Vermont, although the only New England state with no coastline, is closer to the ocean than Vermonters think. The ocean impacts the daily lives of Vermonters from the hikers and skiers in the Green Mountains to the farmers in the valleys. Simply, if it were not for the ocean, Vermont would not be the same.
Historically speaking, Vermont would not be the same without the ocean. In July 1609, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain made his way across the Atlantic Ocean, using the rivers to navigate him and his crew to the now known, Lake Champlain. The Champlain Canal, opened in 1823, connects the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Champlain through the Hudson River. The Champlain Canal is 60 miles long and provides a route for trade, recreation, and passage. Trade once boomed on the Champlain Canal, transporting over 1.5 million tons of commercial freight from the Atlantic Ocean, through the Hudson River, and to Lake Champlain. These commercial goods eventually found their way into Vermont, impacting the lives of those residing in the State.
Although trade is not as prevalent today on the Champlain Canal, it is a major recreation hot spot. Many use this major passageway to reach the Atlantic Ocean. With boat traffic came invasive species. Lake Champlain’s freshwater ecosystem has been invaded by a number of saltwater species from the Atlantic Ocean, including: sea lamprey, water chestnut, zebra mussel, and white perch. These species seriously impact not only the Lake Champlain ecosystem, but also its economic benefits, like fishing.
Lake Champlain is not the only connection between the ocean and Vermonters. The oxygen produced by marine photosynthesizers supply Vermonters and the Green Mountain forests with necessary oxygen. Phytoplankton alone contribute 50 to 80 percent of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Vermont’s weather is directly impacted by the ocean as well. The major air masses come to Vermont from subarctic North America (cold, dry air), the Gulf of Mexico (warm, moist air), and the North Atlantic Ocean (cool, damp air). These air masses directly affect recreational activities that Vermonters and many visitors cherish, including skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Vermont’s agricultural industry, especially the maple syrup industry, is also affected with extreme weather patterns. So, weather coming from the ocean has major impacts on the Vermont economy.
Although the ocean is not in our backyard, it is not as far away as Vermonters think. It is with us every day, impacting how Vermonters eat, breathe, and spend their lives.