Emerald Lake project moves forward

EAST DORSET- Emerald Lake State Park has been undergoing some changes to the beach area that has been a local gathering spot for years. Among the changes to the park include regrading of the beach and the removal of the retaining stone wall, according to said Maria Mayer, the park's regional manager.

"We did a significant amount of regrading to try and make it as sustainable as possible as far as drainage goes so that was helpful," Mayer said. "I think we gained some usable space from taking out that retaining wall and smoothing it and seeding where we did and adding sand where we did. It's a well used park so every bit of 'blanket space' is valuable there."

According to Rob Gaiotti, town manager of Dorset, the idea of the project came from the success of the Emerald Lake State Park pass that allows free admittance for locals to the lake, which started a few years ago. That success prompted the town to improve the area.

"The park pass program was created in 2009 when the State and town agreed on charging the town $2 per Dorset visitor (instead of the regular $3). Residents just have to show a park pass and they get in for free," said Gaiotti. "The town is billed for the visits at the end of the year. In 2010 we had 2,106 Dorset visits, and in 2011, 3,599 Dorset visits to the lake."

All the costs incurred for the project are paid by the State, which purchased the beach sand and will be doing some landscaping that will cost roughly around $4,000, while the town provides the services of their highway department crew, trucks, and excavator to reshape the beach, said Mayer.

"I do know that Jim Hewes, our road foreman, was able to use much of the existing material to regard the beach," said Gaiotti. "We used less than half the sand material that we had initially estimated would be needed. It's very likely that our approach to work together saved the State a large sum (thousands) in man power and material. Our road crew did a terrific job and the beach has a new lease on life."

Along with the improvement of the beach area the project includes the reorientation of the ADA (American with Disabilities Act) ramp that extends out of the east side of the park building and some extra landscaping will be done in the front of the snack bar by adding shrubbery.

The town of Dorset also plans to purchase additional equipment to donate for use by visitors to the park, things like chairs, paddle boards, and kids beach toys. They will also be replacing the playground in the near future, according to Gaiotti.

As the project continues Mayer wanted thank the town for undergoing this project with the State.

"We really want to send a sincere thanks to the town of Dorset," she said, "... this is just a really wonderful collaborative relationship with the town."

According to the Vermont State Parks Web site in 1918, Robert Alfred Shaw purchased a large piece of land along the lake shore and leased the body of water, formerly called Dorset Pond, from the state for his private use. Shaw wanted to create a publicly endowed recreation area on his land. Then, in 1957, following his death, the State of Vermont purchased about 1,000 acres for $62,000. About 500 acres now exist as a park.

It wasn't until 1960 that Emerald Lake State Park opened to the public. The original facilities included a small campground, beach and picnic area along with 34 camping sites.

Today, 67 campsites and 37 lean-tos are located on a heavily wooded ridge above Emerald Lake.


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