The weak regulation of wakesports proposed by the Agency of Natural Resources — 500-feet from shore instead of RWVL’s 1,000-feet from shore — would allow wakesports on some of Vermont’s small, crowded, and vulnerable lakes. Lakes where wakesports do not belong. We describe in this newsletter some of the 16 lakes that would suffer under the burden of wakesports if the Agency of Natural Resources does not strengthen its proposed rule.
Nestled between routes 2 and 15 in West Danville, this collection of three connected ponds is surrounded by more than 200 camps, cottages, and homes with a long tradition of low-impact watersports such as fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, and swimming. The largest of the three pondlets is about a mile long and a third of a mile wide. Between the ponds sits Point Comfort, a collection of rental cabins with kayaks and little boats highly prized by summer vacationers. Until a few years ago, Joe’s Pond formed the quintessential Vermont water-based outdoor recreation environment. Then came the wakesurfers. According to Joe’s Ponder Richard Gagne, “What used to be a relatively quiet sandy area in front of our camp, suitable for small children and toddlers, wading and swimming, is now dangerous. On any given summer day, our shoreline is hit with countless large artificial waves created by wake boats, waves that are significantly larger and more powerful than any waves mother nature can create on our small pond.” A survey of Joe’s Ponders recently found 75% of respondents in favor of RWVL’s 1000-foot standoff for wakesports. Wakesports don’t belong on Joe’s Pond.
Ethan Allen could have thrown a silver dollar across Sunset Lake in Benson and Orwell. It’s less than a mile long and a half-mile wide. A tiny lake, by any standard. But it’s deep. According to longtime Sunsetter Jamie Longtin, “Sunset Lake is a 202-acre deep water lake with a long stretch of natural undeveloped shoreline, part of the Pond Woods Wilderness. The topography of the lands surrounding Sunset Lake causes reflective waves to persist long after the boat has left the water. These waves can build upon themselves and create very large swells that have capsized canoes and kayaks and damaged the fragile shoreline.” Wakesports do not belong on Sunset Lake.
Lake Fairlee probably has more children’s camps per acre than any other Vermont Lake. Like Joe’s Pond, it’s divided into two parts, the largest of which is a mile long, a half-mile wide and surrounded by four such camps. A wakesurfer would hardly have time to develop a suitable wave and mount it before the boat ran into the opposite shore. A leader of one of the children’s camps warns us that “For more than 115 years, our camp lands have been managed to provide a simple, natural environment that is central to our programming and mission. The wakeboats’ artificially enhanced wakes cause environmental damage by degrading water quality, hastening erosion, and causing physical damage to shorelines and property. These artificial wakes present safety hazards for swimmers and traditional, unpowered boaters. Canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and sailing are integral to our programs and to the culture of both of our home lakes. We experienced these enhanced wakes firsthand, and determined that they are incompatible with traditional recreational uses.” Wakesports do not belong on Lake Fairlee.
Over south of St. Johnsbury, Peacham Pond is divided into two lobes, with the largest a half-mile long and a half-mile wide. About 75 cabins dot the shoreline, along with dozens of canoes, kayaks, small fishing boats, and paddleboards. It’s enjoyed by Vermonters and visitors both old and young. Leda Schubert tells us that “Five summers ago my husband and I fulfilled a lifelong dream and bought a camp on Peacham Pond. I absolutely love to swim. Peacham is home to pontoon boats and waterskiers and jetskis. There are also fishermen and kayakers and paddleboarders. And there are loons. What there are not, and what I hope there never will be, are wakeboats. These boats do not belong anywhere on smaller lakes. All of the things I’ve just mentioned will suffer, along with the ecology of Peacham Pond, the shorelines, the depths, the loon nests, and the people who enjoy the pond for its beauty.” Wakesports do not belong on Peacham Pond.
Another gem in the Northeast Kingdom, in Barnet sits Harvey’s Lake (or Harvey Lake to some), a small but deep lake by Vermont standards. At its longest, it measures less than a mile and a half from the beach to the boat ramp, and less than a mile across. Phil Sorrentino writes, “We live on Harvey Lake during the summer. I know of one owner of a wake boat here. At times he has friends who launch their wakeboats. These boats have caused damage to docks and boats along with verbal abuse to land owners. These boats needs to be restricted from our lake and others. They need to go.” Wakesports do not belong on Harvey’s Lake.
These are just five of the lakes where wakesports would be allowed under the Agency of natural Resources proposed weak rule with a 500-foot standoff. Under a strong rule with a 1000-foot standoff, these lakes would escape the domination and damage of wakesports. Other similar small lakes in the same situation include Lake Parker, Shadow Lake in Glover, Lake Groton, Lake Hortonia, and the Waterbury Reservoir. RWVL, and the people who use these lakes believe that wakesports do not belong there.