Lowell Lake group to begin researching park

The Lowell Lake Working Group meets to begin organizing. All photos by Bruce Frauman.

By Bruce Frauman
©2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The March 28 meeting of the Lowell Lake Working Group, held at Neighborhood Connections in Londonderry, revealed a nascent organization with lots of questions seeking answers.

Robert Nied, a Chester resident and former town administrator of Londonderry, began pulling together the organization after the state Department of Forest Parks and Recreation held a meeting last December to introduce to the public its master planning process for the park.

The meeting, of about 20 people, gathered last Thursday to create groups that will research various issues at the park, such as the cabins, potential fees, noise and light pollution.

Jeannie Wade of Chester appreciates the state plan for the lake.

The group agreed to set up a four-person steering committee. Londonderry Development Review Board member Bob Maisey, Steve Coombs, of Londonderry, and Chester residents Diane Holme and Jeannie Wade all volunteered for the committee.

Nied said up to now, he has sent out emails to the whole group — about 45 in total — asking folks what they wanted to do. The Steering Committee was authorized to answer questions for the group such as from the press and public.

During a long, roaming discussion, some members also agreed to research and write a narrative about specific points in the Lowell Lake master plan to produce a position paper. Assessment as to progress will be made at the next meeting tentatively scheduled for Monday, April 8 with a goal of having each section written in a month. Nied said he will aggregate the various responses into a final product, perhaps with the help of others.

Rhoda Rhonda Lathrop of South Londonderry said she will help gather information from and about state agencies while Londonderry resident Shiela Selden said she will work on a graphic design for the flyer now in draft form. It was being written by Holme.

Larry Gubb of Londonderry sat on the original Lowell Lake committee.

Londonderry Conservation Committee chair Irwin Kuperberg said the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources BioFinder is a good resource for determining what the state considers to be critical habitat.

Nied told The Telegraph that in February the group submitted a list of 20 questions to Ethan Phelps, parks regional manager for the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. Six questions ask how the plan reconciles a state planning goal of maintaining and improving forest blocks and habitat connectors with specific facts the group gleaned from the BioFinder application. Nied said the last he heard from Phelps was that the submitted questions were complex and required a committee to answer. You can read those questions here.

When Kelly Capen asked about Act 171 concerning wildlife corridors, Nied said towns are to mitigate forest segmentation by identifying key wildlife corridors in their town plan, and protecting them.

Nied asked if Londonderry’s response to Act 171 meshed with the Lowell Lake Master Plan. Larry Gubb responded that the same agency that regulates Lowell Lake wrote Act 171. He added that he would like to see issues that need to be clarified put in terms of what the group is trying to do.

Robert Nied of Chester uses the park daily and initiated the group.

Nied said it boils down to what the data supports. The group’s concerns focus on protecting the lake and its surroundings rather than trying to develop existing structures. He said all four of the private consultants FPR has hired are developers and not environmental consultants. Nied also said that there has been very little discussion from the state about what the impacts of its plans will be on the lake environment and there have been few or no options offered.

Nied added, “We are saying ‘Press the pause button,’ what will the impacts be?”

Kuperberg said there are three departments within ANR that may be working separately from each other.

Wade said she believes that the state plan protects the environment of Lowell Lake, although others in the group may disagree. She said the plan also meets the needs of people using the lake, so she supports allowing the state to get what it wants. Wade said she likes the social connections, especially multi-generational, that the lake supports.

Steve Coombs said he would like to keep the lake in some degree of a natural state, which may not be possible with the state’s goal of increasing recreational opportunities. He said he would like the state to imagine what the lake will be like in 5 to 10 years.

Bob Maisey, center, volunteered for the steering committee.

One member asked what the specific impact would be of various numbers of people per day visiting the lake. Nied responded that this is the essential question, but he hasn’t gotten data from FPR on that question.

Gubb, who sat on the committee that worked with the state as it developed its first plans for the lake in 1999, said the state held 16 meetings over two years as it set the pattern for placement of parking lots, overnight camping, and more. Gubb said the state is again gathering information, including from this working group, while its mission duty is to a state wide residency. Gubb added that he had misunderstood the group’s intent, based on letters to the editor and comments written in the Londonderry Community Forum on Facebook.

Selden said the group is in the process of determining a position, adding that at this moment “we have concerns” but no answers.

Cynthia Gubb said the town would need to request a traffic study. Larry Gubb  said FPR will try to balance its plan based on a variety of inputs and present again with something “more like a finished plan.”

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  1. J Martin says:

    Sorry to hear they want to “develop” the park (oxymoron) by enlarging the parking lot, widening access roads, adding lights, and overnight facilities.

    The park is a real gem as is, even the forlorn previous summer cabins with their lovely moss covered roofs. I’m in Chester off & on in summer and go there maybe twice a month. If the parking lot were even 3/4 full, I simply wouldn’t go in, as the size of the current lot represents an adequate number of visitors already.

    There aren’t many lakes around this part of Vermont and Lowell lake is actually quite tiny. If there are 10 kayaks paddling around it feels crowded already. It’s nice that the lake is left in peace at night and I don’t see the point in adding overnight facilities … is it to generate income? Wouldn’t that be offset by the cost of managing the cabins?

    Kudos to the state of Vermont for giving us this delightful spot, but the development goals such as “enhancing visitor experience” have a faint whiff of Disneyland about them

  2. Robert Nied says:

    It is essentially irrelevant if Lowell Lake was created by glacial movement during the Ice Age or by the construction of a dam originally predating the American Revolution.

    What it is today is a vibrant habitat. While humans have often destroyed ecosystems by building dams and flooding wetlands, the creation of Lowell Lake has created a water, wetland and forest ecosystem that supports an extraordinary and diverse list of species.

    The notion that the only why to protect the ecosystem of Lowell Lake is to remove the dam and drain the lake is nonsense and demonstrates a lack of understanding of what Lowell Lake is today, what plant and animal life it supports and what is required to protect it.

  3. Jeannie Wade says:

    I want to put on record that I never said that I support the state plan for the lake. In fact, I was asking questions regarding the mission of the well Lake Working Group and volunteered to be on the Steering Committee. It was my first meeting that I ever attended. Please check with the person prior to stating his or her opinion of such important matters.

  4. Larry Gubb says:

    I believe it is important that people find their clarifications directly from the best source and in comparison to it, rather than from interpretive narratives, if only in the interest of accuracy.

    Forest Parks and Recreation information may be found by going to the Lowell Lake State Park website

    https://vtstateparks.com/lowell.html

    On the upper right of that page is a pinkish colored box with a note referring to a link, just above, labelled DOC/MAPS

    There is a process for planning and in some cases the car/horse/chicken egg order is not the same, thus some answers and information that may currently be missing may still be forthcoming as part of the overall process.

    Many see The Agency of Natural Resources and the Department of Forest Parks and Recreation, not as an adversary to the State’s natural habitat, ecology and environment, but a steward of it in balance with the access which provides people a means to experience the natural resources of the state.

    A reminder that Lowell Lake exists as a lake and a lake environment because of a human constructed and maintained dam. It is a “gem” in large part, because of that. The ultimate protection of the ecology and natural environment where Lowell Lake now sits, would be to remove the dam and prevent human access or severely limit it.

    I would also like to clarify. I do not speak for the State of Vermont, the Agency of Natural Resources or the Department of Forest Parks and Recreation. I can only speak from my experience in the process, (attending early set of public meetings), my experience on the Londonderry Planning Commission since 1991(I do not speak for the Planning Commission) and experience elsewhere, including being on the Board of Smart Growth Vermont, whose founder was a very strong advocate and protector of the State’s natural resources. It is an entity that was taken under the wing of the Vermont Natural Resources Council.

    To avoid any miscommunication I would like to say I did not say or intend to say or intone that I know what the status of the next publication of the plan in progress will be, with regard to it being “more like a finished plan”. I was hoping to say that the planning progress is still underway and that from what I understand, public comments have been heard and listened to and may (or may not) be reflected in any subsequent public presentations, by FPR. If people read the information FPR has provided, there are various stages and pieces to the planning process and the plan has to be balanced against a variety of obligations, which the State has outlined from the beginning of this process.

    Thank you for listening.

    Just a quick typo correction, Bruce. “Rhoda Lathrop” should be “Rhonda Lathrop”

  5. Robert Nied says:

    To clarify: 1. Vermont Forest, Parks and Recreation is pursuing a development plan for Lowell lake and has engaged at least four separate consultants to create plans for that development. NONE of those contractors have been asked to look at potential environmental impacts and the State has NOT conducted its own environmental impact study. The State has already approved logging in the park including up to three acre clear cuts.
    2. The area being proposed for overnight accommodations at Lowell Lake is NOT currently developed. What is being proposed is renovation and/or replacement of the existing cabins which will require ADA compliance. The latest iteration of the State’s plan calls for a new access road, lights, bathrooms, showers and a separate swimming area. 3. Condo development would likely be prohibited by the existing conservation easement executed between the original private landowners and the Vermont Land Trust and would also be difficult or impossible because of Town of Londonderry zoning regulations designed specifically to protect the lake. 4. The Lowell Lake Working Group has repeatedly stated that Lowell Lake is, and should remain, a regional resource, available for all people to enjoy. Rather then being a “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) group, the Working Group is comprised of volunteers from multiple communities in at least two counties who value Lowell Lake as not only a recreational resources but also as an ecological gem with a wide variety of species and habitat, that deserve reasonable and science-based protections.

  6. Lara Shepard says:

    Boy, you people are really getting ahead of yourselves. It’s the Agency of Natural Resources, of course the lake and environment will be protected to the best of their ability and follow all laws. The area to be considered for overnight camping is already developed. I think this is more of a NIMBY argument and the locals not wanting to share public land. Imagine if this was a condo development which is what it was slated for before being conserved/protected by the state.

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