Where have all the snowbirds gone?

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By Pat Stewartkencole

The colorful foliage is long gone. The docks are stacked on the shore, soon to be replaced by the icehouses. Some full time area residents have been heard muttering, “All those people from away are finally gone. At last we have out town pretty much to ourselves.” Many permanent residents tend to assume that the “summer people” have returned to their home sin faraway places. Well, as Will Rogers said, “Things ain’t what they used to be, and they probably never was.”

The Community Lakes Association (CLA) aims at protecting and preserving the ponds of Woodstock and Greenwood: North, South, Round, Shagg, Hicks, Concord, Indian, Twitchell, Oversett, Mud Ponds and Lake Christopher. As part of an effort to expand its membership, the association has looked at the tax lists to see who owns waterfront property in Woodstock and Greenwood and where these owners come from. The association is concerned that fewer than a quarter of the households owning waterfront property are members. They hoped studying the makeup of pond front population would suggest a way to get more residents involved in this important work. The study produced some surprising facts.

First, the belief that an overwhelming number of alien summer people descend each year is not well founded. Actually, 56 percent of the waterfront property owners in Greenwood and Woodstock are Mainers: 34 percent have their primary residence in Greenwood, Woodstock or other towns in Oxford County. The vast majority of the rest come from other New England states. So a majority of pond residents either live here year round or have their primary residence in a nearby town. As that great philosopher, Pogo, once said, “We have met the enemy and they are us.”

Some members of the association have lived in the area for generations. Ken Cole’s ancestors were among the earliest settlers. Ken lives on the Greenwood Road in the house he grew up in. His home has a spectacular view of the eastern shore of Twitchell Pond and it’s magnificent ledges. Many of his aunts, uncles and cousins live within a mile or two. Coles owned the sawmill at the head of the pond. Ken says he joined the Community Lakes Association because he values their work protecting the natural environment he and his family enjoy. Ken said, “We have the cleanest, purest water you can find and we need to keep it that way. It’s not just the boating, fishing and swimming. It’s the amazing natural beauty of the area. We are very lucky to live here.”

Other members, while not born here, have lifetime associations with the area. Sue and Walt Staples live on Lake Christopher. Their home belonged to Walt’s parents who came from Gorham, NH. As a boy, he spent every summer on the pond. When they were able to cut down their full time work schedules, the Staples moved to Bryant Pond full time. The Staples are active in the CLA and are using their professional skills to help the Association grow and prosper. The Staples believe that “the beauty of our lakes and ponds brings people together. It’s where we find mutual interests and common goals. For us, the Community Lakes Association gives us a way to be involved, to enjoy meeting and working with others, and to do our part to protect the natural resources of this beautiful area.”

Many people would say that Anne Richter is definitely “from away.” She is an artist who lives in New York most of the year. But Anne’s family has been coming to Twitchell Pond for six generations. Her mother is buried in Hicks Cemetery. She and her husband, Dan Greenfeld, spend every moment they can at camp.

Anne says her grandmother’s cottage “has been a refuge for us for so long. Of course I’m concerned about environmental issues that might ruin this important family gathering place. I’m pleased that some of my neighbors keep watch on the condition of the lakes. The pond is my back yard. I would be heartbroken to see the beauty or the quality of the flora and fauna diminished.”

These folks are all strong supporters of CLA environmental quality efforts like regular water testing, controlling invasive milfoil, loon monitoring and other programs designed to head off problems before they become serious.

But unfortunately, the CLA Study shows that while some long time residents, like Ken Cole, support the association, in general, much of the strongest support both financial and volunteer help, comes from people who were not born here, but like the Staples and Anne and Dan, have chosen to live here for all or part of the year.

Does this mean that many full time residents who live on the ponds take it for granted that our water resources will survive without any help? Ask homeowners on Pickerel Pond in Limerick or on Belgrade Lakes, or now Shagg Pond and Lake Christopher if this is true. Do they just rely on other people to take care of any problems? Or are they not aware of the fragile nature of our shore land environment? The CLA hopes to discover the answers to these questions and find a way to involve many more members of the community, both long time residents and seasonal visitors, in the critical work of monitoring and preserving our natural resources. For information on how you can get involved, check out the CLA website, www.communitylakesassociation.org.

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