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What is the Pine Street Barge Canal?

The Pine Street Barge Canal is an area in Burlington, Vermont between Pine Street and Lake Champlain. It’s an urban wetland and forest. Most of it is also currently designated as a federal Superfund site. Throughout much of the 20th century, the area was devastated by industrial toxic waste. The EPA has identified 56 “contaminants of concern” in the peaty land and water. They include coal tar, benzene, toluene, and cyanide.

Decades ago, the city of Burlington was prevented from routing the proposed Southern Connector highway through the Barge Canal. The EPA was also blocked (by public resistance) from building a giant above-ground container for the excavated pollutants. 

Since then, the land has largely been left alone – and it’s slowly healing itself.

Watch this short video!

The Challenges

The Goal

The City already owns an 11 acre strip of land in the Barge Canal area. This land and the small private parcels along the railroad track are already in conservation zoning. There are two other parcels (8.3 acres) along Pine Street, which are privately owned and for sale. These are being marketed as “prime development land” within an “opportunity zone.” The ultimate goal is to bring the whole site (28 acres) into the public domain and to conserve it.

The Mission

Care for the land, water and current residents of the Pine Street Barge Canal

501: Conserve It Now

Rezone 501 Pine St. to RCO (Conservation) immediately. All the Barge Canal land exclusive of 453 Pine St. would be in conservation zoning.  All conserved Barge Canal land should be included in on-going community-driven regeneration and rematriation:

  • Safely collect and remove the remaining trash
  • Community science inventory of plant, animal, fungal, microbial species
  • Professional and community-based removal of invasive species without herbicides
  • Plant and tend native polycultures
  • Sponsor and develop research and training on strategies for myco- and phyto-remediation of soil and water contamination
  • Work with indigenous people on rematriation of the Barge Canal
453: Do the right thing

Disturb the land as little as possible.  Think about every aspect of the development process through the lens of caring for the forest, the wetlands and Lake Champlain.

  • Orient the design and construction of buildings toward conservation of the land
  • Collaborate with Friends of the BC on a plan for outdoor classroom/welcome center as a gateway to the conserved Barge Canal
  • Friends of BC-planned bioremediation-themed displays in an all-weather setting
  • 10% of state/federal “brownfield revitalization” funding directed toward myco- and phyto-remediation, conservation, and ecological restoration of the land

But, why?

“Development” of the Barge Canal site should consider the options of conservation, regeneration, and restoration instead of the business-as-usual approach, which favors profit for private landowners and tax-base increases for the city.

We recognize the tremendous benefits that Burlington, the Lake Champlain region and the planet receive from the damaged but living land and water of the Barge Canal. These include wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, stormwater management, flood control, transformation/containment of toxins and soil stabilization.

Taking these other “bottom lines” into consideration makes a strong case for conservation of the Barge Canal instead of profit-seeking development.

Since the late 1960s, natural processes have been stabilizing the land. Nature has begun to slowly transform, neutralize, and contain the industrial pollutants. This is a process scientists are learning from. There is currently active interest and involvement with UVM soil scientists, ecologists, teachers and students.

Protect Lake Champlain

The wetlands and forest of the Pine Street Barge Canal have long served as a filter for stormwater runoff before it goes into the lake. Conserving and caring for the whole Barge Canal site, including the private parcels, will allow it to continue to provide this benefit to Lake Champlain, the source of drinking water for Burlington and many other communities in Vermont and New York.

A Win-Win!

The Pine Street Barge Canal has great potential. There will be many opportunities for the public to benefit. In addition to serving as a natural filter to protect the lake and becoming a cutting-edge laboratory for academic and citizen science research into phyto-, myco-, and bioremediation, there are many other compatible uses.

With care, the land could be available for safe, respectful recreation as well as potential access to the bike path and the lake. Skating, walking and cross-country skiing. Nature trails. Wildlife sighting. Nature and history programs of all kinds for adults and children.

Sign the Petition and…

This is not just a project for people who live in Burlington’s south end. This is for all of Burlington, for everyone who loves the lake. What you can do  right now is sign the petition. Then you can pass it on. Be sure your neighbors know about it. And please return to this website for updates, events and more information.

People care!

What People are Saying

“Not only does the proposal to conserve and remediate the Pine Street Barge canal address land and water contamination and offer research opportunity, it adds yet another local greenspace to climate change mitigation efforts – a win-win.” 

Nattalee B.

“Please conserve the land at 453 and 501 Pine Street to avoid further environmental degradation and the release of harmful toxins. Lake Champlain already struggles with harmful pollution, and being a citizen that gets my water from the Lake, please do all you can to naturally remediate this land, instead of allowing development.” 

Alison F.

How You Can Help

Send a Donation

We need funds for everything from work gloves for clean-up efforts to paying for professional services. Nonprofit status is in the works. In the meantime, you can donate here.

Become a Volunteer

You can get involved today by becoming a Volunteer. Sign up and you will be joining a group of change-makers, a network strong enough to impact positive change. So much to do – everything from research, making contacts and taking photos to clean-up days.

Sign the Petition

As we get more and more signatures and statements from people who care, we are passing them onto our city leaders. It’s not too late. Sign now and pass it on.

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Questions? Contact us at sosburlington@gmail.com

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