To the editor: State plan for Lowell Lake poorly conceived

The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation presented an information meeting in Londonderry on Monday, Dec. 10 detailing plans to increase development within Lowell Lake State Park. Here is what I learned at that meeting and by reviewing the state’s development plan:

The many people that have been using Lowell Lake for years for recreation and exercise will soon be required to pay a fee if they wish to walk on the trail or go for a paddle.

The state has no plan to conduct a social and cultural impact study to determine if charging fees to enter a park will deter its use by people in the host and surrounding communities.

The state hopes to increase the number of out-of-the-area people using the already crowded park by offering overnight accommodations despite the surrounding areas having an abundance of overnight accommodations, including motels, inns, B&Bs and campsites.

The state has not conducted an economic impact study to determine the effects of expanding park accommodations on the local lodging industry.

The state has not conducted an environmental impact study of overnight noise, lights, traffic, etc. on animal species within the park resulting from the development plan.

The state has repeatedly claimed that it would respect local land use regulations designed to protect the sensitive shore area, but it has already claimed an exemption from those regulations and will likely require a waiver for most of their proposed development.

The state intends to expand the existing parking lot and potentially add a second parking area and access road that would be near the shoreline, despite local regulations to protect that shoreline.

Because the area around the lake has been identified by the state as a critical wildlife area, plans to add a parking area and additional access road would likely be inconsistent with the intent of Act 171, which is intended to prevent the segmentation of wildlife corridors.

The state has not conducted a comprehensive environmental impact study to determine the overall effects of planned park development on animal and plant species.

The status inventory of species within the park is inconsistent with observations made over time by area residents and those familiar with the park.

The state has not presented a plan to protect the nesting area of the loons that live on the lake.

The state has no plans for providing emergency water rescue capability in parallel with their plan to increase attendance at the park, leaving that responsibility to local first responders.

The state seemed to be unaware of the need to provide unencumbered — no fee — access to the historic cemetery via the path over the dam.

While intending to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop overnight accommodations in the park, the state has no plans to improve the dam, which has been designated by the state as a “significant hazard” with “major cracking” in the area where the head wall meets the emergency spillway training wall.

The state’s capacity analysis appears to significantly under-count the number of boats on the lake during peak times.

The state acknowledged trail erosion and other impacts of current usage but has not conducted a comprehensive analysis of potential increased erosion and water quality impacts resulting from their development plans.

The state has not developed a plan to manage increased traffic in and out of the park via Lowell Lake Road nor have they reached out to Londonderry’s Traffic Safety Committee or Select Board to discuss options for controlling traffic, standing and idling along the roads leading to the park.

Of the 40+ people in attendance at the public meeting, the overwhelming majority opposed the state’s development plan or had serious concerns about its impact on the quality of the park.

Despite significant opposition within the host community, the state appears to have little interest in modifying its development plans for the park.

In short, the state appears to have a poorly conceived development plan that is driven solely by internal metrics and a department commitment to increasing  park head-count with little regard for the concerns of the community or potential detrimental impacts on the ecology of the park.

Robert Nied
Robert Nied is the former town administrator for Londonderry

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  1. We were introduced to Lowell Lake in 2001. It is a sacred place. I am a landscape painter and we also have dogs. We have been watching in horror as it has become increasingly popular and in the grip of the state. We used to park at the back gate for a quick dip after work.

    After increasing run-ins with vacationers plopped down with their family and radios, or the state guy policing for dogs off leash, we find other places to go.

    Will Lowell Lake become another environmental disaster? Is nothing sacred?

  2. Darcy Gibney says:

    I couldn’t agree more with what has already been stated! Leave this special place alone as it is sanctuary for locals…we don’t need development, we don’t need fees. If we can’t go get in our canoe and commune with the beavers and cranes in the evening as we do now, we will have lost our humanity!

  3. Robert Badger says:

    Thanks for writing your well written letter, Robert. I concur completely.
    In addition, I see no reason to preserve buildings constructed during the 1940’s. They are not historic, just dilapidated structures that should be removed and the land allowed to return to its natural state.

    Robert – can you send your letter to the governor? I find it works well to start at the top and let things trickle down (except for tax cuts.) Tell the governor you have a way to save hundreds of thousands of dollars. That will catch his attention.

  4. Mary Claire Schwartz says:

    I am sad to lose this precious area to development and greed. I will always have fond memories of hiking there – way before there was a blazed trail – and appreciating the solo beauty of the place. I have not been there since the ridiculous dog leash brouhaha and will never return. Let this be an object lesson for other areas contemplating the same insane regulation.

  5. Jill Bruning says:

    I echo the comments – thank you for putting your energy into this, Robert. Lowell Lake has been an extremely special place for my family and me.

  6. J Koop says:

    I was introduced to Lowell in 89.
    She’s a different place from then.
    Had overnights often. Social media brought the crowds.
    No longer a quiet place to get in touch with nature, far too much like another Walmart experience for me to even enjoy. It won’t matter what the state does, it’s ruined in my heart.

  7. Robert Nied says:

    While not universal, I believe there is significant opposition to the state plan, as currently presented, on the part of the Londonderry and adjacent communities. Over the coming weeks and months I would encourage everyone to keep the debate productive and civil.

    In terms of next steps, I plan on contacting the relevant representatives and gauge their willingness to assist with a comprehensive and coordinated response to the plan. I would also like to organize a group of interested individuals to present a mutually agreed upon list of concerns and recommendations to those representatives and ultimately to the State Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.

    If you have interest in participating in that group please contact me offline at: Thanks for everyone’s input, perspectives and ideas!

  8. Robert Nied says:

    The singular purpose of the state’s plan is to increase the number of people in the park, not to preserve or protect the character of the lake area or the species it is home to.

    Yes, we can do something. We can contact our elected officials and express our concerns and insist that any plans for the future of the park start with a plan to consider the the preservation of parks character and ecosystems.

    The starting point should not be how we can accommodate more cars and where we should house overnight visitors or how many bathrooms we need to build.

  9. Melinda M Beebe says:

    Is there really anything we can do?

  10. Kelly Wicker says:

    Thank you Robert! I couldn’t have said it better! When I learned why the park staff was doing a head count (over the summer) upon entering Lowell Lake, my heart sank. I worried about the native beauty that seems to be preserved there BECAUSE it was not developed. I believe turning it into a destination will ruin the eco-system entirely. So Sad….

  11. David balous says:

    all you have to do is look at what they did to Hapgood Pond to see its all about MONEY

  12. Toby Fitch says:

    Having attended a previous meeting hosted by the State last year, I came to the conclusion that this whole project was a “done deal” before a public meeting was ever held. Placating lip service from our academic ivory tower, benevolent leaders. They say, “we need your input”. Yeah right…

  13. Dear Robert,

    Thank you SO MUCH for your letter to the editor. Lowell Lake has been my sanctuary and quiet place to restore my heart and soul these past 19 years as a busy innkeeper, and I know many other sensitive local people who feel the same about Lowell Lake.

    Watching the spiraling mist rising in the light of the first rays of sunshine, listening to the Loons calling to each other, sitting quietly with the Painted Turtles while they sunbathe together on fallen logs or watching the moon’s reflection on the surface of the lake are experiences that will be lost forever if the state of Vermont develops the lake.

    Lowell Lake is a precious jewel that is fragile and must be protected for wildlife that depend on it and for the local residents here who depend on it as a place to restore ourselves. Many local people here work hard in serving vacationers, but we must preserve something for ourselves.

    The peacefulness of Lowell Lake as it has been all these years will be destroyed by campers with radios, and more traffic coming and going. Please know that I am the person who made the map of Lowell Lake that you find at the library, and at the Town Office. And I am the person who wrote the Lowell Lake Waltz, which is becoming well-loved around town.

    Lowell Lake has been my healing place and creative inspiration, and a place for quiet contemplation. The addition of a bathroom by the parking area is a good thing. The state of Vermont should save its money for repairing crumbling bridges and leave Lowell Lake in peace.

  14. Kelly Capen says:

    Thank you Robert Nied !