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Discussion: Ecology of Thompson’s Point

Thompson’s Point has a long rich history. The Native people probably were attracted first by the hunting, fishing and flint deposits. In the 19th century people of European descent “discovered” the Point and focused on hunting and fishing until it was depleted. In the 20th century, emphasis turned to agriculture and tourism. Due to its aesthetics, the Point became the base of an ongoing summer community, which continues to rent land governed and owned by the town of Charlotte.

Limestone Bluff Cedar-Pine Forests are a highly threatened natural community type since Lake Champlain shoreline property is highly desirable for development and these dry cedar-dominated bluffs are especially favored for their commanding views over the lake. However because of the unusual status of the Point as a Seasonal Home Management District owned by the Town of Charlotte, this community type has been protected there and is largely intact. However regeneration of native seedlings is being suppressed by exotic invasive plants.

To restore Thompson’s Point to its former glory, technical assistance is available from the State of Vermont. According to Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department official Rick Adams the most important step is to get rid of the invasive exotics including: non-native honeysuckle, Japanese barberry, the two species of buckthorn, multiflora rose and Japanese knotweed. Even if they cannot be completely killed at once, cutting them will halt seed production, which is crucial. In most areas on the Point it will not be necessary to re-plant trees after getting rid of the buckthorn, since native tree seedlings are in place. The native seedlings that are now being suppressed by buckthorn will quickly grow to fill in the gaps when released from competition.

For wildlife habitat the focus should be on planting native shrubs and bushes. Recommended species for planting are those in the Native Fauna Species list. The following are specifically recommended for wildlife habitat:

  • grey dogwood (Cornus racemosa);
  • native highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum), which is hard to find because what is commonly sold is a non-native cranberry (Viburnum opulus); and
  • red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea).
A “nursery” of red-osier dogwood has been located near the caretaker’s house. If cut while dormant, and planted, both the nursery stock and the cuttings will grow.
The Lake Champlain Basin Program was established in 1990 to coordinate the activities of the Lake Champlain Special Designation Act. To help prevent the further spread of zebra mussels and other invasive species they advise:
  • Inspecting boats and trailers for mussels and weeds and removing mussels or vegetation and discarding them in the trash.
  • Draining all water, including the bilge, live well, and engine cooling system.
  • Drying the boat and trailer in the sun for at least 5 days. If the boat is used sooner, to rinse off the boat, trailer, anchor, anchor line, bumpers, engine, etc. with hot water or at a car wash.
  • Leaving live bait behind — either give it to someone using the same waterbody, or discard it in the trash.
Experts at the near by non-profit Shelburne Farms (Demarest, 1997) advise:
  • Riding bikes instead of traveling by car and using cars minimally and carpooling
  • Using environmentally sound products to clean your camp, avoiding the use of toxic materials.
  • Mulching food scraps and garden waste.

Other suggestions include:

  • Using the non-indigenous species such as Queen Anne’s-Lace and Purple Loosestrife for wildflower bouquets rather than the native species.
  • Use the Abenaki plant species list specific to the Point to guide planting.
  • Do not cut reeds on the beach; rather let them grow tall for the ducks to nest in.
  • Explore the possibility of planting wild rice gathered from Little Otter Creek in the autumn on the beaches.
  • Remove cement dock relics.

“Bold bedrock, cliffs and ledge, prime agricultural soils, the mosaic of rich and diverse vegetation habitats, high wildlife value, recognized aesthetic value, and historic character combine to make Thompson’s Point a unique resource (Harris, 1990, p.15).” Preservation and protection of the area is important to the Town of Charlotte and the residents of Thompson’s Point. Although there are still many threats, some recovery is already occurring. Further restoration can be guided by technical assistance available from the State of Vermont, and Abenaki species lists.

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