Sermon on the Mount
As a historian and an educator, I enthusiastically looked forward to your Good Citizen Challenge [Inside Seven Days: "Good Citizen Challenge Offers Kids an Interactive Summer Civics Lesson — and Prizes," May 25]. It's generally a well-thought-out piece for Vermont students and covers many aspects of U.S. and Vermont history.
However, one glaring omission strikes me, and I would be remiss if I did not bring this to your attention. History Item No. 7 requires a visit to Fort Ticonderoga in New York. Now, Ticonderoga is a nicely presented site that offers many interesting things to see. But there is another site you should be encouraging students to visit, and this one is in Vermont: Mount Independence, located along Lake Champlain in Orwell, is the most complete, intact, untouched Revolutionary War site in the United States. Nearly 13,000 soldiers were stationed at the Mount Independence/Ticonderoga complex. In this wilderness, they created a city. Some 2,000 of them are still resting here, along with ruins of the buildings they created.
Today, Mount Independence is a State of Vermont historic site and encompasses a nicely presented, interactive museum complete with a kids' corner, talking statues and hundreds of artifacts on display. There are six miles of hiking trails, one of which is wheelchair accessible, that allow visitors a chance to walk through many archeological sites and experience incredible views of Lake Champlain, Mount Defiance and even Fort Ticonderoga.
Additionally, Mount Independence is Vermont-owned and supported by Vermont taxpayers. Admission is a fraction compared to other sites in the area. Adults pay $5; children under 15 are free.
Andriscin is a site interpreter at the Mount Independence state historic site.
Editor's note: History activity No. 10 in the Good Citizen Challenge awards 10 points to participants who visit any state historic site, including Mount Independence. A visit to Fort Ticonderoga, also worth 10 points, is encouraged but not required. There's still time to see both before the October 9 deadline. Find a scorecard at goodcitizenvt.com.
[Re WTF: "What to Do About Vermont's Poison Parsnip Problem?" August 1]: Reporter Ken Picard's question about wild parsnip and possible methods of its eradication is timely and well balanced. I have some meadow in Hinesburg that is full of the stuff. When I walk through this meadow, I see an enormous number of bees and other pollinating insects feasting on its flowers. I see a full variety of other plants thriving beneath its canopy: vetch, berry bushes, milkweed, buttercups, pye weed and others I can't identify.
Initially, I tried to cut each parsnip plant down, spending many hours at this task. With long sleeves and gloves, never did I have a rash, nor did I make much of a dent in the population. I brush-hogged some of it and even burned it, again with no adverse effect. Thus, it appears to me that its danger can be mitigated by a bit of common sense and that wild parsnip is going to be in Vermont for a while. There is little we can do about it, unless we choose to obliterate the natural landscape from which it grows.
I say we just be sensible and take precautions when handling it. We should be grateful that this yellow flower feeds our pollinators as we mow our lawns, build our buildings and extend our roads, thereby doing our own share of obliterating the natural landscape.
The Root of the Problem
Ken Picard's timely [August 1] "WTF" entitled "What to Do About Vermont's Poison Parsnip Problem?" highlights a growing environmental problem that could become an ecological catastrophe if we don't intervene. I hope his article spurs more individuals, property owners and municipalities to mobilize efforts to control and eradicate invasive plants. The article left out some information that would be important for people attempting to tackle a wild parsnip infestation to know. On a larger scale, root extraction is not practical and is a risky proposition unlikely to engender the average citizen to rally to the cause. The root can be severed before seed formation, but if it's not severed at least an inch below the soil and if it's early enough in the season, it will often grow back stronger.
The safest and least labor-intensive method to effectively control wild parsnip is well-timed, manual seed head removal: Wait until the seed heads start turning brown, at which point the sap is at its least-potent toxicity, then use garden scissors or hand pruners to snip the heads off the plant directly into a garbage bag. The rest of the plant can be left alone and will not regenerate at that stage because, as a biennial plant, it has reached the end of its biological life cycle. The filled garbage bags can either be taken to the dump or the seed heads can be burned in a fire pit. The completely dried seed heads make excellent fire-starting tinder for the colder months.
Your delivery to the New North End is abysmal. Even your iPad app isn't current by 3:30 p.m.
Editor's note: The new edition of Seven Days arrives at our Burlington office on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. — the same hour each week's stories are published on our website. A crew of 16 drivers spends the next eight hours delivering the print edition to more than 1,200 locations within two hours of the Queen City; some spots get it later than others. The same staffer who stays up most of Tuesday night updating our website is also in charge of publishing a replica of the print product on the Seven Days app no later than 3 p.m. on Wednesday — barring any technical difficulties, of course.
Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo prides himself on finding teachable moments — and his post-bike-accident interview was a great opportunity to do so versus just talking pure nonsense about whether, once healed from his severe injuries, he can ski this winter or not [Off Message: "Burlington Police Chief to Return to Work After Bike Accident," August 6].
The top law enforcement officer in Vermont's largest city can use the interviews he is now giving to tell bikers he missed a chance to do a "pre-trip" and that others should and can learn from his oversight. Speculation was that one of the wheel's quick releases was loose and that a wheel broke free as the chief careened out of control down a hill.
We bikers rarely, if ever, inspect our bikes before we head out for a spin. Checking to make sure the tires have air is not a pre-trip.
If the police chief had done a real pre-trip, he could have avoided an accident that from all accounts nearly cost him his life.
He can and should convey that message the next time he gives one of these otherwise throwaway, puff-piece interviews. Then he will have accomplished a public service. And the reporters doing these interviews will also have done something worthwhile — beyond filling space with a bunch of forgettable quotes.
Burlington Invests in Kids
[Re Off Message: "Burlington Council Allocates Funding to City Childcare Centers," July 16]: Vermont Birth to Five applauds the City of Burlington and Mayor Miro Weinberger for investing nearly half a million dollars in high-quality childcare programs to help close the opportunity gap and level the playing field for Burlington's children.
As an organization working to expand the capacity and quality of childcare programs across Vermont, we're glad to partner on the Burlington Early Learning Initiative, which provides much-needed financial support to Burlington childcare programs, helping to increase high-quality slots for infants and toddlers from low-income families.
We hear every day how hard it is to find and afford quality childcare in Chittenden County, where 77 percent of infants likely to need care don't have access to high-quality programs. This initiative aligns perfectly with our mission to ensure that all Vermont families have affordable access to high-quality childcare by 2025.
For more than a decade, Vermont Birth to Five has worked alongside early care and learning providers across Vermont, helping them meet the needs of young children and families in their local communities. We understand that even though it's rewarding and critically important work, childcare can be a tough business to sustain, because Vermont's early care and learning system has been chronically underfunded.
As we thank Burlington and Mayor Weinberger for this incredible investment, we know we're just scratching the surface. We need everyone at the table to help create a sustainable early care and learning system that meets the needs of Vermont's children, families, businesses and economy — because we all depend on it.
McLaughlin is executive director of Vermont Birth to Five.
[Re Feedback: "A Closer Look at Kavanaugh," July 25]: How great to see John McClaughry in print again — long overdue! The complete truth is always welcome. He or someone with similar views who is knowledgeable and has good writing skills would be a great addition to your staff as a balanced voice to Seven Days columnist John Walters and others. Watchdogs keep everyone honest.
I loved Sadie Williams' recent story on "A Series of Ceres" [July 18], which notes that since 1858 two different renditions of the Roman goddess of the harvest, grains, agriculture, fertility and "motherly relationships" have stood atop the Statehouse dome. As Barre sculptor Jerry Williams completed his design for a third version to be carved into a 14-foot length of mahogany, Williams notes that he took inspiration from neoclassical creations of other 19th-century sculptors. I'm wondering if that included another version of Ceres, made by his fellow Barre artisans, in another capital.
A brawny 25-ton woman dressed in Roman clothes has loomed on the façade of Union Station in Washington, D.C., since the station was completed in 1908. She holds a sheaf of wheat in one arm and wields a sickle in the other. A ram with curlicued horns hunkers by her right side. She is flanked by five other allegorical figures that collectively represent "The Progress of Railroading." I think they represent the pride of Vermont. All of them were fashioned from our state's granite by four artisans from the Barre area. Under the direction of Louis Saint-Gaudens, the stone carvers labored on the 18-foot gods and goddesses in Vermont stone sheds before they were sent to D.C. by train.
This past April, I took the Amtrak from Montpelier to D.C. When I emerged in the front of the station — the place they call the "kiss and ride"— I looked up and saw Ceres lit by spotlight. Five hundred miles away from the capitol of Vermont, and a 110 years after her installation, she looked strong and solid.
More to Lewis
Unquestionably, Sandy Lewis' life story is unusual and compelling, as described in James Bandler's article entitled "Hurricane Sandy" [July 25]. But Lewis' central message — the pollution and endangerment of a major segment of our food supply and its impact on the health of our population — might disappoint those looking for the sensational. While local neighborhood or zoning disputes certainly are of interest to readers, they pale in comparison to this pressing issue.
Lewis' voice would be small, despite its networked amplification, especially when compared to the magnitude of the problem. Fortunately, his voice is not alone. No one underestimates the difficulty of producing food adequate to satisfy the demands of the world's population. The question of its wholesomeness, however, is being raised by many worldwide and encompasses our entire food chain.
Perhaps Lewis' sincere passion to remediate these ills and others he has chosen — be they on Wall Street or Main Street, in our prisons or pastures — deserve their own story. Perhaps his vital message would have been better served had it not had to compete with other issues and comments regarding his personal style.