The remarkable yet largely unheralded events that today make Berlin Pond one of Vermontís rarest natural treasures began over 125 years ago. In 1884 the city of Montpelier started using Berlin Pond for its drinking water. That decision triggered the first far-sighted initiatives to acquire and conserve lands in the pondís watershed, creating miles of public hiking and biking trails overlooking the pond. Those sheltered watershed acres and a state Board of Health prohibition of fishing and boating meant that Berlin Pondís natural communities have flourished, uniquely protected, for over a century.
Today Berlin Pond serves as a calming mecca for Vermonters from nearby communities drawn by the unique bird-watching, the quiet for a morning jog or, perhaps, the renewal of a brisk morning stroll or bike ride with friends. The undeveloped shoreline, so rare in Vermont, provides a sense of solitude simply not accessible elsewhere in central Vermont.
Over the decades Berlin Pondís plants and wildlife have persisted through the rumble and exhaust of I-89 and the onslaught of acid rain. Todayís nesting loons flourish along a protected shore. Neighbors speak of the pondís blue herons and bald eagle. And species such as the furtive American bittern led the Audubon Society to designate Berlin Pond as one of Vermontís coveted important bird areas.
The recent Supreme Court decision overturns a century of protection from boating and fishing, affirming a right assured by Vermont law established in the age of hand-dug wells, long before the advent of municipal water supplies. Today the water of Berlin Pond serves as the sole water source for nearly 10,000 residents of Montpelier and Berlin, plus the thousands of employees in state government, National Life and the Central Vermont Medical Center.
Presently the pond contends with a quiescent infestation of Eurasian milfoil, just one of the invasives that could raise costly havoc with the filtration plant. And as we have seen in Lake Bomoseen, the tiniest puddle of water sloshing in a boat bottom offers the hitchhiking larval stage of the zebra mussel a route to contaminate an entire freshwater ecosystem ó or the pipes and valves of an entire municipal water supply.
As members of the conservation commissions of Berlin and Montpelier we are charged to ďpreserve, protect and maintainĒ the unique natural ecosystems in our communities. That responsibility calls us to look to the recreation needs of future generations, to consider the public health realities of a raw water reservoir, and to protect and to assure equitable access to the varied natural settings for all our citizens.
Boating, fishing and swimming are available in over 30 lakes within 20 miles of Berlin Pond. Berlin Pond and its surroundings offer a unique recreation value for those seeking the quiet, restorative setting of an untouched pond. One can ask, ďMust every Vermont pond be made accessible to boating and fishing?Ē Should wise, fair public policy acknowledge the wishes of more passive users of the natural environment? Do the real and potentially costly threats of Eurasian milfoil contamination and zebra mussel infestation, concerns unknown in the days of the original water access legislation, warrant consideration today?
We trust that the various parties responsible for the judicious and wise use of Berlin Pond for human recreation, for the conservation of countless rare flora and fauna, and for the reliable water supply of thousands in Vermontís capital will find a way forward that future generations will applaud.
Town of Berlin Conservation Commission
City of Montpelier Conservation CommissionMORE IN Commentary
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