Derway Island Nature Preserve
Derway Island in Burlington is actually not an island but a peninsula. The park is a 148-acre nature preserve acquired with help from The Nature Conservancy, who maintains a conservation easement over the land. For an urban area, the extent to which the ecological communities and systems are intact is unusual. The property also supports several rare species and significant plant communities. Derway Island is largely timbered with several excellent shrub swamps and an emergent marsh on the western edge. The dominant trees are red and silver maples, elm, ash, birch and cottonwood. Buttonbush is the principal species in the swamps.
The diversity of wildlife is high because of the varied plant communities found in a relatively small area. Songbirds are numerous, and it is an important area for wading birds. Osprey and other birds of prey have been sighted as well as a variety of ducks. Larger mammals, such as beaver, muskrat, raccoon, fox, otter, mink and deer are also known to use the area.
The watery channels within this Nature Preserve are important breeding areas for several species of fish from Lake Champlain such as northern pike and chain pickerel. The isolated nature of the land makes it an important stop for migrating birds.
Open Letter to our New North End Neighbors:
With the spring arriving, many are discovering changes at the former Rivers End Marina. After more than 40 years of operation, and increasing challenges with siltation and flooding, the Bowlers chose to sell the property.
In August 2018, after more than a year putting together the transaction, the Bowler family sold the Rivers End Marina to the Winooski Valley Park District adding about 2.5 acres to the existing 148 acre Derway Island Natural Area. It was a special privilege for us to get to know the Bowlers, learn the rich history of their tenure at the Marina, and build a relationship that we now treasure.
WVPD, a non-profit regional park agency operating on behalf of seven member towns (WVPD.org), is working closely with project partner Lake Champlain Land Trust which was instrumental in putting together the acquisition. Funding acquired from Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Burlington Conservation Legacy Fund, and WVPD Capital reserves supported the purchase. Demolition of the buildings and infrastructure is being funded by a FEMA grant, and park development is being funded by the Lake Champlain and Tributaries Restoration Fund through the Vermont Community Foundation.
WVPD is not ready to fully open the park….and until the buildings are removed, we are faced with managing empty structures. WVPD has given the fire department full permission to use the buildings for practicing forced entries, extremely helpful for their training needs, and an added a level of activity that helps protect the site against abuse. We have also started hearing from neighbors who are the “eyes and ears” necessary for all of us to be effective stewards – please let us know if you witness any issues that we should know about, especially over the next few months while the buildings are still in place.
Meanwhile, the overall goal is to re-naturalize the shoreline while enhancing public access. WVPD will be submitting a draft park design for zoning approval later this summer, and will post notices for public comment before the design is finalized.
Due to safety and structural concerns, the access road won’t be open until the buildings are removed and we have completed road repairs – but the public is welcome to walk the site and enjoy this amazing new asset.
We are now awaiting clearances for building demolition and removal of the concrete foundations. The dock system will be removed and re-purposed elsewhere for a boardwalk.
In summary: Derway Cove, the newest addition to Derway Island Natural Area, will be cleared of structures and foundations, re-naturalized, opened to the public, and protected by a conservation easement. Once fully operational, it will be open dawn to dusk, and available as a car top boating access, fishing spot, and a great addition to Derway Island Natural Area.
Thank you to all the neighbors, former marina customers, and others who have been helpful to the Bowlers during their transition. Give us a call at 802-863-5744, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns, or attend one of our monthly Trustee meetings (regularly held on the third Tuesday of each month at 4:30pm at the WVPD offices at the Ethan Allen Homestead). We would also be happy to email you materials related to this amazing asset.
Best regards, Nick Warner, WVPD Executive Director