Pond rule change could favor lawyer’s power boat over rowers

Dreissigacker and Geer
Craftsbury Outdoor Center owners Judy Geer and Dick Dreissigacker, both former competitors on the U.S. Olympic team, stand before the center’s racing sculls. Photo by Mike Polhamus/VTDigger

A small, narrow pond in Craftsbury could become the first in Vermont to limit nonmotorized boats in a way that will give a prominent lawyer more opportunity to water ski on it.

Sarah George, the Chittenden County state’s attorney, whose family owns four camps on Great Hosmer Pond, said she is acting as a private citizen in her push to limit use of the pond by rowers and scullers from the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

George acknowledged she is the only person who regularly water skis on the pond, and the only regular user of a high-speed power boat on it. A large majority of the pond’s acreage is restricted to boats traveling 5 mph or less.

George’s family owns a significant amount of property on Great Hosmer Pond.

She contends a growing number of rowers and scullers from the Craftsbury Outdoor Center is making it unsafe for residents to swim, fish, canoe or use their powerboats. She’s seeking to have the Agency of Natural Resources limit when the scullers and rowers can use the pond.

The way George framed it the issue is safety, not a conflict between motorized and nonmotorized watercraft. She also questioned whether it was right for the private, nonprofit outdoor center to benefit from using a public resource.

Sarah George
Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George. File photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

George said only three motorboats commonly use the pond, including hers. Two others are “party barges,” she said, or slow-moving pontoon boats.

Boating fast enough to pull a skier isn’t easy legally. Vermont law prohibits motorboats moving at more than 5 mph within 200 feet of the shore or other boats. There are just three zones on the narrow water body — totaling about 30 of its 149 acres — where it’s possible to do so more than 200 feet from shore.

The owners of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, which opened in 1976, say water skiing is incompatible with other uses of the pond. The center provides coaching, and the owners say thousands of scullers and rowers use the pond each year.

George said she “tend(s) to agree” that a single water skier on the long, skinny pond would make it unsafe for beginner scullers. George said no more than two water skiers could safely ski at the same time.

The pond is 2 miles long and 80 feet wide at its narrowest.

George said the outdoor center is “monopolizing” the pond by putting as many as 40 scullers on it at a time, often multiple times each day. She said the center’s growing enrollment has reached an intolerable point.

“It’s gotten to the point now where we’re in constant conflict with them,” George said.

George’s family has owned land on the pond for generations. Fewer than a dozen private camps or residences are on the pond’s perimeter. The Craftsbury Outdoor Center’s owners, former Olympians Dick Dreissigacker and Judy Geer, live full time in one of these homes.

Commissioner Emily Boedecker, who heads the ANR’s Department of Environmental Conservation, said her agency may announce this week that the department will embark on a rulemaking process for the pond.

George said the department appears ready to put limits on the scullers and rowers. “The state’s looking to do a rule to limit the hours of sculling on the lake every day,” she said.

Boedecker would not confirm that but said more details on the possible rulemaking will be provided to the public within days.

The restrictions the state is considering may not go far enough, George said, and may need to be broadened to include other uses including canoes.

“People in this community, or who own property on the lake, are being told when they can or can’t use the lake,” George said. “[Craftsbury Outdoor Center] tell[s] us when they’re going to be on the water, so we know when we can and can’t use it. It seems so unfair to me that they can dictate when other people can use the lake.”

State law forbids water skiing on the pond at all when as few as three other people are on it, depending on where they are on the water, but the official charged with enforcing that law said he has no intention of doing so unless the ANR asks him to.

Motor Vehicles Commissioner Robert Ide said he wasn’t even aware until recently that his department is in charge of enforcing motor boat speed limits near shoreline and near other people on most bodies of water in Vermont.

Ide said he’s not eager to enforce the law, which he said he “very recently” discovered the DMV is tasked with enforcing.

“It strikes me that DMV is not the appropriate place for this authority,” Ide said.

Craftsbury Outdoor Center coach Carol Bower, a member of the 1980 and 1984 U.S. Olympic teams, sculls on Great Hosmer Pond. Photo by Mike Polhamus/VTDigger

Racing sculls are specifically exempt from the speed limit near shore and other boats, because Vermont law doesn’t define them as a “vessel.”

Craftsbury Outdoor Center’s marketing director, Sheldon Miller, said some world-record scullers move as fast as 12 or 13 mph, but he said the center’s students usually travel at a fraction of that speed.

While Vermont law allows sculls to exceed 5 mph, it doesn’t permit other watercraft, such as motorboats, to exceed 5 mph when they’re within 200 feet of a scull.

Because of the buffers required, and because of the pond’s size and shape, one sculler in the largest of the three middle sections would essentially rule out legal water skiing anywhere on the pond.

However, the 200-foot law is on many lakes and ponds “routinely violated,” and also the most commonly cited violation of state marine law, according to a state report.

Nobody’s been able to determine why enforcement falls on the Department of Motor Vehicles, Ide said. He added he plans to ask the Legislature next year to move authority over the law from his agency to the ANR.

“It’s so old, no one can explain the logic of why it was placed” under the DMV’s authority, Ide said.

Unless the Agency of Natural Resources recommends that Ide should begin enforcing the law, Ide said he doesn’t plan on doing so.

The Agency of Natural Resources recently rereleased a map showing that less than a quarter of Great Hosmer Pond’s surface allows boating over 5 mph, on account of the shoreline safety zone.

Another fact sheet recently published by the ANR states that motorboats damage the most sensitive areas in a pond adjacent to the shore.

George said the size of the pond means a single water skier could prevent any scullers from safely using the pond.

Craftsbury Outdoor Center’s marketing director Sheldon Miller. Photo by Mike Polhamus/VTDigger

Miller, from the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, agreed.

“Really the incompatible activity is the high-speed use,” Miller said. “Geometrically, it’s pretty incompatible with the lake off the bat. But a careless high-speed user can make the lake pretty much unusable for any other activity.”

On the other hand, “it’s not uncommon for other users to be out on the water at the same time as the scullers,” he said. These include kayakers, canoers, swimmers, anglers and stand-up paddleboarders, Miller said.

Miller said more experienced scullers can deal with powerboat wake but beginners struggle.

The pond’s north-south orientation and a large number of trees providing wind protection make it a draw for scullers from across the country and Great Britain, Miller said.

As the pond’s popularity grew, the center voluntarily capped enrollment in 2009. That came after Dreissigacker and Geer bought the center and turned it into a nonprofit in 2008.

Since then, the center has voluntarily cut enrollment by 13 percent for its weeklong camps, and by 17 percent for its weekend camps, in hopes of reducing the tensions George described, Miller said. This year, the center will operate weekend camps on only eight of the 15 weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

“The hope, especially when the transfer to a nonprofit came about, was to try to be proactive and address things,” Miller said. “That hasn’t really played out, I think, as anyone would have hoped.”

Like George, Miller said he knows of no instance where the state has blocked human-powered boaters from using a public water body in order to allow motorboat use. Miller said he thought that would be a bad precedent.

Dreissigacker agreed.

“They’re talking about … banning nonmotorized boats on a lake that’s really too small for anything but going out to a fishing spot,” he said.

The proposed regulations appear unlikely to solve the problem, either, Dreissigacker said.

“I’m not sure the regulations are going to change attitudes, and I think attitudes are the way the conflict’s going to change,” he said.

Geer agreed.

“I remember hearing [opponents of the center saying] ‘I want to be able to water ski whenever I want to,’” Geer said. “I understand that, as a sculler. It’s hard when you could in the past do it whenever you want to — but that’s sharing.”

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  • James Leopold

    In this situation it seems to me that the needs of the many should outweigh the needs of one.

  • Steve Woodward

    I would like to think that there is more to the story than meets the eye. But unfortunately my gut tells me there isn’t. It appears that someone feels entitled to have their way because they are a multiple property owner that has been there longer than most of the others. Considering that States Attorney George is a high profile figure in the state, maybe someone else should be taking up this fight. Oh wait, she’s the only one who wants to use the pond for this purpose. Now the ANR is going to step in and consider a rule. Maybe the agency’s time would be better spent cleaning up the lake. What’s the chances that the other camp owners could persuade the ANR to ban motorboats instead? No wonder Vermont gets a D- in ethics. If Ms. George were a Republican, there would would be outrage that this is an of abuse power. Only in bizarro Vermont is this normal behavior. Let them eat cake!

    • Susanna Rodani

      Yes Mr. Woodward, I agree that ponds are both fragile ecosystems, as well as the jewels of nature. Putting a power boat on a small pond is done so at great risk. I don’t really care about the political affiliation of individual boaters, but I sure as do care about our limited resources and the rights of fellow citizens to peaceful enjoyment of nature.
      I also agree with your statement about bizarro Vermont and your “Let them eat cake” quote.
      So Mr. Woodward, when I recently used the phrase “let them eat cake” in another recent post, my post was removed and I still don’t know why. It would seem that free speech and expression, like this small pond on a winter’s day, is on “thin ice”.

  • “George said. “[Craftsbury Outdoor Center] tell[s] us when they’re going
    to be on the water, so we know when we can and can’t use it. It seems so
    unfair to me that they can dictate when other people can use the lake.”
    Said the person who wants to dictate to everyone else when they can use the lake!! Did anyone catch the irony in that statement? If not try this one:
    “George said the outdoor center is “monopolizing” the pond”
    Can anyone explain just what 1 power boat on an 80′ wide pond would be doing?

  • Ray Gonda

    Regulating the number of users or kinds of users on the pond is reasonable and perhaps necessary. Some ponds allow motorized uses just within certain hours of the day or not at all. It all depends on whether or not those types of motorized uses were considered “traditional” uses for lack of a better word. This has been embodied in state regulations for decades.

    However, motorized users without a doubt have a negative impact on other types of users that does not hold true in reverse (jet skis and waterskiing are the worst in this regard of all motorized uses). Thus I believe it would be a horrible mistake to regulate in favor of a tradeoff of increased motorized use for less non-motorized use. The only reasonable middle ground would be regulation the times that each type of use can use the pond or of restricting locations for some uses such as where in the pond water skiing will be allowed.

    This is all simply the unhappy outcome of the growing population of the nation and globe.

    • juliacurry

      I was with you until the last sentence … the article describes the very specific reasons why scullers want to use this lake. It’s not an inexorable and automatic distribution of human beings.

      • Ray Gonda

        Indirectly, yes it is. I considerd that when I wrote that last sentence. Universally, almost all negative impacts to our environment (which power boating is – as is there being just too many people participating in less intrusive activities) statistically come from a growing population – whether Vermont-wise or regionally.

  • david schwartz

    Ironic that there is an article about TJ Donovan’s run for governor adjacent to this well-written article. If Ms. George is looking to win a popularity contest, she needs a new advisor. I wonder if her lineage in VT goes back to King George in the 18th century because she seems to be behaving like nobility. One water skier “trumping” dozens of health conscious rowers? Unless she has an electric power boat with jet engines, it is clear to me who has less impact on the environment. How many hours a week is she able to ski if she is a busy state employee? When the George clan acquired this land I doubt they anticipated combustion engines.

  • The nonprofit Craftsbury Outdoor Center is an economic engine here in the poorest county (Orleans) in Vermont as it is an attraction for 1000s to enjoy it’s many activities, some at the Olympic level. Their sculling program is likely a very important part of their brand. Any lessening of their ability to strengthen their sculling program will impact their brand. Orleans County needs more eco-friendly businesses like the COC that benefit many people.

    • Brenda Hudson

      Those thousands do not include the poorest. The program is elitist. Those scullers go out on the pond and they prevent anyone else from enjoying the pond for recreational purposes. My son fishes there. He is not in a high speed boat roaring up and down the pond. He uses his motorized boat to get to good fishing spots and then moves on. I have seen with my own eyes the attitude of these scullers and they stretch out so far across the pond it is impossible to by-pass them even going 5 MPH. In short, their attitude makes it impossible to follow the rules. Many of the the property owners on the pond have owned land there handed down from generation to generation. Native Vermonters who enjoy their summers.

      • Kristen Fountain

        I am very sorry your son has encountered some rude rowers. As a sculler, I can say that I have at times encountered some rude motor-boaters. However, I don’t believe this is true of most boaters or rowers. If we are respectful of each other, fishing and sculling are very compatible.

  • Gina Campoli

    The waters of all lakes and ponds are owned by the public – all of us, not just private property owners along the shoreline. The Outdoor Center has voluntarily put up buoys for many years to assist in keeping beginner rowers away from docks and camps and to be a good neighbor. I know this because I have swum and canoed in that very area there for over 30 years. To say that the scullers have “apparent disregard for others” is simply not true.

    • Gail Graham

      Gina, I am very familiar with the buoys, and I have observed on several occasions when some rowers did not proceed in the designated area. That is one primary reason I posted my comments earlier.

      • Mary Reed

        Given your description, the appropriate action for you to take is to notify the Center of those who stray from the designated area. Give the Center a good description of those who stray, and ask the Center to make them stop the behavior. Laying blame on an entire group of users of a public water to support the claim of one person wishing to use that very small body of public water in a way that initially required a waiver and that will exclude other users does not suggest objectivity. It also does not suggest an awareness that this lake is a public domain, not an exclusive personal pleasure center. Owning property on the shore of public water does not convey entitlement to use that water however one wishes, especially when the nature of such use excludes other uses.

    • Brenda Hudson

      It is true. I have seen it.

  • Craig Gilborn

    Having rowed an Alden shell and paddled a canoe on Long Lake in the Adirondacks, many miles long but generally narrow, I have experienced the real appropriation of space and access by power boats creating swells and noise–disturbances that effectively drive non-consuming recreational users away. The state should always give preference to rowers, paddlers, campers, wildlife; these users share and do not exclude by mere presence, which is what a lone power boat succeeds in claiming. Then there is the issue of safety. Bicycle peddlers are reclaiming a share of state roads that were designed with little or no shoulders, and no sidewalks, for riders or pedestrians because penny pinching men who were then in charge held that cars and trucks prempted impractical uses and users.

    • Jim Manahan

      As a canoer and kayaker, I disagree the state should ALWAYS give us preference. But how do peddlers reclaim something they never had?

      • Craig Gilborn

        Thanks. People walked and rode horseback before the internal combustion engine. Anyway, of course you’re right about limiting access on some roads to cars and trucks. CG

        • Jim Manahan

          I think a few also rode wagons, stagecoaches and such, but who mentioned limiting access to cars and trucks?

  • Brian Machesney

    Also being omitted is the fact that high-speed motorboating on Great Hosmer Pond is only possible because of a waiver granted by the State of Vermont when such rules were first imposed. Were it not for this waiver, the small contiguous acreage outside the 200-ft safety zone would completely disqualify this body of water from high-speed uses.

    The rule which ANR should make is to rescind the waiver. The Craftsbury Outdoor Center has bent over backwards to accommodate other users and uses of the Pond. Each attempt is met with scorn by those who seem only to want things to remain as they have “always” been. One need only visit Craftsbury on a prime summer weekend or time of day when the Center has no boats on the water to observe that there are no high-speed boats there either!! There is documentary evidence however that, once sculls return, a high-speed boater may be observed harassing the rowers.

    So, DMV won’t enforce the law and neither ANR nor the Vermont State Police has the authority to enforce the law. One can only imagine the unpleasant consequences of this abrogation of responsibility.

    • Jason Wells

      Brian, Out of curiosity do you know when the waiver was given and when the outdoor center was started?

      • Brian Machesney

        The entry for Great Hosmer Pond in the “Vermont Use of Public Waters Rule Table of Waterbodies” (see tinyurl.com/yboe203h) includes the following endnotes:

        * This waterbody has been determined to have less than 30 contiguous acres outside the shoreline safety zone (i.e. more than 200 feet from any shore) and is therefore subject to the five mph speed limit imposed by VUPW Rule 3.2(a).

        2. ” Despite having less than 30 contiguous acres outside the shoreline safety zone, the Water Resources Board, in its 1995 Rules, determined that high speed boating is a normal use on this waterbody. See , No. UPW 95-00 (Appendix A), January 1, 1995.”

    • Linda D. Ball

      I do not agree that the sport center has “bent over backwards” at all. Let the public know that not only does the sport Center and the new “children’s sport center” at the other end of the lake monopolize that lake but let us add in “free rowing for our neighbors of Craftsbury”, (not the actual name) that get to have certain times to also monopolize the lake, and then there is free time. We have bent over backwards as camp owners. We have a nice raft set out in front of our camp and many times I have found 8-10 teenagers occupying our raft. Besides the liability, why are these “campers” not told to stay off our raft? Not acceptable. These are campers’ that belong to the sports center. We have had sculler’s (beginners) actually run a shore at our beach and have helped them out many a times. We camper’s are not the problem. We are not being “reckless” with our family motor boats, fishing boats, and skiing boats, we sit at our camp, waiting for the sculler’s to go in so that we may go out on the water, it is not fair. They are not giving equal time to us at all.

  • Jane Elizabeth Abbott

    Considering State’s Attorney George admits she is the only regular skier on this pond, I assume her use of the pronoun “we”(we’re) is of the royal variety.

  • Ali Bernard

    Speedboats and other motorcraft dominate even on Lake Champlain with noise and general obnoxiousness. It would be nice to have them outlawed everywhere in Vermont. There’s nowhere to get away from the noise and pollution.

    • Elizabeth Chang

      Let’s ban everything fun.

    • Susanna Rodani

      Yes, ban the speedboats, powerboats and noise polluters everywhere just like there are no billboards or cell towers on the highways (eye pollution), no open dumping (groundwater pollution) and no MacDonalds or Walmart stores (oops MacDonalds got ok’d somehow?).
      And maybe; could we also ban general obnoxiousness? Maybe bad grammar, too?
      Where shall we start?

  • Susanna Rodani

    You must also keep in mind that power boats used in more than one lake or pond run the risk of transferring even one minuscule bit of invasive plant life which will ultimately destroy a small pond, or even a great pond, rendering it dead. Is this risk really worth taking?
    Anyone who doesn’t consider this possibility is both ignorant and beyond environmentally irresponsible.

    • Jim Manahan

      Any boat, kayak, canoe, whether powered by an ICE or electric trolling motor, as well as innertubes, paddleboards or water shoes bear that same risk,

  • Judy Davis

    Yes, the largest contiguous area outside the 200 ft shoreline safety zone is 19.49 acres. The general rule that the State set in 1995 was that lakes with less than 30 contiguous acres outside the safety zone would have a 5 mph speed limit for vessels powered by motor. See 3.2 in http://dec.vermont.gov/sites/dec/files/documents/WSMD_Use_of_Public_Waters_Rules.pdf

  • Glenn Thompson

    From the article!

    “A small, narrow pond in Craftsbury could become the first in Vermont to limit nonmotorized boats in a way that will give a prominent lawyer more opportunity to water ski on it.”


    ((((((shaking head))))))

  • Kai Mikkel Førlie

    With all due respect, if I lived and/or recreated on Great Hosmer Pond I
    would much prefer the sounds and cadence of rowers over that of even a
    single air, water and noise polluting ICE motorboat(s). Given all we
    know about anthropomorphic climate change, peak fossil fuels, water and
    air pollution (and the need to ‘power down’) I find it remarkable that
    someone is a position of power and influence (like a states attorney)
    would advocate on behalf of the flawed mentality that has placed us in
    the life-threatening position where we now find ourselves. In this
    shared time and place an easy and logical step would be to voluntarily
    ban the use of all ICE motorboats on the pond. Honestly, given how precious fresh water is, why they are allowed on any surface water body in the state is beyond me.

    • Jim Manahan

      flawed mentality….

  • Susanna Rodani

    Thank you Elizabeth. I wonder what Henry David Thoreau would have thought about all this? Unfortunately this is not funny, and the joke is on us?

    • Jane Elizabeth Abbott

      Are you possibly referring to another Henry David Thoreau? Considering Thoreau was an enthusiastic recreational canoer, as well as a proponent of natural simplicity and bioregionalism, it is not difficult to imagine what Thoreau’s thoughts might be.

      • Susanna Rodani

        Perhaps imagining what Thoreau’s thoughts might be is not so simple. He was not a simple man.
        HDT was among other things a trancendendalist townie from Concord MA who never left home and had his mother making his meals and doing his laundry. He was a man of high morals which he could afford to expound because he worked in the family business making pencils and also as the town surveyor, so he never really had a job per se. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all live such a life?
        He was actually quoted for saying having lots of money allows one to live life fully.
        He also didn’t believe in paying taxes to an unjust government (the same government that employed him), but most importantly and before any of these many and diverse parts of Thoreau’s life, he was a devoted Environmentalist.
        In all honesty, I believe he would have burned the power boat.
        Mr T was also a strong proponent of walking.

  • Ali Bernard

    Uh.. What? I’ll take a self driven car over most northern VT drivers any day. But what does that have to with motorheads ruining every corner of the wilderness?

  • Linda D. Ball

    Just read your article :
    Sarah George seems to have forgotten her closest neighbor the Hawkins. My name is Dennis Hawkins, my dad was Hugh. He built our camp in 1951. My three brothers and I learned to water ski and tube behind the family boat, not to mention our cousins, and friends too numerous to mention. The tradition continues to this day, now including: many in-laws, kids Stepkids, and Grandkids with many generations of power boats. We also have owned every other kind of boat, from small fish boats to canoes and kayaks. There are also several other power boats on the lake. I hate to be the one to the cat cat out of the bag, but the lake has one of the top bass fisheries in the state and the knowledge is getting out to those who fish for bass thereby increasing the visits powerboats make on the lake.
    Since the 1970’s I can hardly remember a Sunday not interrupted starting at 6AM, by waves hitting our shore and loud voices coming from schuller’s and coaches using megaphones. As we were farmer’s, Sunday was our only camp day and if we weren’t swimming we were tubing and skiing until we had to go home for the night chores and the jour’s we were forced to park the boat because of the schuller’s cut deeply into our ability to enjoy OUR lifestyle! This problem still exists today, especially the afternoon usage which is approx. 1-5 PM when they “take over the lake”.

    When the scullers come out it’s wave after wave and due to their size and erratic behavior it’s hard to even get back to our camp if you are out on the lake, I have actually been run into by one schuller while sitting, motor off, trying to get back to my camp.
    To summarize: It is not right or fair for a private company (profit or non-profit) to take over any public body of water for there own use. The do not own the lake. The lake can be easily shared with small boats, motorized or not, in smaller number and has always been shared in this way with little or no problems with water skiers and tubers, etc. At a minimum, the schulling company should not be operating Sat. or Sun. so other camp owners can enjoy their sports and lifestyle.

    • Kristen Fountain

      Mr. Hawkins, it sounds like you have wonderful memories of Great Hosmer. But it also appears that you may not have visited much in recent years. For at least three years to my knowledge, perhaps more, there has been no sculling activity at all off the COC docks between 1-4 p.m. every day. Most days, the pond is absolutely empty. My understanding is this was done voluntarily to respond to your concerns and those of your neighbors. I think this shows that rather than “take over the lake,” the COC is trying to share it and make it accessible to the broader community. Community rowing takes place after the afternoon break. Many of those rowing by are from Craftsbury and surrounding towns.

  • Ray Gonda

    Karl, Yes, they change it but usually detrimentally. Critters and plants have co-evolved in a region’s habitat with plants and almost everything else in the environment and a long-term balance obtains though often with slow drift in some direction of change – up to the moment that an invasive is introduced.

    Invasives knocks the system off kilter. The problem with invasive plants is they generally crowd out more valuable plant species, thus the word “invasive”. A simple example is phragmites crowding out cattails even though their preferred habitats only partially overlap. Phragmites has to my knowledge no known value to muskrats and possibly beavers which would otherwise utilized cattail roots as food. The result is diminished animal populations populations.

    This kind of resource displacement by invasives is repeated many times over in both the animal and plant kingdoms – for example the brown snake in South Sea islands or rats or hogs in other areas of the globe. Their effects have been detrimental to the existing ecosystems. Hawaii has lost many species of birds from this (extinction).

    So the question is not one of change, or no change, but of whether it is change that we can judge to be positive or negative.

    • Karl Riemer

      This is an unusually honest depiction of conventional wisdom. The author concludes it’s all about what we judge to be positive or negative. A great deal of what’s piously claimed as environmental concern is in fact the opposite: it’s an unabashed, even self-righteous attempt to manage and control nature according to what we prefer. Horrifyingly, this is accomplished by awarding epithets, here “positive” and “negative”, but any of a wide range of simplistic, judgmental terms used interchangeably.

      Simple rule of thumb: morals are a human invention. Morals are a function of human culture, therefore culturally relative. Morals guide humans, but morals apply only to humans. ***Any application of moral terminology to nature is unequivocally erroneous, disastrously misleading and profoundly disrespectful.***

      This is a big subject that we can’t debate here. This, though, can’t be let slide: “they change it but usually detrimentally. Critters and plants have co-evolved in a region’s habitat”. Aside from being philosophically indefensible (“detrimental” being an opinion which can not be resolved to fact) that statement is utterly incorrect. Critters and plants do not evolve statically, linearly or politely. Species’ ranges move, and they are moved, by changing conditions and emerging competitions/opportunities. Everything we see around us, not some things or most things but every living thing we can see without a microscope, came here from somewhere else. Everything was at one time “invasive”. (That’s not true in the tropics. There are genuinely endogenous species where ice never reached. Here, though, our landscape is a tapestry of successive colonization. If you like our woods, thank in-migration, and scoff at the idea that change is “usually detrimental”. Change is simply change, inevitable and necessary, not to mention fascinating. Evolution is change—change is life.) The richness of nature is owed to dynamic interaction, proliferation, adaptation and competition. The idea that living things sit in one place and negotiate a truce with their immediate neighbors is pure Dr. Seuss, and the idea that any disturbance of this imaginary truce constitutes vandalism is lunacy.

      • Ray Gonda

        Karl, I can agree with some of your statements but find them to be highly irrelevant to the basis of this discussion. You are talking about millennia or millions of years, maybe geologic time, when in this discussion, being grounded means talking about mere decades. Time to come back to earth!

        Furthermore you are not being very convincing by using words like “lunacy” and “self- righteous” – which are your own personal value judgements . You use these words yet you castigate others for far milder statements and statements of “values”. You have done that in two separate posts. I trust you see the irony in that.

        You write like you like to hear yourself talk and you seem to resent being disagreed with. Are you are still trying to find your place in life and in this world? Good luck to you in your search; I hope you are successful.

  • Brenda Hudson

    Gail, I agree. My brother in law owns a modest camp there and I have seen the attitude shining through bright and clear as well as the use of the lake by scullers with disregard for the camp owners

  • Brenda Hudson

    She just won mine. The owners of the Center have hired high power lawyers to lobby legislature. I wonder what the salary is as a non-profit owner?

    • Kristen Fountain

      The non-profit COC is owned by a foundation. You can easily look up the financing and employee salaries on Guidestar. There is nothing hidden. The trustees of the foundation, including Dick & Judy, do not draw a salary. The profits made by the sculling program are poured directly back into the community by employing residents, purchasing products from local farmers and providing low or no-cost programming to local school kids and adults.

  • Elizabeth Chang

    Both sides trying to control a natural resource. The problem is humans can’t get along.

  • Ray Gonda

    Not getting along might be a mischaracterization. When too many users among competing forms of use occur, conflict is inevitable. It then becomes a problem of how to “manage” those conflicts.

    A good example of resolving such conflicts comes from Waterbury Reservoir. Twenty years ago the lake was overrun with speedboats, jets skis and some water-skiing. Manually-propelled boaters didn’t stand a chance except in very early morning – but even then fast fishing boats had to be contended with in early morning.

    After a grass-roots campaign which had three major goals: supporting prohibition of internal combustion engine boats on a long list of small lakes and ponds (over 20 acres in size), and submitting petition to the Water Resources Board (WRB) for some restrictions (mostly 5 mph speed limits) on six more large lakes. Looming largest in that effort was the state’s most busy interior water body, Waterbury Reservoir. The final goal was preventing the creation of a major marina on Waterbury Reservoir since it was already overrun with powerboats.

    Making a long story very short, after a protracted battle between power boaters and “quiet” users, things came to a draw eventually forcing both sides to come to the table, encouraged by the WRB, and a settlement was eventually reached. Two major areas in each arm of the reservoir were regulated as 5 mph no wake zones. A competitive water skiing course was moved from a shallow cove wetland to one of the 5 mph zones. This had the effect of giving water skiers a “protected area” away from wakes and other speedboats but only at certain times of the day and week. At times outside of permissible hours the course was sunk out of sight then raised when needed. The marina was never permitted.

    Now Waterbury Reservoir is a destination for “quiet users” – primitive campsites and all. I hope this serves as an example of how users might proceed on Great Hosmer.

    • Andy Kehler

      Something that was not clear in the article is that the use of motorboats is regulated by state law. The Vermont Boating laws state: Improper Speed or Distance is not maintaining a proper speed or distance while operating a vessel or while towing a person on water skis or any similar device. Specifically, the following actions are illegal:
      Operating a vessel (except sailboards) at greater than “no wake speed” within 200 feet of:
      The shoreline
      A person in the water
      A canoe, rowboat, or other vessel
      An anchored or moored vessel with a person on board
      An anchorage or dock
      Operating a vessel at speeds of five miles per hour or greater within 200 feet of a marked swimming area
      Operating a vessel at speeds that may cause danger, injury, or damage. Be aware of and obey all regulatory markers, including areas marked as “no wake”

      Unfortunately because the shape of the lake, if there is a swimmer, kayaker, canoe, or sailboat using the lake, the high speed boaters can’t really use the lake because they can’t maintain the 200′ buffer. In order for Sarah George to ski legally all other activity must cease… Or she wants special treatment to be able to break the law. The fact that the State is outright refusing to enforce this law in this situation reminds me of Governor Christie sunbathing on a closed beach….

  • Matt Young

    They aren’t the ones complaining about and using the combustion engine argument to get their way. Pick up your flag

  • MichelGuite

    This is so fun a Vermont discussion.
    On one hand we have at least three dedicated and widely-admired former U.S. Olympic rowing team members who have seemingly dedicated their lives to sharing their love for this grueling sport. To Vermont’s good fortune, they have spent years building a rowing center on this tiny and otherwise forgotten Northeast Kingdom micro-pond, when they could have easily set up in New Hampshire, or Maine, or New York, or Oregon. Then on the other hand we have Sarah George, a seemingly fabulous young state attorney who doubles — God bless her — as a waitress at Simon Pierce Restaurant, but also loves to waterski on this same micro-pond, where her family owns property and has enjoyed isolated peace and quiet for generations.
    Goodness gracious, if there is any possibility of humans finding solutions to conflicts in, let’s say, Syria, or Palestine, or Venezuela, or among our aging legislators in Montpelier, surely this Battle of Great Hosmer Pond should be easy.
    Can I mediate?
    Why not give everyone on this tiny pond free VTel Wireless service, for the summer, and create a public computer bulletin board for all pond residents. Sarah can reserve the pond for 45 minutes whenever she has free time to zoom up and down this little runway on her water skis. Even Olympic rowers need sometimes a 45 minute rest. Because there is good VTel Wireless service in the middle of the pond, if, while zooming up and down the little runway, she sees a rower trying to slip onto the pond, she can signal to her motorboat driver to call the Olympic team managers and identify the scoundrels !!

    • Susanna Rodani

      What is VTel Wireless? LOL.

  • Barry Kade

    The George family owns 3 properties on the pond. The Center owns only one. BUT the people of the State of Vermont own the whole pond. If George wants exclusive use of the pond, her remedy is simple: buy all of the land having access.

    • Karl Riemer

      That wouldn’t do it. The pond belongs to everyone, not shoreline property owners, and the state maintains public access to a protected cove right off Lost Nation. Even if she somehow bought the Center’s shoreline access, she’d have to condemn and appropriate the state’s ramp to control access through trespass laws. Which it sounds like she could justify in her own mind, but that would be a heavy lift.

  • Karl Riemer

    “I will only say that your judgement speaks for itself.”
    It does. As does yours.
    Contemplate the contradiction: you admit that extirpating plants well adapted to an environment is futile, but because you dislike their exuberant life, you call it death, and because their pursuit of their agenda interferes with you pursuing yours, you call it destruction. Your environmental responsibility is ill-informed and reactionary.

    • Susanna Rodani

      I appreciate your opinion as you are very knowledgeable.
      Could you also share the name of the regulatory agency that oversees wetlands in Vermont and the contact name and address of the environmental officer charged with wetland oversight?

  • Matt Young

    Ever go for a Sunday drive or take a trip that isn’t completely necessary? Yup, everyone has. I believe in freedom.

    • Ray Gonda

      You sound like a trump fan.

      • Matt Young

        Please elaborate…

  • Ray Gonda

    Yup, Right out of the right-wing handbook!

    • Matt Young

      Yes, I don’t think you should steal from others.

  • Linda Libby

    I was disappointed to see the Digger article grabbing for headlines by implying that Sarah George is waging a self-serving war against the rowers. The Hosmer conflict started decades ago, when Sarah George was in elementary school. To suggest that her recent hiring as a Vermont prosecuter has impact on the lake doesn’t even make sense to me. There are many individuals and companies who support COC who hold high power jobs in VT and might have influence on the legislators. I suggest that you list the work title of everyone who comments to ensure transparency of motivations (retired ER RN for me).
    My husband and I have been lucky enough to live on Big Hosmer for 25 years, and have witnessed the lake conflict from our dock without being involved on either side. The situation has sadly deteriorated into the current state of personal attacks, biased comments, and illogical solutions.
    Without debating the details, I would like to see the conflict resolved by a simple schedule of sharing the resource by time- split the summer day into 8a- 2p rowing, 2p-8p motor boats with no limits on canoes, kayaks, swimming, or other non-motor watercraft. No one would be happy, but isn’t that the hallmark of a good compromise?
    In any case, I would love to hear less attacks and anger… Linda Libby Albany, VT

  • Judy Davis

    Ray, thanks for your comments, and I agree that reviewing historical uses was and is part of lake rule-making. In the case of Norton Pond, the ruling was primarily about the use of personal watercraft not being a normal use, and doesn’t have the complications of the small pond (< 75 acres) or small area outside the shoreline safety zone (< 30 acres) rule that restricts motorized craft to 5 mph for a lake. My take is that establishing a 5 mph speed limit in those cases must surely have restricted high-speed boating that had been a "normal use" on some of those lakes. And the reason for restricting high speed boating is because there really isn't enough space for it to be safe and for it not to have an undue impact other users. The statute doesn't guarantee that all normal uses must be allowed. Instead, it says, "To the extent possible, the board shall provide for all normal uses." (The Norton Pond decision has a number of interesting statements along these lines.) In 1995, 2 citizens weighed in on the 5 mph rule for Great Hosmer and were able to get a waiver of the general rule.

  • Mary Peters

    Also, since a lot of readers seem to want to pillory Sarah George, why not throw Gina Campoli under the bus given her ties and career with the State?? The COC has not always practiced what they preach as far as being ‘environmentally correct’. So no one should be casting stones in this ‘debate’. It is too bad it sunk to this level.

  • Ray Gonda

    For what it is worth, I believe that Susan George has done this community a favor by her petition, perhaps inadvertently, by forcing a community (and beyond) discussion about the future of recreational uses of Great Hosmer Pond – an obviously much needed discussion.

    In the comments here, I see much of value and usefulness to the Water Resources Board when they go into deliberations and most likely a public comment period before making any rulings or taking any further actions. I also see some value in having given many a chance to “vent” their feelings here because even that may help them in getting past some of those feelings on to more constructive thoughts. A service has been performed in broadening their awareness of the details of the issue when they go on to perhaps testify or write comments during that comment period.

    Having participated in many battles in comments under articles that have parallels to this “The Great Great Hosmer Pond Debate”, some of them in this publication, I can say this overall exchange has been remarkably civil and helpful.

    Kudos to all who have participated whatever their viewpoint.

    As Edward R Murrow would say: “Good night and good luck”.

  • Judy Davis

    If you are sitting at your camp on the shore of Great Hosmer, the line of scullers from a weekday session passes in less than 5 minutes. They only pass your camp once during a session, since they go up one side and down the other.

    • Mary Peters

      But if you are at their destination or starting point, it’s a different story. On the north end, they sit, gather and have the lessons/pointers from the coaches. At times they are like a swarm of flies that don’t know which direction to go and just buzz for 30 minutes.

  • Linda D. Ball

    They have large wooden “docks” and a small sandy spot for sitting, reading. They also have cabins around and on the pond. They launch from the docks. ..