ST. ALBANS — With a breeze coming in from across the lake, the sun shining through the glass doorways and the smell of burgers and hot dogs in the air, St. Albans area residents gathered under the St. Albans Bay Park pavilion Thursday evening to learn from various environmental conservation groups about how to reduce their individual impact on Lake Champlain’s water quality.

More than 10 conservation groups, including Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, Franklin County Stormwater Collaborative and Lake Champlain Basin Program, set up tables with brochures and educational pamphlets and gave presentations at the “Take a Stake in Our Lake” event held from 4 to 7:30 p.m.

The event, sponsored by St. Albans Area Watershed Association, Lake Champlain Sea Grant and University of Vermont Extension, was a time for homeowners and other area residents to learn about the issue of Lake Champlain’s water quality and how to become more invested in the fight for its improvement.

One of the evening’s speakers was Corey Brink, a conservationist with the United States Dept. of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service St. Albans Field Office. Brink’s talk focused on soil health and the effect it has on water quality, informing the audience of ways to improve the health of the soil under their lawns.

“If we are asking farmers and producers to do a lot of these conservation practices on their farms, lets not forget the farm that we all have…” said Brink, “the nation’s true number one crop, which is grass.”

He said using a diverse mix of plants on the lawn is better for soil health and suggested adding clover, chicory and even dandelions. “[Dandelions] actually aren’t a bad thing,” he said. “They put a giant tap root down.”

He suggested the audience to think of soil as an ecosystem, with tons of life teeming underneath the grass. “The more diversity you have in your soil, the more diverse of an ecosystem in general you’re going to have and the more water will filtrate down through the soil profile,” he said.

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