Sunday, November 04, 2012


News to Know Nov 4th Berlin Pond


Sent by Corinne Stridsberg and also posted at

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Please note that the information I include in what I send out is either because folks have sent it to me or I've noticed it somewhere and think others in Berlin would be interested in it.  There is also plenty of news and happenings that I just don't get to passing along.  I've been a little busy lately and so when I sent out this news on Sunday I didn't dig back quite far enough or look back closely at my prior issue to see what was included.  Always feel free to send along information to me, I just can't guarantee that I will be able to pass it along in a timely manner.

I am resending this News To Know to include "No On Berlin Pond Access" by Ellen Drysdale at her request.  Note that her letter to the editor is the first item and her note to me is as follows:

Hi Corinne,
Thanks for publishing all the Berlin Pond stuff. I was a little disappointed that, tho my letter to the editor was quoted in Nate Smead's letter, my letter was not included here. NS implies that I don't mind the activity at BP, but my letter makes it clear that I do. Let me know if you'd like me to send it to you. . .Ellen Drysdale

Today two News to Know are being sent out, one on Berlin Pond and one with other news.

Voting is at the Municipal Offices on Tuesday November 6, 2012 from 8AM to 7PM.

On the ballot along with the Federal and State Offices is the Berlin Pond question.

It reads:   Article 1.  Shall the Town of Berlin allow public access to the Town owned land along Berlin Pond for recreational uses?

Please take the time to read this information regarding Berlin Pond

Included below please find:


Pub 10/12/12 Times Argus
   I’d like to urge Berlin residents to vote NO on the ballot issue regarding opening Berlin’s shoreline parcel on Berlin pond for development of a fishing access.
   When I came to live in a house overlooking Berlin Pond over 30 years ago, I chafed against
Montpelier’s ordinances forbidding the use of it. But as the years went by, I began to appreciate the unique charm of a truly wild lake, available to me and my neighbors, and also to hundreds of walkers, runners, bicyclists and birders.
   That a wild untouched lake lay so close to civilization and the interstate made it even more of a jewel. The complete wildness of Berlin Pond was truly a phenomenon, unique in
Vermont and rare in the rest of the U.S. When the Supreme Court decision changed all that, I was surprised at the depth of my sorrow. I admit that since the Supreme Court decision in May opened the pond’s waters, the sky has not fallen.
   The small amount of trash left at the celebrated culvert access on
Mirror Lake is quickly cleaned up, usually by the “selfish, elite residents” of the pond. We continue to hear loons and see waterfowl and other wildlife. Use of the pond has been light, as many are deterred by the lousy access at the culvert — steep, rocky and increasingly eroded.
   Officials at VT Fish and Wildlife would like to build a safe, attractive access area on
Berlin’s sliver of land. But remember that their job is to advocate for the rights of fishermen and hunters, not for lovers of pure wilderness. They are good at their job and Vermont fishermen can choose among over 800 ponds, lakes, and streams. Those of us who enjoy peacefully contemplating an untouched body of water are out of luck.
Berlin residents allow a fishing access to be built on its shoreline property, the boating use of the pond will increase exponentially. It would still be a pretty pond — but it would no longer be wild. And that would be very sad for those who value true wilderness.
   Ellen Drysdale,
Pub 10/27/12  Times Argus
   A few of the landowners around Berlin Pond have been fighting tooth and nail all summer to keep others off the pond. A few have made vocal appearances at meetings. Some have sent letters to local newspapers with myriad reasons people should keep out. One pond neighbor even started a sign-up sheet to organize troops to fight to “save the pond.” At last check, five people had signed the sheet.
   Not all of the landowners are against access. Those that are have tried to make a loud voice. They’ve tried to recruit the many walkers, joggers and bird-watchers to join their crusade. They’ve tried to create an “us against them” scenario.
   Ellen Drysdale conveyed, quite honestly, that “the sky has not fallen” after the Supreme Court ruling. She admits that the usage has been light and the wildlife is still thriving.
   I hope
Berlin voters are not persuaded by the fear speech that has been tossed around this summer. A yes vote on Election Day will make a clear statement that we Vermonters collectively own Berlin Pond. Don’t let a select few control a place that we all should share. Vote yes for access to Berlin Pond.
   Nate Smead,

By Tom Herzig
   On Vermont General Election Day, Tuesday, November 6, Article 1 on the Town of Berlin ballot will ask voters - Should the Town of Berlin allow public access to the Town owned land along Berlin Pond for recreational uses?
   The question is a non-binding referendum on an issue that would likely spark a spirited discussion at a town meeting. Since it’s a presidential election year, a high turnout is expected. If there’s a decisive vote, the Select Board will likely be swayed. A toss-up will prompt more discussion.
   Many Vermonters, including some registered Berlin voters to be sure, perceive the maximum possible protection of natural settings as desirable and valuable. What constitutes protection relative to exclusion and where Public Trust Doctrine fits in, is subject to debate. The Public Trust Doctrine is a legal principle derived from English Common Law. The essence being that the waters of the state are a public resource owned by and available to all citizens equally for the purposes of navigation, recreation and similar uses and that the trust is not invalidated by private ownership of the underlying land.
   Berlin Pond lies within the Town of Berlin. It is held in public trust by the State of Vermont. With a surface area of 293 acres and a maximum depth of 59 feet, it is the municipal water supply for the City of Montpelier, which owns the frontage around it except for an 85-foot swath along Paine Turnpike South on the eastern shoreline. For over 100 years, it has been deemed off-limits to swimmers, boaters, sportsmen etc. That policy was thrown overboard last May when the Supreme Court of Vermont ruled that Montpelier did not have the authority to regulate the recreational use of public waters.
   “The City of Montpelier may strive to prevent indirectly the recreational use of Berlin Pond by denying access to its lands that surround the pond, but it may not directly regulate use of the pond itself,” wrote Associate Justice John Dooley.
Montpelier has posted its portion of the shoreline. Last month Berlin did the same. The narrow right of way by the culvert on Mirror Lake Road at the south end of the pond is presently the only way onto the water.
   Rick Sanborn, who owns R&L Archery, a sporting goods store in Barre, was one of the scofflaws who set the legal proceedings in motion by purposefully getting cited for kayaking on the pond. “I know there are people who feel the pond is being violated if they see a boat on the water,” Sanborn said. “But we’re not talking about cutting a road into the wilderness. There is a road all the way around the pond. The Interstate and an airport are nearby. You can hear chain saws and motor vehicles. Rules will be in place just as they are at many ponds in the state. Gas engines will not be allowed. Lead pellet bird shot is not allowed. Any waterfowl must be taken from a boat because the shoreline is posted. The resident ducks and geese will catch on very quickly.”
   “Some people have the attitude, ‘I got mine, you keep out’,” Sanborn offered. “but you only control what you own.”
   “There are issues on both sides,” Berlin Town Administrator Jeff Schulz said. “It’s a polarizing topic. The first people in the door were opposed to any access. The second wave wanted to open it up. Since then, we have heard from people on both sides and it was decided to have a referendum.”
   In September, a group “Citizens to Protect Berlin Pond” organized and issued a press release announcing it will “work to maintain Berlin Pond in its historic, untrammeled condition” and “welcome support from all Vermonters who are committed to keeping Berlin Pond natural, protected and undeveloped”.
   “I’m concerned there could be a Pandora’s box effect,” said Maggie Kerrin, a Citizens to Protect Berlin Pond committee member. “Berlin Pond is a unique resource because it has historically existed as a place where natural processes have been allowed to predominate without human interference. The Berlin Conservation Commission has advised against increased access to the pond. There are 34 lakes and ponds within a 20-mile radius of Berlin. All allow hunting, fishing, trapping, boating and swimming. Isn’t that enough?” Kerrin is a contact person for “Citizens to Protect Berlin Pond” and can be reached at
   In a July submission to the Town of Berlin Select Board, the Berlin Conservation Commission wrote, “Berlin Pond is designated an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society, which has stated that due to the size and relatively undeveloped nature of the pond and associated uplands, Berlin Pond is home to a host of priority species. Increased recreational use could result in higher disturbance rates.”
   Citizens to Protect Berlin Pond has retained Wheeler Environmental Services, a Barre consulting firm, to assess whether or not existing wetland regulations might be applicable to the potential access area. “Nearly the entire Town-owned parcel is a Class Two wetland,” firm founder Brad Wheeler said, “and as such, any filling in or within 50 feet of the wetland will require a permit approval from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. Approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the federal Clean Water Act will also likely be required for construction of an access area on this piece of land.”
   In May, unrelated to the Berlin Pond court case, the Vermont Legislature passed Act 138, making the Agency of Natural Resources (ARN) responsible for rulemaking concerning the Vermont Water Quality Standards, Vermont Wetland Rules, Vermont Use of Public Water Rules and Vermont Surface Level Rules.
   “We respect the fact that this is a local issue,” Department of Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry said. “We have communicated with the Town Select Board that we can manage low-impact recreation and we could partner with them to make the resource accessible while protecting it. Emergency controls, such as roping off a loon nesting area, could be put in place.”
The taking of largemouth and smallmouth bass from Berlin Pond has already been restricted citing the Department’s experience that mature bass populations that have not been under fishing pressure are less wary and vulnerable to overfishing.
   In a recent letter to Commissioner Berry and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner David Mears, the Vermont Traditions Coalition, a group of over 20 Vermont traditional land use organizations, recently posed the following: 46 percent of Vermonters receive their drinking water from surface waters in the public trust. Is there a concern that non-motorized recreation causes undue adverse impacts? The Commissioners jointly replied - “There is little concern regarding non-motorized recreational use of surface water/drinking water supplies that provide for filtration and disinfection treatment such as that in the City of Montpelier water treatment system when operated in accordance with state and federal drinking water requirements.”
   Susan Warren, head of the Lakes and Ponds section of the ANR’s Watershed Management Division, tracks Berlin Pond for aquatic invasive species. “We’ve done a lot of monitoring of Eurasian Milfoil there," she said. "It’s not abundant and it hasn’t affected the pond significantly.”
“To me, Berlin Pond is really unique," Warren added. "It’s an undeveloped pond, which is rare in Vermont. A lot of naturalists consider it one of the state’s jewels.”

Pub. 11/1/12
   I don’t see a lot of difference between fishing and bird watching. The woman with a fishing pole and the man with a pair of binoculars and a camera—while they’re doing different things outdoors, they’re often outdoors for the same reason, because of the outdoor experience. And neither those who fish nor those who enjoy birds want to trash that outdoor experience.
   Let’s consider the future of Berlin Pond. I can’t believe there are too many Vermonters who would vote to see the pond trashed or who want to see the quality of the outdoor experience they prize compromised. I see at least three compelling reasons for protecting Berlin Pond.
   First, Berlin Pond is the source of Montpelier’s drinking-water supply. It’s inconceivable to compromise the safety, quality and security of that supply.
   Second, and this is both fortunate and lucky, for the past 100 or so years, Berlin Pond has been protected. When we visit the pond, we know we are in a special place.
   Third, let’s acknowledge those special natural qualities of Berlin Pond and protect them. One of this country’s highest achievements has been setting aside places of great beauty and natural diversity and protecting them. We may not have visited all such places, but we know their names: Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Acadia and the North Cascades come to mind.
   On Election Day (November 6), voters in the Town of Berlin will be asked to respond to this question: “Shall the Town of Berlin allow public access to the Town-owned land along Berlin Pond for recreational uses?”
   How could anyone in the abstract vote against public access and recreation? But how could anyone fail to protect the natural asset that is Berlin Pond? As wetland consultant Brad Wheeler told The Bridge, “I’ve been doing wetland and soil mapping work since the early 1980s, and I have never found a pond to be as active with wildlife as Berlin Pond. It’s really unique.”
   Nobody should be prevented from visiting and enjoying Berlin Pond. But nobody should be allowed to trash the pond or lower the quality of the pond as it is. The pond should be rigorously protected.

   Berlin residents have a unique opportunity on November 6 to maintain the character of a key part of their town: Berlin Pond.
   The pond is a natural treasure near the historic four corners area of town. It is a large, unspoiled refuge for nesting loons, migratory birds and other wildlife. It is also a place of quiet renewal for hundreds of walkers, joggers, bird watchers and others who have enjoyed the peace and beauty of this special spot for years.
   This coming election day, Berlin voters will be asked to vote on a question that asks: “Should the Town of Berlin allow public access to the town-owned lands along Berlin Pond for recreational uses.”
   The controversy that lies behind this innocuous question has generated a great deal of misinformation and mistrust. The aim of this article is to present some facts that will help Berlin voters get beyond the rhetoric and understand the true issues at stake in this important issue.
   Because Berlin Pond has been protected from human interference for more than 100 years, it has become a unique sanctuary and refuge for wildlife.
   Major state and federally protected wetlands encircle the pond, making it a unique natural community as it now exists.
   Berlin’s own Conservation Commission has recommended against increased access to the pond, and the Vermont Audubon Society in 1999 declared the pond an “important bird area,” noting: “the undisturbed nature of Berlin Pond makes it unique in the state.”
   There is no shortage of opportunities for water-based recreation in central Vermont. Within 20 miles of Berlin Pond, there are more than 30 lakes and ponds that allow fishing, hunting, boating, swimming and other recreational activities.
   State law provides: “Those water bodies which currently provide wilderness-like experiences shall be managed to protect and enhance the continued availability of such experiences.” (10 VSA Sec 1424)
   A “yes” vote on the “recreation” question may lead to the building of a state Fish & Wildlife access on the pond, changing its character forever, and potentially relinquishing Berlin resident’s rights and say as to what occurs around Berlin Pond in future.
   Such an access will inevitably require increased patrol and surveillance by Berlin police, with increased expense to town taxpayers.
   This state access would have the ability to block anyone in the state, including Berlin’s own residents from use unless they had a hunting and/or fishing license.  It would be a “recreational area” not open to town residents to enjoy at will.
   Boats at access areas are proven vectors for introducing invasive species such as zebra mussels, water chestnut, and more than 20 other invasives now found in Vermont.
   Berlin Pond is the drinking water source for Montpelier and much of the Town of Berlin. There is no alternative source if it is polluted or a victim of sabotage. Poisons as simple as diesel fuel, herbicides, or other dangerous compounds would not be detected or treated at the city Water Treatment Plant.
   State Senator Anthony Pollina has said:  “It’s a local debate. But the bottom line is Berlin Pond is the drinking water for the City of Montpelier. People are drinking it every day. If I’m going to err, I want to err on the side of human health and safety.”
Vermont State Senate Candidate Jeremy Hansen states, "Yes, I do support the protection of Berlin Pond. It has been protected for 100 years - why change it now? I do hunt and fish, but I don't feel the need to hunt or fish there, as there are plenty of places nearby where I can do that."
   While opponents of keeping the pond natural and pristine have tried to characterize this issue as a debate between Berlin and Montpelier and have referred to residents around the pond as “elitists,” both assertions are completely untrue. The fact is that residents of towns throughout central Vermont and many Berlin residents who live nowhere near the pond value it in its natural untrammeled state. Many travel miles to walk, jog, nature-watch or cycle near the pond. They appreciate this natural gem as it is.
   Berlin Town Plan 2012 states that there are 12 ecologically sensitive locations in Berlin, four with rare plants, seven with rare animals, and one representing an unusual natural community. “Most of these sites occur in the Central Highlands and in or around Berlin Pond and its associated wetlands.”
   Berlin Pond is unique in the state, as the Audubon Society, The Berlin Conservation Commission, and Berlin’s own Town Plan have indicated. Voting NO on the “increased recreational activity” question on November 6 will help keep this natural resource open and available to the public in its natural state.
   Respectfully submitted by Citizens to Protect Berlin Pond
Point of contact:

Pub. 10/31/12
   Following is my response to a mailer from “Citizens to Protect Berlin Pond” we received a couple of days ago regarding increased recreational activity in Berlin Pond.
   First of all, the only land “protected” around the pond is that which is posted by the city of
Montpelier or what is privately owned. All of the public land around the pond that I am aware of is open to hunting, hiking, biking, etc. (except Montpelier’s).
   Second, Berlin Pond is unique to the state only in that it’s a tremendous resource that thus far remains unavailable.
   Third, it’s extremely offensive to assume everyone who might enjoy such a resource has the means to travel 20 miles to do so. Have you purchased gasoline lately?
   Fourth, the Berlin Conservation Commission’s report is riddled with inaccuracies: Stratification can, and surely does, occur at depths seen in Berlin Pond; invasive species are readily transported by wading/shore birds and waterfowl; whether Montpelier’s water comes from Berlin Pond or the Winooski River, it has to go through the same treatment process; and to argue that one group of people has a right to enjoy a resource their way while excluding others from theirs is elitist and discriminatory. There’s a reason it’s against the law to interfere with those lawfully in the act of hunting and fishing — we’ve paid to preserve these places. Refer to the Pittman-Robertson Act and the Dingell-Johnson Act if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
   Fifth, a state Fish and Game access will prevent unsafe situations that occur with cars parked all over the place (which was already an issue before fishing resumed this past year).
   Sixth, see Title 10, 1424 section c: “The board shall attempt to manage the public waters so that the various uses may be enjoyed in a reasonable manner, in the best interests of all the citizens of the state. To the extent possible, the board shall provide for all normal uses.”
   Lastly, as I explained above regarding the Conservation Commission’s report,
Montpelier’s water supply situation is no different than that of any other municipality with an open reservoir for its water supply. Perhaps all of those other reservoirs should be closed off? I certainly hope it’s not because Montpelier’s water is special.
   Keith Zandy,


   On Nov. 6, Berlin voters will decide whether to allow public access to Berlin Pond for recreational use. I would ask that you vote no. For over 100 years, this pond has been preserved, and it provides the drinking water for Montpelier and a large part of Berlin. It is important that we continue to preserve it. Allowing non-motorized boats on the pond can still harm the water. There is great potential for invasive species, such as milfoil, to get into the pond from boaters who do not properly wash their boats before entering the pond. Many lakes around Vermont have been negatively affected by these invasion species, despite the very costly boat washing stations at some of the lakes. As a kayaker, I would love to kayak on Berlin pond, but the risk to the quality of water in the pond is too high. I hope you will vote “no” and help to continue to preserve this beautiful pond for future generations

   Virginia Renfrew


Pub 11/3/12
   Virginia Renfrew makes a critical error in her Friday letter regarding the upcoming Berlin vote relating to Berlin Pond. In her letter Ms. Renfrew stated, “Berlin voters will decide whether to allow public access to Berlin Pond for recreational use.” It is actually not within the authority of Berlin voters to deny or allow access to Berlin Pond. The pond belongs to all Vermonters, and the rights of all Vermonters to use the pond are clearly established in our state Constitution. Berlin voters will decide whether to allow public access to the parcel of town land adjacent to the pond. Essentially the voters of Berlin are voting whether to join with Montpelier in blatant obstruction of the exercise of constitutional rights by Vermonters, or to enable the exercise of those rights. Regardless of how the vote turns out, the actual right to use of Berlin Pond by all Vermonters is not in question.
   Patrick Cashman, Shelburne


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