Join Vermont State Parks for Free, Guided 2017 First Day Hikes

December 22, 2016  
Filed under Things to do

Montpelier—Start the New Year on the right foot and get outside for a “First Day Hike” in a Vermont State Park. Individuals and groups are invited to join one of several free, family-friendly hiking events taking place on January 1, 2017 throughout the state in beautiful parks and forests. Professional guides and outdoor educators will lead the way, sharing their knowledge and love of the Vermont outdoors.


The hikes having different starting times and anticipated durations. See below for a list of offered hikes and details. Pre-registration is not required; simply show up ready to enjoy the outdoors and the company of other participants. Dress for the weather and bring beverages and snacks. If there are several feet of snow on the ground, please consider bringing snowshoes. Dogs are welcome on leash unless otherwise noted.


Don’t need a guide? Take advantage of the breadth of opportunities to choose your own trek or ramble through Vermont State Parks and forests this winter. Find a park near you and discover a new place in its wintery state. Entry to State parks in the winter is free.


Ascutney State Park:

Guide: Scott Davison (The Woodstock Naturalist) Meet: 10:00 am at the ranger station

Hike: 1+ hour, easy terrain. NOTE: Not a summit hike.


Bomoseen State Park:

Guide: Caitlin Gates (Vermont State Park Interpreter) Meet: 1:00 pm at park entrance station.

Hike: 1+ hour, easy terrain


Button Bay State Park:

Guide: Ron Payne from Otter Creek Audubon Society Meet: 9:00 am at park entrance

Hike: 3 hours, easy terrain


Groton Nature Center, Big Deer State Park:

Guide: Dave Spencer (local expert) Meet: 1:00 pm at Groton State Forest Nature Center parking area on Boulder Beach Road, 1.6 miles from Route 232.

Hike: 1+ hour loop, easy terrain.

Hunger Mountain

Guide: Caitlin Miller from the Green Mountain Club Meet: 9:00 am at Hunger Mountain Trailhead (Waterbury)

Hike: 3.5 miles, 5 hours, moderate to difficult terrain. Hike to the summit if weather permits.


Jamaica State Park:

Guide: Lowell Lake Park Ranger Scott Renker Meet: 10:00 am by the park office at the entrance

Hike: 1+ hour, 1-mile, easy terrain. Participants will have the option of a longer hike along the same trail.


Niquette Bay State Park:

Guide: Jessica Savage from Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation Meet: Noon at trailhead in Niquette Bay State Park.

Hike: 1.5 miles, 2 hours, moderate terrain.


Taconic Mountain Ramble State Park:

Guide: Alyssa Bennett, Bat Biologist Meet: Noon at the Hubbardton Battlefield parking lot on Monument Hill Road

Hike: 2-3 hours, easy to moderate terrain, followed by fresh baked cookies!


Underhill State Park:

Guide: John Connell, Greenmont Farms Meet: 1:00 pm at gate just below Underhill State Park on Mountain Road in Underhill Center.

Hike: 3 hours, easy to moderate terrain. Bring a snack and warm beverage to share!


For hike updates on December 31st and January 1st, please call (802) 249-1230. For more information on First Day Hikes and to view additional hike offerings as they are added, visit or check out Vermont State Parks on Facebook and Twitter.


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Photo Caption: Hikers take to the woods outside the Groton Nature Center on the first day of 2016 as part of the annual “First Day Hike” tradition started by the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.


Radio Brief: Vermonters are invited to jump start the new year by getting outside on the first day of 2017. Local experts will be offering free guided hikes on January 1 in beautiful State parks and forests across the state, offering an opportunity for families and individuals of all abilities to discover wintery woods and meadows. Hikes vary in length, and no registration is required. Participants should arrive dressed for the weather and bring beverages and snacks. For a list of First Day Hike locations and times, go to Vermont state parks dot com, or visit Facebook dot com slash V-T- state parks.


An App to ID Your Bird Photos

December 15, 2016  
Filed under Feature Stories

That’s right: our Merlin Bird ID app just got an upgrade that analyzes photos on your phone and offers bird ID suggestions. Just snap a photo or choose one from your photo library, answer a couple of questions, and Merlin will offer smart suggestions about what North American species it might be. Read more at eBird or download Merlin free for your iOS or Android device and try it out.

Age Well Seminar:  Eating on a Budget:  Healthy Meals that Won’t Break the Bank!

December 15, 2016  
Filed under Health & Wellness, Things to do




Seminar time is 9:30am in the Amphitheatre.


Cooking on a budget? Don’t skimp on nutrition!  Join Age Well’s Nutrition Director, Chris Moldovan, a Registered Dietician with over 25 years of experience and currently the President-elect of the Vermont Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Affordable meals do not have to be boring and they don’t have to lack taste or variety.  Learn tips on how to plan your meals without sacrificing taste, while maximizing nutritional value.  In addition, find out more about Age Well’s Community Meals and Restaurant Ticket Program.


Age Well is a non-profit organization serving Northwestern Vermont and is the largest provider of Meals on Wheels, delivering over 250,000 meals annually.  Our mission is to provide the support and guidance that inspires our community to embrace aging with confidence.  To learn more, visit: or call our Helpline.



Brand Name Drug Prices Increase Nearly 130 Times Faster Than Inflation

December 14, 2016  
Filed under Health & Wellness


New AARP report shows fourth straight year of double-digit price average annual increases for widely used brand name drugs

Washington, DC — Retail prices for brand name prescription drugs widely used by older Americans rose by an average of 15.5% in 2015—almost 130 times faster than the 0.1% general inflation rate—according to a new AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) report released today. AARP’s Rx Price Watch Report: Trends in Retail Prices of Brand Name Prescription Drugs Widely Used by Older Americans, 2006-2015, shows that the average annual cost for one brand name drug used on a chronic basis now exceeds $5,800.

For the average older American taking 4.5 prescription drugs per month, this translates into an average annual cost of therapy of $26,000*. This amount exceeds the median income of $24,150 for Medicare beneficiaries.

“This new report once again highlights the high and unrelenting price increases that are shockingly common in the pharmaceutical market,” said AARP Chief Public Policy Officer Debra Whitman. “What’s particularly remarkable is that these incredibly high price increases are still occurring in the face of the intense public and congressional criticism of prescription drug pricing practices.”

Highlights of the Rx Price Watch Report

  • The average annual retail price increase for widely used brand name prescription drugs was more than two and a half times higher in 2015 (15.5%) than in 2006 (5.9%).
  • Brand name drug prices increased almost 130 times faster than general inflation in 2015 (15.5% vs 0.1%).
  • In 2015, the average annual retail cost of one brand name medication used to treat a chronic health condition more than $5,800, compared with nearly $1,800 in 2006.
  • Retail prices increased for 97% of the 268 brand name prescription drugs in the study’s market basket.
  • Seven widely used brand name drugs had average annual retail price increases of over 50% in 2015.
  • Five of the six drugs with the highest cumulative price increases over the study period were marketed by Valeant Pharmaceuticals. The retail price of Valeant’s anti-anxiety drug, Ativan 1 mg tablets, increased by 2,873% between 2006 and 2015.

“Prescription drug therapy is not affordable when its cost exceeds the patient’s entire income,” said Leigh Purvis, Director of Health Services Research, AARP Public Policy Institute, and co-author of the report. “Even if patients are fortunate enough to have good health care coverage, high prescription drug costs translate into higher out-of-pocket costs—especially for those who pay a percentage of drug costs rather than a fixed copayment—as well as higher premiums, deductibles, and other forms of cost-sharing.”

vm-picRx Price Watch Report Methodology
AARP’s Public Policy Institute, in collaboration with the PRIME Institute at the University of Minnesota, developed a market basket of 268 brand name prescription drug products widely used by older Americans. Using data from the Truven Health MarketScan® Research Databases, the report analyzed retail price changes between 2006 and 2015 for the drug products in the market basket. The medications include products in 49 therapeutic categories used to treat common and often chronic health conditions, including high cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension.

This report is the latest in the AARP Public Policy Institute’s Rx Price Watch series. Separate reports analyze price changes for widely used generic and specialty drug products. The series also analyzes the price changes for an overall market basket (i.e., brand name, generic, and specialty drug products combined) to reflect the overall market impact of drug price changes.

The full report can be found here:

*These prices reflect the total costs for specific prescriptions and may not reflect the actual out-of-pocket costs (such as a copay) that a consumer would pay at the pharmacy.

HANDS Holiday Dinner for Seniors

December 7, 2016  
Filed under News

The FREE Holiday Dinner will be held on Christmas Day from 12-3 p.m. at the Elks Lodge, 925 North Avenue, Burlington. Free and open to the public. There will be a special gathering there at 1 p.m. for seniors. If seniors need transportation, call Megan Humphrey at 864-7528 or email

To reserve a free meal (ham or vegetarian lasagna dinner) delivered to a senior’s home (50 years or older) on Christmas Day in Chittenden County, please call Age Well at 865-0360 by Dec. 16. After Dec. 16, call Megan Humphrey at 864-7528 or email For more information or to donate, visit

State Releases Universal Recycling Status Report 

December 5, 2016  
Filed under News

The Universal Recycling law is working through many new forms of reuse and recycling, from traditional blue bin recycling containers to feeding hungry neighbors by food donation.

The Universal Recycling law is working through many new forms of reuse and recycling, from traditional blue bin recycling containers to feeding hungry neighbors by food donation.

On the heels of America Recycles Day—a national celebration of recycling held each November 15th—the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released it’s first “Universal Recycling Status Report.”  The 16-page report summarizes the status of recycling, composting, and food donation across the state.


Vermont’s Universal Recycling law (Act 148) passed unanimously in 2012. The law’s goal was to reverse decades-long stagnant recycling and composting rates and it is working.


The law requires recycling of “blue bin” recyclables (paper, cardboard, steel and aluminum cans and tins, glass bottles and jars, and plastic bottles and containers #1 and #2) and not disposing of leaf and yard debris, clean wood and food scraps over a six-year timeframe.  Universal Recycling also makes it easier and more convenient for Vermonters to recycle and compost by ensuring that services are available for the collection of recyclables, leaf and yard debris, and food scraps at transfer stations around the state.


As of July 2016:

–          Trash disposal decreased 5% statewide from 2014 to 2015;

–          Recycling and composting increased by 11,793 tons from 2014 to 2015 (2%);

–          Food donation grew by nearly 40%, according to the Vermont Foodbank; and

–          More Vermonters have access to recycling collection than ever before.


“Vermont’s waste haulers and managers deserve a great deal of credit for these recycling achievements.  They are out there every day, helping people recycle and teaching them how to compost,” said DEC Commissioner Alyssa Schuren.


“Act 148 is another step in the strong history and already robust ethic of recycling in Vermont. It is certainly a crucial element in the progression of the value of resource renewal and conservation across Vermont’s economic and environmental landscape,” said John Casella, CEO of Casella Resource Solutions.


“Since state recycling kicked-in, we have seen a huge jump in recyclables from both residential and commercial customers.  Most people already did this, but now there is a little extra motivation,” said Jeff Myers, President, Myers Container Service.


Universal Recycling benefits Vermont by:

–          Saving valuable resources and promoting sustainability;

–          Reducing GHG emissions from solid waste by an estimated 37%;

–          Supporting green jobs, creating new markets and business opportunities; and

–          Reducing the need for landfills, improving the health of our environment.


“Organic materials—food scraps, leaf and yard debris, clean wood, and compostable dirty paper—make up almost a third of our waste.  Every year, nearly 100,000 tons of organic material is estimated to be landfilled in Vermont,” said DEC Solid Waste Program Manager, Cathy Jamieson.


To help implement the Universal Recycling law, Vermont currently has:

–          10 certified food scrap composting or anaerobic digestion facilities

–          13 permitted food scrap haulers that offer services from areas such as Bennington and Brattleboro to St. Johnsbury and St. Albans.

–          17 farm digesters—many already taking food processing residuals

–          Hundreds of businesses, schools, and institutions that have recycled and composted for years–like UVM Medical Center, The Wayside Restaurant, and Bennington College.


Eric Paris, Owner of Kingdom View Compost in Lyndonville said, “We consistently sell out of our compost in the spring and continue to get calls for it into the fall.  This is an important source of revenue for our farm and we hope to expand to accept more food scraps and create more high quality compost.  We are very excited about this.”


“Vermont’s Universal Recycling law has shifted the focus from feeding landfills to feeding hungry Vermonters,” said DEC Commissioner Alyssa Schuren.  “What is not donated can be fed to animals, composted, or used to create renewable energy in anaerobic digesters.”


To view the full report, go to:

WCAX announces new hires and promotion

December 5, 2016  
Filed under News


WCAX is pleased to announce the addition of three journalists to its news team and the promotion of another member of the team.


Ike Bendavid, a native of Bennington, has joined the WCAX newsroom as a reporter and producer. Ike is a graduate of Castleton University and Mount Anthony High School. He is also an award-winning member of the Castleton Football Team.


Priscilla Liguori will join the reporting team at WCAX. Priscilla will contribute stories to the early evening and late evening broadcasts. She is an Emerson College graduate and looks forward to covering the stories of Vermont, New Hampshire and New York on her nightly beat.


Keiko Talley has joined the WCAX newsroom as a producer. Keiko recently worked for KHQA in Quincy, Illinois. Keiko has her master’s in journalism from Boston University and did her undergraduate studies at Centenary College in Hackettstown. She will produce the weekday morning broadcasts for WCAX.


Alex Hirsch has been promoted to the anchor desk. Alex was a reporter for “The Weekend” on WCAX. He now joins the weekday morning broadcast as an anchor and reporter.