To the editor: Community group seeks to protect Lowell Lake

Lowell Lake is an exceptional natural resource that offers not only wonderful recreational opportunities but also the chance to experience an extraordinary and inspiring natural environment rich with animal and plant life.

Lowell Lake contributes to the positive quality of life that makes our local communities so attractive, which is why so many area residents have raised concerns about a plan by Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation to develop Lowell Lake, altering its very character and potentially impacting its delicate ecology.

It is unclear why FPR wants to make costly changes to the lake area, potentially impacting the lake’s habitats and altering the special experience of visiting the lake.  An imperative by the state to increase visitor headcount seems to be a factor.

The state’s plan includes allowing logging of the forests that surround the lake, renovating the old cabin structures and/or adding additional structures for overnight accommodations, adding additional access routes to those structures, bathrooms, showers and lighting.

The plan would likely segregate day and overnight use areas and significantly increase crowding of a small park already under stress during peak weekends and holidays. Finally, the state would begin charging fees for both day and overnight access to the lake.  The state’s plan would cost Vermont taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to initiate and dramatically increase the ongoing operational and maintenance costs of the park.

In response, the Lowell Lake Working Group, a grassroots community organization has formed to consider and respond to that plan and to offer recommendations on protecting the ecological, cultural and recreational significance of Lowell Lake for current and future generations.

The group has grown significantly in just a few months and has participated in meaningful and productive discussions with Forest, Parks and Recreation as well as other government departments and non-profit organizations and will continue to identify solutions that prioritize the health and sustainability of the lake and its surrounding environment. Lowell Lake Working Group believes that the state’s plan:

  • Has not adequately identified impacts to the fragile ecosystem of the lake and its surrounding wildlife communities nor the specific steps necessary to mitigate those impacts.
  • Does not address or manage the already rapid growth of visitors that have far exceeded previous projections.
  • Does not adequately identify a path to compliance with environmental regulations.
  • Does not adequately identify a path to compliance with Town of Londonderry regulations designed to protect the lake.
  • Does not adequately address infrastructure and quality of life impacts on the surrounding community.

The group encourages the participation of the broader community in a productive discussion about Lowell Lake’s future. To request additional information, to offer comment or to volunteer to assist the Lowell Lake Working Group in protecting the lake please email:

Robert Nied

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  1. Robert Nied says:

    Mr. Gubb’s repeated critical statements regarding community concern about development plans for Lowell Lake and more specifically, the grass roots working group, lack fact and substance.

    Mr. Gubb has accused the group of “mischaracterizing” the state’s plan yet has failed to provide specific examples of that alleged mischaracterization. He doggedly insists that the state’s plan is unfinished and as such should not be evaluated or critiqued despite multiple documents in which the state has detailed its goals of developing overnight lodging in rebuilt cabins, adding an access road to those cabins, building bathrooms and showers, segregating day and overnight use areas and charging fees for access to the lake.

    Mr. Gubb continues to pretend that the state’s plan doesn’t exist despite an executed contract between the state and a consultant to guide the implementation of that plan. Mr. Gubb conveniently ignores the fact that the state has already approved logging in the park that will include up to three-acre clear cuts despite potential negative impacts on the lake and its surrounding ecology.

    Mr. Gubb refuses to address the fact that the state has not conducted a comprehensive environmental impact assessment of its plan or the fact that the state’s plan will likely be at odds with local regulations designed specifically to protect the lake and surrounding wetlands and forests. Mr. Gubb is silent on the fact that the state’s plan would impact critical forest blocks and wildlife areas which the state itself has identified.

    While Mr. Gubb has been vocal in his support for the plan to develop Lowell Lake, he has been consistently silent in response to the specific questions of science and process raised by the community other than to lambast those raising the issues and an odd demand for a list of those meeting to discuss concerns about the lake. While Mr. Gubb insists that he knows what is best for Lowell Lake and that scores of individuals in multiple communities are ignorant of the facts, he is surprisingly timid about discussing those facts in any detail beyond vague criticism of the motivation and/or expertise of others in the community.

    Scores of individuals have been working tirelessly to understand the state’s plan, have met with Forests, Parks and Recreation, have engaged their elected local and state officials and have been developing an understanding of the potential impacts of development on the unique regional resource that is Lowell Lake. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but the community deserves more. They deserve facts.

    If Mr. Gubb has facts that others do not, he should share them. I encourage Mr. Gubb to participate in a civil, moderated public forum to debate and consider the future of Lowell Lake. That would be far more productive than social media screeds and on-line comments.

  2. Larry Gubb says:

    The Working Group formed in part because of what some see as mischaracterizations of Forest Parks and Recreation’s still-in-progress working plan, ignoring FPR’s repeated announcements and information about the plan with regard to it being complete.

    These characterizations have mislead the public with the use of terms like “ill conceived”, again totally ignoring the background, the state’s mission, the discussions and work of the members of the steering committee that have a different approach to the state’s working plan, than a few who may have signed on to the “Working Group’s” special interests. Then, as now, the same concerns were discussed, regarding an increase in visitor numbers and the environment. A part of why there is pressure is there is “limited access” around many easily accessible (by location to highways) water sources, such as lakes and public access is presented by the Department of Forest Parks and Recreation.

    Otherwise, private land ownership precludes widespread access, thus the “public” is funneled to places where there is public access. What has not and is not being discussed in these letters and engineered messages is that FPR made it clear, then as now, that they want public input, but they also have an obligation to fulfill their mission and to be as financially self-sustaining as possible. The fact that the original steering committee and discussion that directed the plan in progress currently occurred two decades ago, is somewhat immaterial to “changes” that have occurred since then, relative to the working in-progress plan and this group’s objection to it. Because of lack of funds to move any of the plan forward, access to the Lake has been without fee and largely without controls. The only changes that have occurred in that time is the day use visitor numbers and “smart” technology. This would have occurred with or without the renovation and reuse of exiting historical structures/cabins and had the plan been implemented 15 years ago, a means of control would already be in place.

    Lowell Lake and its environment exists as a lake because of a man made dam, any development would go where there are currently unused, but existing structures and where the bulk of on-the-ground day use traffic exists and closest to surrounding private property development. The majority of the property would remain undeveloped as it is currently, allowing wildlife to pass through, as it currently does.

    The Department of Forest Parks and Recreation falls under the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources which also includes the Department of Environmental Conservation. These details are not being stated or made known and it is important that they are a part of the dialogue and discussion regarding Lowell Lake State Park so the public are made aware of more than one side of the “interest” in Lowell Lake, Londonderry, the town it is physically situated in and its surrounding communities. For more explanation regarding the position of The Department Forest, Parks and Recreation

    By concentrating any development where it has historically existed and currently exists, the working plan, incorporates “smart growth” principles, along with experience of park development of varying kinds, across the state, in connection with all departments that fall under the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
    Thank you, for listening.

  3. Penelope King says:

    Lance Lindgren your assumption that the group wants to keep the lake to themselves is without any merit whatsoever. The park has been open to the public and will remains so, whatever the outcome of the state’s plan – so your comment is mute. The group has a valid concerned about the over development of a limited natural resource.

  4. Robert Nied says:

    The Lowell Lake Working Group formed in response to widespread community concern about the state’s plan to develop Lowell Lake and the potential impacts of that plan on the character and environmental health of the lake. The group includes a growing number of active participants from multiple communities, including individuals who served on the original “steering committee.” Those individuals share the community’s concerns and understand that a plan that had its origins nearly two decades ago did not benefit from an understanding of the current lake environment nor current management practices.

    While support for the state’s plan to develop the lake does not appear to be wide-spread, the opinions of those who support the plan have been and should continue to be respected, listened too and considered. The Working Group has repeatedly extended an invitation to those who support development of the lake to discuss and debate the issues, in a public forum, and continue to believe that a civil, transparent and public discussion of the future of Lowell Lake is in the best interest of the lake and the surrounding communities.

  5. Larry Gubb says:

    I was one of the people on the original steering committee for the management plan for Lowell Lake. We had a series of 16 meetings over the course of more than a year and discussed all of these concerns. Forest Parks and Recreation obtained the land in several purchases, one of them involving the Vermont Land Trust.

    All the people and all the work done during the initial meetings and planning is being mischaracterized unfairly in these articles and with this group which has not reached out to members of the original steering committee to get background and speak about what was discussed or what is being discussed now, missing some of the stakeholders at the “working group” meetings.

    I think it is unfortunate that things have been mischaracterized and parties that have put a lot of time and energy into meeting and planning prior to this group are being unfairly and falsely characterized as planning something that is assumed – not proven by any facts – to be unsuitable.

    I have asked before that all stakeholders be included and that those still available who were on the initial steering committee be invited and included in the “working group” meetings. The only thing working against a sustainable natural resource is the pressure of too many people using the lake and environs. Until someone comes up with a visitor number that is acceptable to the environment (a wetland, without the existence of the manmade dam) objection or acceptance of the state plans are academic and based on opinion.

  6. Kelly Capen says:

    I agree, because of its popularity, the state has deemed wisely that an updated management plan is needed!

    I also believe that this is the time to speak to some concerns we already, have.

    The traffic, itself on that road, have they worked with the town on how that might be resolved? The cemetery: Have protections been or being worked in?

    I think this is the time to address concerns with a new plan, because it is already overrun and we must do something to earn its upkeep.

    A pay to play is not out of the question in my mind. Londonderry already has a federally owed campground that can be used for overnight people at Winhall Brook.

    We do need to something in order to protect what we have, but I think now is the time of questioning. .

  7. Robert Nied says:

    The Lowell Lake Working Group has indeed been working collaboratively with the state, has meet with the park’s director and has been invited to sit down with Forest, Parks and Recreation’s Stewardship Team.

    The group has provided the state with a list of questions to help clarify community concern and to facilitate ongoing discussions about options for the future of Lowell Lake.

    If we talk about the history of Lowell Lake we should talk about all of the history, including the conservation easement that was drafted and remains in effect that defined the transition of the lake from a camp to a park with special requirements for the protection of its natural resources.

    It is also important to understand that the state’s development plan may very well be at odds with that easement.

  8. Cynthia Gubb says:

    Let’s first remember that Lowell Lake was originally a man-made lake and the environment that has developed around it is a result of creating the lake. Let us also remember that the lake had a hotel on it and hosted numerous guests over the summer seasons many years ago (photos can be found at the Londonderry Historical Society).

    Then the lake had a summer camp on it, which offered a summer camp experience for many children over the years. Then fortunately, the state of Vermont had the vision to purchase the camp to create a state park that could be used by many going forward.

    The scenario could have been different. The land could have been purchased by a private developer, subdivided and sold off in lots for private homes to be constructed excluding forever public access to the lake.

    Because the land is owned and operated by the state, it is now available for all who would like to use it. And because of its growing popularity, the state has deemed wisely that an updated management plan is needed to protect this resource for all.

    Let’s give the state a chance to finish creating and crafting the plan, and work collaboratively with the state for the benefit of all, not just criticize and twist the facts for the benefit of a few.

  9. Kelly Capen says:

    It appears that you did not read the concerns. A substantial natural resource, for generations to come. As it stands now, it is a recreation destination that will not support the parking, will not protect the plants, will not support the cemetery and the animals and amphibians. It is not selfishness. It is preservation !

  10. Robert Nied says:

    The Lowell Lake Working Group is made up of volunteers from multiple southern Vermont communities who fully support the idea that Lowell Lake is a public resource that should be managed in a way that ensures it is sustainable for the use and enjoyment of all Vermonters as a place for recreation and the enjoyment of its diverse wildlife, as it is today. The state’s plan to log the forests surrounding the lake, segregate night and day use, impose new fees for kayaking on the lake and place the ecology of the lake at risk from unnecessary taxpayer funded construction would actually work against the idea of a sustainable natural resource accessible to all for generations to come.

  11. LANCE LINDGREN says:

    Appears that this group wants to keep a VT natural resource all for their own personal use, which is wrong. Waterways belong to the State of Vermont, not to a select group!