NBNC Rivers
Rivers Slide

"I wish I could store this week in a bottle and take it out this winter to drink in the richness of this experience!”
- ECO Institute Participant, 2018

— The Wetherell Family

Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

Building a More Inclusive Community


We are committed to making our natural areas, our organization, and our entire community a more inclusive and equitable place. This is an ongoing process for us, and we are constantly learning how to do better. This page explores some of the ways we are striving towards inclusivity and working to become a place of belonging for all. 

Our Work So Far


A Land Acknowledgement

North Branch Nature Center acknowledges that we reside upon the traditional and unceded home of the Western Abenaki People. These lands and waters have been a site of meeting and exchange among Indigenous Peoples for thousands of years. North Branch Nature Center honors, recognizes and respects the Abenaki as the traditional stewards of this landscape. We strive to respect and protect this land, while continually honoring the legacy of Vermont’s Indigenous People, the Abenaki People of the Dawn.

NBNC's Land Acknowledgement was the first step in honoring the Indigenous Peoples whose connection to this land goes back hundreds of generations. We are continuing this work through conversation and actions, including featuring Abenaki words and perspectives on signage, supporting local indigenous gardeners, and offering free space rentals for indigenous community members.


Offering Space to BIPOC Groups

We offer our indoor and outdoor facilities for minimal cost to BIPOC affinity groups by request.


Accessible Campus, Trails, and Programs

An accessible campus: As part of our Capital Campaign renovations, we are proud to offer ADA-compliant facilities. Our indoor spaces, outdoor quad, and porch are universally accessible. We continue to invest in accessibility enhancements like hearing-assist devices, and are continually learning what other accessibility updates are needed.

Trail Improvements: In 2023, we will install a new universally-accessible trail. This quarter-mile loop trail will improve access to the meadows and forest edge for folks with mobility limitations. We have already added more benches across the property as places to stop and rest, with more to come along the accessible trail as well.

Welcome Kiosks: There is a real barrier to access and equity caused by an unfamiliar, unwelcoming, and uncomfortable trailhead and trail network. Lack of clear wayfinding and trail use signage perpetuates an inequitable system in which knowledge of how to use the trail is already assumed, and held by the demographic of trail users who are already the dominant user group. Our new kiosks, and the accompanying new trailhead materials planned for 2023, are designed to create a more welcoming and safe experience for all users.

Programming: With dedicated staff and increasing capacity, NBNC is broadening our programs while ensuring our core offerings are welcoming to all. 

In addition to more programs for those with disabilities, LGBTQ+ youth, and Vermont’s immigrant and refugee community, we’re also expanding program offerings to weekends and evenings to accommodate different schedules and community needs.

Similarly, we have more plans to bring North Branch programming out into the community! Our long-running ECO program at central Vermont public schools has shown how powerful this can be – we hope to launch similarly-embedded afterschool and camp programs this year and to broaden the menu of NBNC programming choices that public school teachers and administrators have to choose from. 

We retired the phrase "Citizen Science" in favor of the more inclusive term "Community Science," and advocated for other regional organizations to do the same. Another shift in language is seen in our efforts to recognize the varied ways folks might move around the landscape - “outings” or “explorations” are used when applicable over “walks”. 

Lastly, we’ve shifted Summer Camp registrations from first-come-first-served to a lottery system to make that process more equitable. We know that Summer Camps have filled incredibly fast in recent years, and that the registration time crunch has caused and exacerbated inequities. This lottery system is one way we hope to improve access to NBNC Summer Camps, along with financial support options. 

Online accessibility: Our early pandemic increase in online programming revealed how virtual programming improves access for some people, while creating barriers for others. One place we are proud to have improved accessibility is our website itself - with a new accessibility widget that allows users to change elements of the page to suit their needs.

We are committed to access for all, and are continually working to eliminate barriers, including by continuing hybrid virtual/in-person programming. We welcome your insight and suggestions.


Land Stewardship for Food, Medicine, and Materials

Wild Harvesting: We welcome and encourage the Abenaki people to collect food, medicine, and materials from the land we steward, which is within their ancestral homelands. Please contact us so that we are aware of any harvesting taking place. We will welcome other members of the public to sustainably harvest from the land once our "food forest" landscape is better established.

Indigenous-Led Garden: Local community groups have collaborated with NBNC staff to clear an area adjacent to  the community garden slated to be an important Indigenous-led space for growing food and connecting to land.

Food Forests: Our ecological stewardship and restoration plans for the property are designed to provide wild resources back to our community. Since 2021, we’ve planted over 800 trees and shrubs many of which will yield harvestable fruits or useful resources - with even more to come!

Community Orchard: In 2022 we planted a roadside orchard of diverse fruits that, once established, will be free and available to the public to enjoy. We are excited for this orchard to be a small but valuable source of food security for all central Vermont residents.


Growing Financial Support

Our goal is for finances to never be a barrier to participation in our core programs. 

In 2022, we awarded over $25,000 in financial aid across many programs. Through grant funding, donations, and partnerships, we are thankful to be able to provide more financial aid than ever before. We are constantly working to expand the financial support packages we can offer, and to ensure they work equitably across our community.


Building Relationships

We’ve continued our work of developing real and reciprocal partnerships with affinity groups and local organizations to better meet the needs of Vermont’s diverse communities. To be a place of belonging for all Vermonters means broadening what we do, who we work with, and how we go about it all.

We are grateful for our partnerships with: Capstone Community Action, the Feminist Bird Club, local antiracism book discussion groups, SafeArt, the Vermont Kindness Project, the Everything Space, Outright Vermont, Peace & Justice Center, the Atowi Project, the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation, Central Vermont Refugee Action Network, Central Vermont Family & Friends United, Northeast Disabled Athletics Association/Adaptive Kayaking, South Hero Land Trust, Hireability, and more. 

The Community Engagement Coordinator position, created in 2023, will help North Branch Nature Center continue to cultivate these important relationships, to build even more meaningful connections, and to widen the scope of NBNC’s impact.


Staff Development

Professional Development: Our entire staff participates in annual trainings to recognize and start to dismantle racism and bias within our organization, and within ourselves. In 2021 we worked with the Peace & Justice Center of Vermont on antiracism training for the staff and Board, and in 2022 we learned from Outright Vermont how to better support the LGBTQ+ community. 2023 brings even more opportunities for growth and training, with the creation of a robust Calendar of Staff Learning. 

Inclusive Hiring Practices: We are consciously striving to create job opportunities at NBNC with hours, salaries, and benefits that are attractive to a wide range of applicants. We are also refreshing our hiring and interview process to be more equitable and accommodating of a wide range of candidate abilities and experiences. NBNC is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Moreover, as part of our commitment to equity, inclusion, and justice, we actively seek to strengthen our organization by diversifying our staff. We encourage applications from diverse candidates, including people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQ+, and People of Color. The NBNC Board Recruitment Committee is similarly working on diversifying the NBNC Board.


Our Commitments

A Shared Commitment: To clearly set our expectations of our visitors, participants, and staff, we've developed a community contract that is introduced at the start of each NBNC program and event, included in our program registration, and posted at our trailhead. It reads: "Take care of yourself. Take care of others. Take care of the earth. We strive to help people feel welcomed, oriented to the landscape, engaged, inspired, safe, and part of our community. We ask that our visitors and participants share this commitment while at North Branch Nature Center. We expect that all who enter this shared space do so in the spirit of welcoming kindness, inclusivity, respect, and curiosity."

Strategic Planning: Equity is a focus of one of the four goals in our 2020-2024 Strategic Plan.  The goal reads: "NBNC is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. NBNC is committed to closing the Nature Equity Gap. We believe all people need and deserve access to nature and nature education, and we understand that real barriers exist. We are dedicated to prioritizing the needs and challenges of underserved, marginalized, and diverse populations. We craft programs that are relevant, appealing, accessible, and affordable for all."

A Commitment to Diversity: In June 2020, NBNC staff and Board reflected deeply on our role as an organization in the perpetuation of injustices in our community, and we made a commitment to change course. Since then, we’ve reaffirmed those commitments. We have listened closely to advice and guidance from experts in the field and begun the organization-wide process of integrating JEDI efforts across all areas of NBNC. Operationalizing this growth and progress means integrating it into policy, staff responsibilities, accountability and, programming, and curricula.

A Commitment to Listen and Improve: We want to hear your suggestions on making NBNC a more inclusive community. Please reach out to Catherine Griset, Community Engagement Coordinator, or any of our staff. Catherine can be reached at [email protected] or (802) 229-6206 ext. 114. If you would like to submit your feedback anonymously, you may use this form. If you would like to submit your feedback anonymously, you may use this form.


Connecting People with the Natural World

North Branch Nature Center

713 Elm Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
(802) 229-6206

Hours: Center Open Monday-Friday 9-4
Trails Open 24/7