Public Meeting – Save Dewey’s Mills Pond
January 13, 2016, 6:30 p.m.
- Steering Committee: Tad Nunez, Sheila Armen, David Courtney, Mary Davidson Graham, Marty Banak, Janice Berger,
Ethan Phelps representing State of Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation and Gary Pelton, Milfoil Expert and Maintenance Leader
- Concerned Citizens
I – Introduction and Background Information
Tad Nunez, Director of Parks and Recreation, Town of Hartford, introduced himself as the leader of the Steering Committee and the meeting’s facilitator. The Steering Committee and its work over the past 16 months were described. The purpose of the meeting, to provide information regarding the condition of the Pond and determine what the public wants the Pond to be, was outlined. Attendees were asked if they wanted to “Save the Pond”. The majority indicated, “YES” via a show of hands.
Tad described the following:
- Physical layout of Dewey’s Mills Pond area
- Use of “matting” to bypass lily pads to access Pond
- Harvest of Milfoil since ’04, performed by Gary Pelton, financed by a State of Vt. Grant (Dept. of Environmental Conservation Lakes and Ponds Program), including the suction removal of roots
- Over growth of Milfoil continues
Tad also described the Pond’s surrounding land ownership.
- Hartford-owns cornfield and launch
- Private residences around the Pond
- Hydro company leases the dam from ACOE
- Biggest owner of Dewey’s Mills Pond and surrounding parkland is the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps)
- Vermont Dept. of Forests, Parks & Recreation leases all remaining land from the Corps for State Park
The dramatic impact of Irene, which increased the amount of sediment deposited in the Pond, was explained.
The Steering Committee members were introduced and stated their interest in the Pond.
Gary Pelton – spends 7 to 8 weeks in Quechee performing the Milfoil harvesting. He now resides in Maine and needs help with the removal project. Volunteers were requested.
Mary Davidson Graham – resides adjacent to the Pond and is the Assistant Executive Director of the Vermont Institute of Natural Science-VINS at the VINS Nature Center She wants to save the Pond for recreational and environmental science education for youths and adults, in addition to maintaining the current wildlife habitat.
Janice Berger – resident of Quechee Lakes and a member of the Hartford Conservation Commission. Desires to see the Pond remain a pond. She believes the Pond is an asset to Quechee, a welcoming sight to residents and visitors.
Sheila Armen—An owner of the Strong House Spa, adjacent to the Pond. She wants to save the Pond, remove the trash that was dumped into the pond. “If nothing else lets clean up the Pond”.
Ethan Phelps—Vt. State Parks representative, responsible for the State Park. He is the State contact to the Corps.
Dave Courtney—A resident of Hartford, and a homeowner in Quechee, serves as the unofficial representative of QLLA, as a member of the Board of Trustees.
Marty Banak—Founder and past owner of Wilderness Trails. Resides adjacent to the Pond
II – Information concerning the Pond’s condition was provided
Gary described the Pond’s condition pre and post “Irene”. Aerial photographs, showing the progression of the Milfoil contamination, including its growth post Irene, especially in the summer and fall, were presented. Sunlight, due to the shallow depth of the Pond, stimulates/increases the growth of the Milfoil. Gary tries to keep the Pond’s fishing area clear of Milfoil. He feels you can control the Milfoil, however ongoing maintenance is required. A citizen questioned the use of chemicals to remove the Milfoil. He was told that Elaneder will do this, however it is not a preferred solution due to potential impact on wildlife.
Ethan described the Pond’s ownership history.
The Corps acquired the land during the 1950s and leased to State of Vt. in the 1960s. Pond was constructed by Quechee Lakes Corp. in 1973 under agreement with the State and the Corps.
The Corps must approve anything the State does to the land.
Milfoil work required a permit from the State to Hartford, which had to be approved by the Corps.
Marty described the past use of the pond for fishing, noting that no one fishes now. He said there is ice fishing on the Pond. During Quechee’s high tourist season it had been a recreational center (kayaking, canoeing, fishing), however not now. It is shallow and full of weeds, making it difficult to navigate (70% of the Pond is shallow). It does not function as a recreational Pond.
Mary reviewed the Pond’s history and invited Carol Dewey Davidson to speak, as she grew up living adjacent to the Pond. Carol stated she felt the pond’s change was from silt build up, along with vegetation and the dike has no influence on its current condition. The Pond’s condition back in the day was typical of any Mill use. It was very deep and was used recreationally as well.
Meeting attendees made the following comments:
– It was a recreational pond
– During the 50s it was marshland
– Has the Corps been involved in Steering Committee meetings? Response was “no”, although they must approve any action.
– State owns all water in the state, hence the citizens own the waterways and the State manages them (note – the State of VT DEC has jurisdiction on water bodies greater than 10 acres in size, so technically not all waters)
– Several attendees described the past Milfoil removal work prior to 2004. It was noted that the Pond would return to marshland without ongoing maintenance.
At this point Tad said residents should decide what to do about the pond.
– It would be an oxbow in its natural state.
– We require research to determine the impact of any proposed actions and to obtain Corp’s agreement.
Tad noted that a State inspection of the dyke described it as needing maintenance. Recommendations were made to protect the dyke and remove its vegetation. Ethan explained that this work and its cost are under State evaluation. Work will require permits from the Corps and State. Cost would be born by the lessee (the State).
It was noted that there is an outlet to the Pond to control water level.
Upon construction of the Hydro Power dam, the installed flashboards impacted the Pond’s water level. Now the dyke is more at risk, overflowing more frequently and causing the pond to “fill in”.
III – What does Dewey’s Mill Pond mean to you?
Sheila asked what does the community want?
The following comments were made:
- Enjoy the view of the pond
- As a recreational user, find a way to clean it out
- Want to see it continue to be a body of water
- Breaching the pond—what would it take to do this and what is the impact?
- Currently can’t play in it, want to “fix it”
- Need to organize Milfoil pulling teams
- Ottauquechee School uses the Pond as a learning tool
- The trails around the Pond are used by many and connect to QLLA club house
- It is a special place
- It is a beautiful water trail
- For Marshland Farm the Pond was a selling point, an attraction. In current state this is not the case.
- Esthetically Pond is a plus for Quechee
- Pond trails should connect to the VINS trails (note: they already do this; VINS has a License Agreement with the State to connect its trail system to the state park)
- The Pond is a tourist attraction and should help real estate sales
- There could be a trailhead and boat launch area if the Pond’s condition improved.
IV- What is your view of Dewey’s Pond in years to come?
The following comments were made in answer to Janice’s question.
- Everyone wants it to be what it was, a recreational area.
- It should be a wildlife refuge
- What are the future options and the costs?
- Janice asked for the public’s support to investigate future options.
- The majority of attendees indicated their support via a show of hands.
- Tad said we now have a vote of confidence
- We can proceed to contact the Corps regarding possible actions.
V- Path forward
Attendees offered the following suggestions:
- Review possible options
- Ask the Corps to dredge the Pond
- Need to get the water within the Pond aerated (via fountains). Gary said there is adequate aeration now. Aeration will not stop the growth of Milfoil as sunlight encourages it.
- We are fighting against Mother Nature.
- Need to have a maintenance plan going forward
- Question regarding breaching the dyke was answered as not advisable as it will bring in more sediment.
VI –Examples of other communities’ actions regarding similar pond situations
Ethan described Guilford, Vt. ‘s community action.
- State park had an 18-acre pond as a recreational area for the town (near Brattleboro). The dam was found to be unsafe during a 2011 state inspection and was drained. Citizens rallied and were able to get the local legislators to appropriate funds to reconstruct the pond.
- An example of the Corps saving a Pond in Mass. was stated
Tad concluded the meeting, thanking all for attending and their participation. He said the Committee would contact the Corps and Power Company to discuss potential actions. A State Grant to perform Milfoil removal in 2016 will be solicited. People were asked to serve on the Steering Committee and/or assist in Milfoil removal. The following informational contact points were provided: the Save Dewey’s Pond Facebook page and the Ottauquechee Trails website.