Landscaping is About More than Preserving the Beauty of Quechee
My concept was combining American history into the beautiful
natural landscape caused by the valley with the river running through it and
the farmland with the hay fields making a picturesque setting, said original
visionary and founder of the Quechee Lakes Corporation, John Davidson.
Davidson speaks fondly with a warm feeling of nostalgia in his voice when describing touring New Hampshire and Vermont in the late 1960s with close friend and business partner, Hollis Paige. They were looking for a location to start a real estate development project. While driving on top of a hill near Woodstock during the peak of foliage season, they knew they had found the perfect place.
When they arrived in the village of Quechee, the bridge and buildings had been washed out from the 1938 and ’31 floods. Farms were in economic collapse and a depression hung over the village. Davidson made it a goal to restore the town and was able to purchase the Mill and surrounding properties to begin the process.
“Everybody was depressed, everything was going to seed, but it [represented] a sequential history of the country… Meaning that you take a beautiful piece of land with a river running through it that provided water power for a mill, then you [add] a railroad track to ship goods and a covered bridge which… made it attractive and picturesque. And then you take the farmland, which creates pastures and hay fields along the way covering the valley floor. It became very picturesque, in spite of its plight… in spite of its depression. It tracks the history of the country, meaning the railroad tracks, the settlement, the mills, the farming. All are the key elements in sequence that built the country,” recalled Davidson.
Because the picturesque beauty and history of the valley were so important to him, Davidson incorporated land management practices into the original covenants that would best preserve the natural beauty of the village and the surrounding ten square miles that would eventually become Quechee Lakes.
Fast forward to today. Landowners continue to follow the guidelines established by QLLA before altering their property in order to balance maintaining individual preferences and engaging in land management practices that focus on the environmental and aesthetic values.
Quechee Lakes landowner, F.X. Flinn, was pleasantly surprised when a large tree removal project focused on cutting back the population of white pines on his Quechee property revealed apple trees. During the spring of 2016, Flinn worked with a local orchard and learned how to graft his new-found trees to start growing edible apples himself.
Flinn explains that all eating or cooking apples are clones. “You can’t put a seed in the ground from a Macintosh apple and get a Macintosh apple tree, you’ll get some other kind of apple. Maybe 1 in 10 million wild apples will turn out to be something that is actually good and something that can become a main eating apple. When a tree like that is found, a cutting from that tree will be grafted onto apple tree root stock and propagated from there.”
“I am really enjoying it,” says Flinn about his new apple endeavor.
Flinn said that the decision to take out the white pines was one of personal preference and practicality. “The trees aren’t that pretty to look at and they serve as a potential hazard because of how large they can get,” whereas the hardwoods change in the fall and produce fruit. In addition to the removal, Chippers, a tree care and landscaping company in the area, planted several hardwoods like pear, cherry, beech and white crab apple trees, in order to repopulate the forest according to Flinn’s preferences. Some of the trees have already begun to produce after having been planted in 2010.
“Part of the review board’s mission is to ensure that all of the houses in Quechee Lakes still have some screening, so you don’t drive in and look around at the hillsides and only see houses everywhere. It still looks natural and wooded here in Quechee rather than just open houses everywhere,” said Ameigh Reynells, the Administrative assistant for the Review Board with Quechee Lakes Landowners Association.
Reynells explained that all property owners have to abide by The Covenants, the set of property management guidelines created by QLLA. The idea behind the specific rules for property maintenance is to ensure the health of the forest and preserve the wooded New England feel of Quechee.
It is a process, Reynells explained. Landowners must keep their property within the standards QLLA puts forth and must gain permission for tree removal of anything larger than 4 inches in diameter and 4 feet in height. If they do choose to remove larger trees, they must fill out and submit an application for board approval. For the next step in the process, depending on the situation, the board may visit the site and, if necessary, discuss it with certified arborists.
“The Review Board has really come a long way in the last 20 years and now they take a much more common sense approach as far as what is allowed and how it is going to affect neighboring properties. Things seem to flow quite a bit smoother than they used to,” said Jason Eaton, Vice President of Sales at Chippers, Inc., a tree, turf, garden, land and forest management company out of Pomfret, Vermont.
Forest management and landscaping are about far more than maintaining aesthetics to the Review Board, they are also about the safety and the health of the forest. In the Landowner’s Guide, a document describing all construction, landscaping and painting requirements given to all property owners within QLLA, the application process and requirements are stated in detail.
The Review Board lists the following as reasons for good forest management: screening of homes, soil erosion control, habitat and food for wildlife, year-round beauty and foliage colors, shade in the summer to moderate temperatures, buffers from harsh winter winds, objectionable view screening and framing of attractive vistas, and the absorption of chemicals from the air and release of oxygen exchange.
When tree removal is done for the purpose of allowing a vista, there are two main types of views that local arborists and the Review Board agree on: screened and framed. A framed view allows for areas that are open and edged with forest, while a screened view lets scattered light through and creates a more wooded feel, Reynells described.
Trees may need to be removed to open up a view, but some might need to be taken out for safety reasons. Eaton explained that trees may have decay or defects that make them susceptible to falling over and thus serve as a hazard. Or they can be too close to a structure, keeping the house in shade and not allowing for enough airflow around the house which could cause moisture and the potential for siding or roof decay. The guidelines mention the importance of consulting with a certified arborist when considering forest management for a variety of practical and legal reasons.
Longtime Landowner and Chair of the Review Board, Michael Shankman, says he loves having his property in Quechee for the “sloping view and being able to plant things that will grow in transition with the seasons.” Shankman even enjoys Vermont’s unfavorable weather conditions. “We like it all, we even like mud season because we know that spring is right around the corner.”
Maintaining the natural beauty of Quechee Lakes is a priority for the Review Board, but part of that maintenance is in keeping the forest healthy and safe for surrounding properties. As the guidelines state: “Magnificent hardwood, pine and fir forests are the reason Vermont is known as The Green Mountain State and these forests are an integral part of the beauty of Quechee Lakes.”
For more information about land management practices and QLLA guidelines, contact membership services at the Club at 802-295-9356.