In June, faculty member Farley Brown ’85 presented the results of an eighteen month investigation into the ecology and natural history of Hardwick Lake, undertaken at the behest of the Northern Rivers Land Trust. The study was conducted by Brown and her students, including Alexis Drane ’13, who conducted her research as part of her internship. Excerpts are below; for a full copy of the report, see www.northernriverslandtrust.org/ hardwicklake.html.
Although originally intended to generate electricity for the Hardwick granite industry it has never been used for that purpose. It has been used in the past to regulate stream flow below the dam to support the operation of the Hardwick Electric Department’s hydroelectric generating facility at Pottersville Dam in Wolcott. Jackson Dam is operated and maintained by the Hardwick Electric Department under an agreement with the Town which owns the dam, the land under the lake and some surrounding land east of the lake.
Over recent years the operation of Jackson Dam has focused on controlling sediment release and controlling ice formation and flooding upstream. A large sediment release in 1999 from lowering the dam, bank erosion and influence of the dam on fish population composition in the river have caused the State concern for many years.
Historic and Current Land Use
Even before the installation of Jackson Dam, the land surrounding Alder Brook (now Hardwick Lake) was once productive agricultural land and both hillsides throughout the valley were actively sugared for many years. This area of Town was never highly populated but supported a district school and small local stores. In the spring of 2012, Sterling College students conducted a property deed research on several properties around the lake and found evidence of farming and maple sugar production in deeds from the 1800s.
Current land use around the lake is predominately residential with limited businesses closer to the edge of town. The landscape is now forested and the Town gravel operation is the only natural resource extraction at this time. . . . Many enjoy recreational opportunities on the east side of the lake with the establishment of the Hardwick Recreation Trail, and others enjoy canoeing and kayaking on the lake. The Hardwick Lake area is no longer a working landscape but more a residential and recreational landscape and its future is unknown.
Natural Features of Hardwick Lake
During June 2012, a team of Sterling College students and Professor Farley Brown conducted a preliminary ecological survey of the flora and fauna around Hardwick. An aquatic bioassessment of two tributaries on the eastern shore was also conducted to better understand the health of the streams and the quality of the water entering Hardwick Lake. The survey also included a four hour “bioblitz” of the lake and shoreline by students and faculty as part of field ornithology and botany classes.
During four visits to the lake, various inventory techniques were used to determine the natural communities. We divided the lake and surrounding landscape into general natural communities such as cattail and emergent marshes, sedge meadows, tributaries, forested areas, and open water, and then inventoried those areas using several methods including field observations and stream assessment.
Evidence of many different wildlife species were observed through tracks and scat. These mammals are indicator species of the health of the natural communities studied throughout Hardwick Lake, and reflect that the water edge and surrounding landscape provide sufficient habitat. Majority of tracks were seen in the mud associated where the tributaries meet the lake thus confirming the interrelationship of the habitat needs. Sterling College students and a Vermont Fish and Wildlife biologist walked a small portion of the town property along Hardwick Lake and determined that deer wintering area components (softwood cover, food source) are present on the landscape. •