Quechee, VT – This summer, as rescued baby birds were raised and released and campers roved across campus, hammering and sawing could be heard in the woods of the VINS Nature Center. Among the trees, poles and a walkway have picked up as the nature trail leaves off, lifting off from the forest floor and rising into the treetops. A unique, innovative exhibit has taken shape, and a new day is beginning for the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. On Saturday, September 28, we hope you will join us 40 feet above the forest floor as we take our first steps onto the Forest Canopy Walk in the VINS Nature Center forest. This elevated walkway rises above the forest floor, into the canopy, bringing guests face-to-face with a world they’ve only ever seen from far below. Be the first 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 opens in just a few weeks, 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 includes 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.
Our event will feature a presentation from world-renowned tree canopy researcher Dr. Meg Lowman, also known as “Canopy Meg.” Dr. Lowman, who counts herself among the world’s arbornauts (“people who explore treetops,” she explains), will tell guests about “The Secrets of the Trees.” Notes Lowman, “I’ve been on a global quest to understand trees all around the world.” Canopies are vitally important ecosystems, says Lowman, noting, “Based on the rates of discovery, scientists estimate that 50% of species that live on land live in the tops of trees.” She adds that she and fellow arbornauts think they’ve “discovered about 10% of that, so that leaves 90% to go, and we have a lot of work in front of us and a lot of urgency because these forests are disappearing so quickly.”
The Forest Canopy Walk will play an important role in VINS’ overall mission of inspiring environmental stewardship among its guests. Lowman notes that education is vital to saving trees around the world.
“The more that people learn to understand what trees do for them, and why having trees is essential for staying alive on this planet… it’s a really important message that can be interpreted in a walkway.”—Dr. Meg Lowman, Forest Canopy Biologist
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.
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, New Hampshire are the builders. The Forest Canopy Walk will be opening officially in October 2019.
Our invitation-only press event will take place on Saturday, September 28, 2019. In addition to a presentation from “Canopy Meg,” we will be leading tours of the Forest Canopy Walk, to see the exhibit as it nears completion. You can join our staff in wandering the canopy of the September forest and seeing what’s been taking shape at the VINS Nature Center.