Lowell Lake improvements debated

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LONDONDERRY — The Vermont Forests, Parks, and Recreation Department presented its long-term plan for Lowell Lake last month during a public meeting in Londonderry. Development under the proposed plan would include increased parking and access to the park, the construction of showers and bathrooms, and opportunities for overnight lodging. The proposed plan would also introduce entrance fees for day and overnight use as well as logging in the forests surrounding the lake. Lowell Lake State Park is a 345 acre recreation and wildlife area that was created as a state park in 1977, providing visitors with a place to hike and picnic and enjoy the natural beauty of the lake through non-motorized boat use.

During last month's meeting, local residents and groups expressed support and hesitation in regard to the proposed plan. The Londonderry Conservation Commission expressed concerns about effects on wetlands and wildlife habitats around the lake, including loon nesting sites. High-concern areas include the bog and fen that lie within the park's boundaries, which support an active ecological community. Irwin Kuperberg, the chair of the Londonderry Conservation Commission said that "Our discussions with FP&R have been positive so far, but as citizens we have work to do to ensure that everyone can continue to enjoy Lowell Lake's unique standing as one of the most pristine water bodies in Vermont." During the presentation, the FP&R expressed various goals for the project at Lowell Lake, including one to "avoid sensitive ecological areas, maintain lakeshore buffers, and focus on stormwater management (including erosion control)." This falls under the agency's broad goal to "Create a vision for the park's future development that is born out of an open and inclusive process, thoughtfully considers the historic and natural resources, and allows for a long-term sustainable park model that supports both dispersed recreational activities via trails and waters."

And while the plan accounts for several environmental impacts of development, community members stressed that it is important for park visitors and residents across southern Vermont to be informed on the details of the proposed plan and to be invested in the future of the lake. Robert Nied, a member of the Lowell Lake Concerned Citizens Steering Committee and former Londonderry Town Administrator said "Our group continues to meet with the state to discuss community concerns and we are optimistic that Forests, Parks and Recreation will respond to those concerns with a revised plan that better protects the character and ecology of Lowell Lake." Two kayakers and frequent visitors of the lake shared their thoughts on the proposed changes.

"Terrible" said one woman. "We come here for the low-key feel of the lake, and more development would change that. But I do think that parking could be improved." The state agency will hold another public meeting later this year to share preliminary designs and gather more feedback from the community. As the plans for expansion of the park progress, community participation will help retain what visitors love most about the park while allowing more people to enjoy Lowell Lake.

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