Thursday, May 29, 2014

Alert on Berlin Pond Public Recreational Access Ban. Comments Needed by June 3rd.

Folks, the use of Vermont's publicly owned natural resources for recreational use is at stake here.
Please Contact Laura Woods at The Department of Environmental Conservation and let them know you: "Support continued non-motorized public access to Berlin Pond!" and to deny the petition to ban public recreational access.
In 2012 the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that Berlin Pond is in the public trust and recreational use of the pond cannot be restricted.  Since that time, limited use (fishing, canoeing and kayaking) of the pond has occurred. The City of Montpelier and a so-called environmental group named Citizens to Protect Berlin pond have filed a 353 page petition with the VT Department of Environmental Conservation requesting that fishing and non-motorized use of this public resource be prohibited through the Use of Public Waters Rulemaking process.  Should the City of Montpelier have their way it will set a bad precedent as the first time the state has ruled to prohibit all access to a public water body.
More than half of Vermonter's receive their drinking water from our lakes, ponds and rivers and there is no scientific evidence that recreational use poses public health risks.  Although Montpelier has a state of the art water treatment facility, the petitioners contend that the drinking water supply is in danger due to toxins released from human contact with the water and a possible increase in turbidity from paddlers. They fear that terrorists will now be able to access the pond and kill the citizens of Montpelier. They have brought up concerns that the increase traffic has put walkers and bikers at risk, (especially those that are alone), and that the outdoor enthusiasts have been littering the roadsides, throwing soiled diapers in the pond and running over geese and their goslings.  They worry of the increase in road maintenance of the public highway that circles the pond. 
Even more concern was brought up about canoe and kayakers displacing waterfowl, shy bird species and the endangered common loons that frequent the pond will be killed of chased off.  Of course their highly scientific report neglects to reflect that the common loon was taken off the endangered species list in 2005 since the loon recovery program was a major success thanks to the support and financial assistance by outdoor enthusiasts like you.  Since 1983 the loon population rebounded from 7 nesting pairs in 1983 to 81 nesting pairs in 2013.  The Vermont Center for Eco-studies who oversees the program attributes the success of the loon recovery to the relatively few nest failures due to human disturbance and the number of successful nest near camps and on busy lakes and ponds.  Another argument is that people should not need to recreate on Berlin Pond because there are other nearby ponds to recreate on.  Apply this mentality statewide and we wouldn't have many lakes, ponds, or rivers to recreate on.  200,000 people draw drinking water from Lake Champlain alone.
The petition goes on to state that sportsmen had a paradise initially, but we have managed to fish it out of perch in 12 short months. and that they expect Zebra Mussels and other invasive species to move in quickly.  Milfoil is already established and the potential for Zebra Mussels infestation is likely right up there with the odds of a terrorist attack. On that note I forgot to mention that according to the Department of Homeland Security terrorists would likely use the distribution system not the raw water supply to launch a terrorist attack.  They say it's easier, cheaper and can be initiated from almost any resident, commercial building or fire hydrant.  After reviewing dozens of comments from anti-access enthusiasts, the one I like the best referred to outdoor enthusiasts like you and I as monkeys. 
The bottom line is that their arguments lack any scientific backing.  The Fish and Wildlife Department and the Agency of Natural Resources was scolded by the attorney for Citizens to Protect Berlin Pond for too eagerly lending public support of non-motorized recreational access and in their mind not honoring the public process. The point is that out fish, wildlife and water resources experts support access.  I could go on picking their petition apart but because I know how busy folks like you are this time of year and I need to keep it short.  Please take 30 seconds to send in a comment, your local pond might be next.
Please Contact Laura Woods and The Department of Environmental Conservation and let them know you support non-motorized access and to deny the petition brought filed by Citizens to Protect Berlin Pond.