Quechee, VT – Over the winter, a remarkable transformation has been happening quietly along the banks of the Ottauquechee River in Quechee, VT. At the VINS Nature Center, poles and a walkway have picked up where the nature trail leaves off, lifting off from the forest floor and rising into the treetops. A new exhibit is taking shape, and a new day is beginning for the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. Join us [May 19, 2019] as we take our first look at the VINS Forest Canopy Walk emerging in the Nature Center forest. Once completed, this unique, innovative exhibit will bring guests up into the canopy, over 50 feet above the forest floor, to explore an ecosystem few ever get the chance to experience.
The Forest Canopy Walk will be a novel educational exhibit, a significant step forward in VINS’ place-based educational programs. With place-based education, visitors learn via active engagement with the surrounding environment, immersed in the forest even as they learn about its ecosystems, animals and diverse flora. When the Forest Canopy Walk is completed this fall, guests will be able to tackle the nets of the Spider’s Web, climb to an Eagle’s Nest, peer into an Owl’s Nest, and check out the Tree House, ascending 100 feet above ground to the very tops of the trees. Each of these features will include interpretive materials to empower and inform guests about the environment and their role in protecting it. A lesson about stewardship can truly take root when it’s learned from a leafy bough a foot away, as birds and squirrels dart among the branches at eye-level.
“We all experience the forest from the ground. Very seldom can we survey the forest from the treetops, so this presents a unique viewpoint and a very unique and cool experience really unobtainable in any other way.”— Charles F. Rattigan, Executive Director
Forest Canopy Walk construction began last fall following a benefits study and approval from the VINS Board of Trustees. Long-term economic stability is an important goal for VINS, as for all nonprofit organizations, and this initial study suggested that adding the Forest Canopy Walk to the VINS Nature Center would result in significantly higher numbers of visitors. “We look at it as a transformational piece for VINS,” Rattigan says, adding, “We think that it’s going to help secure a dramatic increase in visitors and that it’s going to translate directly to the bottom line.”
The ADA-compliant Forest Canopy Walk was designed by VINS and architect Tom Weller. Phoenix Experiential Design of North Carolina and Trumbull-Nelson of Hanover, N.H. are the builders. The Forest Canopy Walk will open officially in October 2019.
VINS also invites visitors to explore the Forest Exhibit , which captures the sights, sounds and smells of a natural forest. Discover common trees in our area and how to identify them. Investigate the amazing diversity of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects that call the forest home. Also explore our new Adventure Playscape , a natural place for kids with elements for creative play, fun for all ages.