I have been enjoying the quiet beauty of Lowell Lake by canoe, swimming, and hiking the perimeter trail for the past 40 years. The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of boats on the lake. The impact on the experience of visitors and on the plants and animals that inhabit the park is observably detrimental. Every loon on the lake is surrounded by boaters trying to get a closer view. The park is already over-used.
Now the latest Vermont Forest Parks and Recreation Plan is to spend up to several million dollars of taxpayer money to rebuild about 11 of the derelict cabins in the park for overnight rental and build a separate parking lot and septic system to serve these cabins. They also want to enlarge the existing parking lot to accommodate even more day use.
But clearly FPR is conflicted. It has a responsibility to protect the park for its native inhabitants and the enjoyment of the public, but it also wants to make the park more accessible to more people. No amount of “professional” planning to segment and restrict different types of use to different confined parts of the park – as they have suggested as a solution – can possibly compensate for increased use in an already over-used area.
Other natural recreational areas limit visitors to protect flora, fauna, and visitor experience. For example, when the parking lots at Plum Island in Massachusetts are full, no more cars are admitted. Lowell Lake should continue to do this, not add more parking.
Now there is a large motivated group of local residents speaking under the name of Lowell Lake Concerned Citizens who are wary of FPR’s plan and who submitted a list of questions to FPR this past winter. FPR responded at the end of May with a set of answers in a document that clearly bears out this conflict. Right in their second answer they state that increased use is “not a programmatic goal of the planning project,” and then go on to state that “Our experience managing recreation on state lands indicates that better management of recreational use, even when increased, results in a better user experience and environmental protection.” This is an obvious self-contradiction and anyone who’s spent much time at the lake can see that it is pure folly.
One wonders if FPR is just lying to the concerned citizens or is also lying to itself. They go on and on making statements that at times appear genuinely concerned, but often their “answers” are non-answers or are extremely evasive. And their very language is so filled with arcane ANR/DEC/FPR-speak that that it’s hard to imagine they wrote the document to be read and understood by anyone but their own group of professionals. They repeatedly assure that they will be using “professional” studies and making “professional” judgments.
FPR asserts that: There is no “development plan.” Following that, they state that their Master Plan “will be a concept document that will be used to guide future design and construction.” What is a plan for the design and reconstruction of 11 cabins, a septic system, new roads, new parking lots, etc. if not a development plan?
Throughout this response document, FPR attempts to assure concerned citizens that they know what they’re doing and so there is no reason to be so worried. But there is a huge group of local people who can see that this Plan is rotten, and it needs to be radically altered to properly respect the lake, its animal and plant life, and the citizens who would enjoy its pristine beauty. Overnight use of the old cabins and increased parking are not the answer.
FPR will be holding two additional open meetings this summer, with dates to be announced. All concerned people should try to attend and save Lowell Lake from development.
Andrew Harper, co-chair
Weston Conservation Commission