivers, which in turn provides pristine groundwater. We rely on Waitsfield’s town water source on Scrag Mountain to make great beer, making it our most important resource to protect.”
ad River Watch has helped inform people’s decision-making around when and where it is safest to swim, while also driving conversations about the importance of stewardship at these much-treasured river access points. “Mad River Watch has always been about the good stewardship of our watershed. As land use patterns change, as we see increased impacts from recreation and development, and as the challenges of climate change unfold around us, we wanted to emphasize the positive role each of us can play,” explained Ira Shadis, FMR stewardship manager.
Friends invites the community to learn more about Mad River Watch 2.0 at an online informational session on Thursday, May 27. Registration is required and can be found online at friendsofthemadriver.org/madriverwatch.
This article was originally published in the Valley Reporter on May 20th, 2021.
On March 11th, the Mad River Valley Libraries and Friends of the Mad River hosted Zac Cota-Weaver from the North Branch Nature Center to bring an awesome Amphibian Road Crossing training to the MRV. We explored the lives of amphibian species like the Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum), the Jefferson Salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum), and the American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) – among many others. We covered the basics of how our amphibian neighbors live, how to help them cross the road, and how to capture important community science data along the way. If you missed the training, the whole thing can be found online at the NBNC website.
After the event, Zac let us know that a TON of volunteers signed up to be Amphibian Road Crossing volunteers here in the Valley. It is exciting to know that there are so many of you out there with curious minds, a willingness to pitch in, and a love for amphibians!
One of the challenges of helping our amphibian neighbors is the fact that they tend to only move around on warm, rainy nights. Springtime offers a handful of those warm, wet nights – but predicting the weather in Vermont ain’t always easy!
Friends and the Mad River Valley Libraries want to invite anyone who attended the training event (or anyone who is interested in amphibians – we just ask that you watch the NBNC training videos first or join up with someone who has) to join us on a warm, wet evening sometime in the next few weeks. We will keep an eye on the weather forecast and when the conditions look good, we will give you a 24 hour notice with the time, location, and parking directions. We hope to see you out there!
What: Amphibian Road Crossing In-Person Event
When: A warm, wet night sometime in April – with 24+ hour notice
Hosted by: Friends of the Mad River, the Mad River Valley Libraries, the Northbranch Nature Center
For: Volunteers who want to learn about their amphibian neighbors and help them safely cross the road!
Friends of the Mad River’s Storm Smart program launched its fourth field season this week. The program has worked with dozens of community members at more than 100 Valley properties to help property owners sustainably manage runoff and reduce erosion. Friends of the Mad River (FMR) staff offers homeowners and property managers a free assessment and a custom report, similar to a home energy audit, that outlines steps they can take on their own property to save dollars and contribute to the Mad River’s clean swim holes and the community’s resilience.
“Since launching in 2018, the Storm Smart program has helped people across The Valley ‘spongify’ our landscape. By slowing down, spreading out and sinking in water as it crosses the land, we can reduce the impact of storms like the heavy spring rain we saw last week. We can slow runoff on our roads and swim holes, recharge ground water and build resilience into the landscape,” said Ira Shadis, Friends of the Mad River stewardship manager.
“It’s been a pleasure to see that many of the green infrastructure practices used to manage water can also benefit wildlife. Healthy connected forests slow rain in the canopy while deep roots make a more porous floor below. Rain gardens, flush with native flowers, sedges and bushes, can provide important habitat for pollinators, birds and other small wildlife neighbors. Planting along streams, ponds and drainages can reduce pollutant loads while also providing shade and clean water for fish and amphibians alike,” he continued.
In 2020 and again this year, Friends of the Mad River partnered with Friends of the Winooski and the Winooski Natural Resource Conservation District to offer the Storm Smart program to the entire Winooski watershed.
“Expanding Storm Smart from its beginnings in the Mad River watershed is an opportunity for this community to be both an incubator and collaborator,” said Corrie Miller, FMR executive director. “With so many people seeing value and seeking to play a part, each doing their bit in their backyards, we have so much to learn and share.”
“That same spirit of collaboration and creativity informs a lot of our work. As we grapple with big, complex issues like climate change, we see a lot of value in broadening collaboration across our community,” Shadis added.
The Watershed Project is a new partnership between Friends of the Mad River, the Community Engagement Lab, Friends of the Winooski, the Vermont Energy Education Program and a pair of professional artists that helps educators bring the connection between art and science to their students. Interested educators can contact Claire Tebbs at email@example.com or visit www.communityengagementlab.org/the-watershed-project.
To schedule a Storm Smart assessment or learn more reach out to Shadis at Stormsmart@friendsofthemadriver.org, or call (802) 496-9127, or visit www.friendsofthemadriver.org/storm-smart.
This article was originally published in the Valley Reporter on April 1st, 2021