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This week the Franklin County Conservation District released the second edition of a nature guide created with help from Richford NOTCH day campers. A first edition of “The Locals’ Nature Guide to the Richford Playground” was released in 2017 and featured over 30 species of local plants and animals observed by the campers, with descriptions from both the kids and lead naturalist Jeannie Bartlett (Franklin County Conservation District Manager).

The new edition brings in content from nature walks led in 2018 and more than doubles the content, with 70 species and over 160 direct-quote observations by campers. The new edition also goes more in depth about catching crayfish, identifying crayfish species, telling poisonous plants from their look-alikes, dealing with leeches, the dragonfly lifecycle, mushrooms, bugs, several kinds of fish, and all kinds of other discoveries from the river and forests at the Richford Playground.

Using guide sheets created by the White River Partnership in eastern Vermont, campers learned to identify two different species of crayfish. “See how the shell on the back comes together and then goes apart? That makes it a Virile,” pointed out camper Anthony Plante in 2018.

Campers gave helpful insights on telling poison parsnip, which can give a nasty skin rash, from some other plants it might be confused with. “Queen Anne’s Lace has the same shape as poison parsnip, but it is white,” pointed out Marshall Moffat in 2017. Distinguishing parsnip from another yellow, composite flower, Logan Kinney added, “Goldenrod’s flowers go in straight lines.”

Throughout the Guide, over 35 smart and observant young campers use their straightforward language and creative imaginations to guide us through the natural world of their hometown. Illustrations and additional interpretation by Bartlett tie the observations together and leave plenty of room for readers to add their own notes and drawings.

“Nature is the best,” reflected camper Chance Bosley in 2018. Jeffrey Tatro chimed in, “I have a feeling there’s more animals in the world that people haven’t discovered yet.”

The nature walks and creation of the guides were supported by grants from the Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers Wild and Scenic Rivers grant program. Copies of the guides are available from the town and school libraries in Richford and Berkshire, and are available for free download and reproduction below.

thumbnail for Nature Guide


Download a pdf of the 32-page 2nd-edition Nature Guide here (26.7 MB)

Campers wading by a dead snag

Four campers wade into the habitat created by a downed tree to set a trap for minnows and crayfish. Photo credit: Jeannie Bartlett

Camper showing a minnow

A camper shows the camera a minnow caught overnight in one of the camp’s traps. Photo credit: Jeannie Bartlett

Campers studying crayfish

Campers Marissa and Ava keep a tally of the species of crayfish caught in an overnight trap. The guide sheets in the foreground were courtesy of the White River Partnership and were a daily resource in our crayfish investigations. Photo credit: Jeannie Bartlett