Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Sent by Corinne Stridsberg and also posted at 
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There was more news regarding Berlin Pond in the Times Argus from the Selectboard Meeting on Monday (5/21) that I thought I would pass along (see below).Berlin Selectboard meetings are usually the 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month.Remember, many of the meetings end up being available to be viewed about a week later on ORCA Media "Video On Demand", under Town of Berlin and they are also broadcast on the Access channels.Minutes from meetings end up being posted on the town website  but not until they become final, usually at the following meeting. 

Speaking of Berlin Pond, I found that Bryan Pfeiffer has "The Daily Wing - Breaking news about airborne animals" and he recently visited Berlin Pond:

There is also a website Birdingonthe.Net "Recent Postings from Vermont Birds"


BERLIN— The “take back Berlin Pond” troops were out in force this week as those who live around what one described as an environmental jewel urged their Select Board to do anything in its power to protect the pond from a recent onslaught of recreational users.
Still reeling from a Vermont Supreme Court decision that essentially struck down a century-old ban on boating, fishing and swimming in the pristine pond, roughly two dozen residents who own homes around it called for swift action Monday night. The board, though, was urged by its lawyer to proceed with caution.
Board members said they were prepared to do their best to accommodate the roomful of residents and taxpayers but weren’t willing to ignore the advice of the town’s attorney, Rob Halpert, who said cutting corners probably wouldn’t be wise given the fact pattern of the Supreme Court case.
“That’s what started this whole thing in the first place,” Halpert said, referring to the city of Montpelier’s failed attempt to convince even one member of the state’s highest court that it had jurisdiction over a body of water that is owned and controlled by the state.
The Montpelier City Council is scheduled to discuss how to respond to that decision tonight, and members of the Berlin Pond contingent said they planned to attend that session as well.
Monday, though, they urged the Berlin board to restrict access on the 85 feet of shoreline on Berlin Pond that is owned by their town — closing one of the only gaps in a circle of posted land owned by Montpelierthat rings the two-mile-long pond.
The sooner the better, according to Doug Hill, who said the board should make it as difficult as possible for people to legally gain access to Berlin Pond.
“I would really like to see an up-or-down vote from this Select Board on whether we’re either going to allow people to traipse across that (town-owned property) or, no, we’re going to mimic the city of Montpelier’s position and put up ‘No Trespassing’signs and proceed accordingly,” said Hill, who strongly advocated the latter.
“I think that’s our duty, and it’s one we can’t shirk,” he said.
Discussion of the pond spanned 90 minutes and featured several emotional pleas from residents who claimed they’d seen enough in the days since the Supreme Court issued its ruling. But Halpert warned board members and the standing-room-only crowd that it probably wasn’t that simple.
According to Halpert, posting the town-owned property, like a companion proposal to restrict parking around the pond, would likely require adopting an ordinance — a 60-day process that would involve at least one public hearing.
“It’s a process, and it should be followed,” Halpert said, noting that even if the board ultimately adopts an ordinance prohibiting access to the parcel, those unhappy with that decision would be within their rights to petition for its repeal — potentially setting the stage for a special town meeting.
Halpert successfully discouraged the board from pursuing some of the quick fixes suggested by residents who were clearly worried about what the upcoming holiday weekend —complete with its fair weather forecast — will bring.
Brookfield  Road resident Emily Shedaker was one of them.
Shedaker complained that “traffic, … trash and noise” have all spiked in recent days, changing the character of a pond that is a popular refuge for walkers, joggers and nature enthusiasts but, until recently, has been off-limits to those carrying fishing rods, kayaks, canoes and the like.
“It feels like an invasion,” she said.
Shedaker said the pond should be left alone.
“That’s a habitat that’s been preserved for well over 100 years,” she said. “It’s criminal to think that it’s being treated the way that it is. There’s something about having a little jewel in the middle of your community that lies untouched.”
Shedaker told board members they could count on the support of residents who live around the pond.
“I want to make it clear to this board that there are people here that feel so strongly about this issue I’m sure we could muster all the support you would need to keep that pond protected,” she said.
One out-of-town resident who said she regularly drives around the perimeter of the pond claimed she has seen anglers urinating in the pond and tossing cigarette butts, beer bottles and baby diapers in recent days. However, she said, she hasn’t seen any of the loons that nest on the pond.
Brookfield  Road resident Melissa Perley said that was a concern she took very seriously and she hoped the board did as well.
“(The loons) will disappear,” she said, suggesting the Supreme Court had placed Berlin Pond on the brink of environmental Armageddon.
“When it is gone we cannot get it back,” Perley said. “If we delay, and if we don’t do everything we possibly can to protect it, we cannot get it back, and time will just continue and it will be a thing of our past.”
Bill Clark said he is one of a handful of Berlinresidents whose homes are supplied with unfiltered pond water.
“That’s what I’m drinking,” he said, suggesting he was disturbed by reports of public urination and concerned about increasing human contact with the pond.
“We, as taxpayers, need to be protected by our Select Board,” said Bob Green, who has lived on the pond since 1975.
Acting at Halpert’s suggestion, the board voted to pursue an ordinance that would restrict access to the town-owned parcel. However, Chairman Brad Towne wondered whether that would be much of a deterrent given the fact that the town’s right of way overlaps the shoreline in at least two areas — one on Mirror Lake Road and the other on Paine Turnpike South.
“To restrict access to the (pond) may be almost impossible,” Towne warned.
Board member Pete Kelley wondered how the more than 2,000 Berlinresidents who don’t live around the pond would react to the suggested ordinance.
“There are a lot of issues,” Hill conceded. “I hope that the … Berlin Select Board has enough spine to deal with them.”
Meanwhile, board members also agreed to explore a separate ordinance that would restrict parking— except in designated areas — around the pond. That move, Hill and others argue, would make it that much more difficult for those interested in fishing, or launching a canoe or kayak, to do so.
In the interest of clarity, Select Board member Craig Frazier said prohibiting parking around the entirety of the pond might make the most sense.
“The problem we have now is there are so many gray areas that nobody knows what’s going on,” he said, warning those in attendance that they may be underestimating the lengths some people may be willing to go to gain lawful access to the pond.
With that in mind, Hill suggested the board consider extending the “No Parking” area out Paine Turnpike South all the way to the Northfield town line, as well as down nearby Belknap Road. Both are close to Mirror Lake Road.
As a short-term solution, Hill suggested the board consider posting “No Parking” signs along Mirror  Lake Road to deter people from using that area even if the town is currently powerless to enforce it.
Halpert said that would not be wise.
“I personally would have a problem recommending to the Select Board that they do something that is not authorized by law,” he said.
Assuming the ordinances discussed Monday night are crafted, adopted and go into effect without a challenge, Hill said enforcement will be the key given what he said he and others have witnessed over the past several days.
“People are traipsing right by ‘No Trespassing’ signs, hanging their coats on it, setting their cooler down next to it and going fishing,” he said.
Hill suggested the rules and regulations should be made crystal clear in the proposed ordinances.
“Rule No. 1 is: ‘You will be arrested if you cross the city of Montpelier’s or the town of Berlin’s land to access the pond, period,’” he said. “The next one is: ‘You cannot park anywhere except in this little parking lot (near Crosstown  Road) … anywhere around the pond, thanks for stopping.’”

Letters to the Editor

My husband and I live near Berlin Pond, which up until last week was a pristine lake off limits to fishing, boating and swimming. For over 100 years people have not been allowed in or on Berlin Pond because it supplies the city of Montpelierwith drinking water. The decision in Vermont’s Supreme Court recently denied Montpelier’s right to protect its water supply.
Within days of public disclosure of the court’s decision, we saw the first kayaks, rowboats and fishermen as they trespassed across Montpelier’s posted land to access the water. Cars and trucks blocked sections of this rural road as fishermen and kayakers parked their vehicles wherever they could find a spot.
Within days of the court’s unfortunate decision, there was noticeably more litter near the water, including cigarette butts, broken beer bottles and even a dirty diaper. Three fishermen were witnessed openly urinating in Berlin Pond.
I am saddened by what is happening to this once peaceful, beautiful pond. Sad for the water birds, including the nesting loon pair, that must now suffer the invasion of their habitat. Sad for the many walkers, joggers, bird-watchers and bicyclists who once enjoyed the quiet, natural beauty of this area. Sad for the loss of the special ecological value of Berlin Pond. Sad for the loss of the purity of the only closed body of water of this size in the state of Vermont.
If I lived in Montpelier, I would only drink bottled water.

Catherine Donnis

I don’t know how many years Montpelier’s control of Berlin Pond has been an issue. I’m not even sure exactly when the issue made it to the Supreme Court. But wouldn’t you think that Montpelier, with all its lawyers and its $100,000-plus city manager, had plenty of time to get its case together? It can’t have been that difficult to read Vermontlaw and see that Montpelier might have a problem. Having seen that there might be a problem, wouldn’t you think the city would be ready for a variety of eventualities, that it might even have been discussing possible solutions with the state?
Instead, here we are many months past the case moving to the Supreme Court and a week past the Supreme Court making its unanimous decision that Montpelierdoesn’t have control of Berlin Pond, and nothing has been done. People are trashing the city water supply, and where is our city manager? He is still preparing a list of options to present to the City Council, a list that should have been ready long before the Supreme Court made its decision. Is anybody else less than impressed?

Dick Walton

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