Use of Willard Pond in Antrim at issue, turbines or no turbines

  • A kayak sets out on Antrim's Willard Pond. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Antrim's Willard Pond. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Antrim's Willard Pond. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Antrim's Willard Pond. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/14/2018 11:10:14 AM

The boat launch at Antrim’s Willard Pond has become an increasingly popular destination in the past few years. However, the growing summer crowd has been causing issues for neighbors, who complain of traffic, overflow parking and people breaking the rules.

“People speed through here like crazy,” said Sarah Crowe, a resident of Willard Pond Road.

Crowe is a fairly new resident of the area, having only moved in three years ago, she said. But in that time, she’s noticed a steady increase in the vehicles headed to the boat launch at Willard Pond, with many traveling too fast for the winding, narrow dirt road leading to the boat launch.

Crowe said she no longer feels comfortable letting her children walk on the road, and the family limits their visits to the boat launch area to less busy times.

“Last year, we were down there all the time. This year, we won’t go down there on a Saturday or Sunday at all. There are kids down there with giant floaties, there are people out there drinking and stuff like that. It’s like a party lake,” she said. “We just stay away from the area when it’s like that, which is unfortunate, because that’s the reason we moved here.”

Soren Wills, who also lives on the road, said he has seen people crossing onto areas marked for no trespassing, letting their dogs off their leashes, using cook fires, and breaking other rules of pond, but said there’s little to no enforcement of those rules.

“There’s just very little care,” he said.

Sandy Kasilowski, another Willard Pond Road resident, said she’s picked up trash left by visitors to the beach, including gas cans, and regularly sees cars parking along the road when the parking lots are full, despite there not being a sufficient shoulder to pull completely off the road.

“This is an every afternoon thing,” she said.

Sgt. Brian Lord of the Antrim Police Department said there have been multiple reports from a resident on Willard Pond Road alleging illegal parking, illegal campfires, underage drinking, speeding vehicles and trespassing. Police are working with the relevant agencies to address these issues, he said.

Bob Edwards, the chair of the Antrim Select Board said Monday the board has not discussed any of the issues reported at the pond, other than hearing second-hand of the spot becoming crowded. He wasn’t aware of whether the town had any rules or regulations in place to regulate the boat launch, but said that he would look into the issue further and make it a topic of discussion at a future Select Board meeting.

“Obviously, we have a responsibility for that road,” he said. “I will look into what the rules and regulations are, and [the Select Board] will discuss it further.”

Almost the entirety of the Willard Pond Beach is owned by the N.H. Audubon Society, which has restricted its use to boating and fly-fishing, with swimming, camping, and cook-fires prohibited. The land at the boat launch, however, is connected to the road, and is thus the property of the town of Antrim, making enforcement of the rules at the most popular access point more ambiguous. Further complicating things is the fact that while the boat launch is located in Antrim, the only road in goes through Hancock, and N.H. Fish and Game own easements on the parking lot and turn around area, making the property as a whole the responsibility of multiple entities.

“People do swim there, that’s a well-known thing,” said Phil Brown, director of land management for the N.H. Audubon Society.

Brown said the Audubon is aware of some issues stemming from an increased number of visitors, and have received complaints from some of the residents of the area, some of which are valid and some unsubstantiated, he said.

“It’s more visited and has more traffic. There can be between 40 and 70 people at the pond at once, and that’s certainly a lot for that lake,” Brown said. “With some overuse, there are some spillover issues, minor things like litter, dogs off leashes, but we don’t have any enforcement, and you can’t be everywhere at once. The police department and myself and Fish and Game officers have responded to those concerns to address what we can.”

Most of the issues, Brown said, are concentrated on the boat ramp area, which draws the biggest crowds, and isn’t under the Audubon’s authority, but the organization is trying to address some of the issues through signs to educate the public, including requesting speed limit signs be posted on the road, signs to try to limit parking to the designated lots, and is working with a loon preservation group to post signs about the nesting common loons on the pond, asking visitors to keep their distance.

“Because it has that access, we’re always trying to balance the interest of wildlife and people, but it would be rare to see a direct impact to the wildlife,” Brown said.

Garret Graaskamp, boat access coordinator for the N.H. Fish and Game Department, said Fish and Game has an easement for the parking and turn around areas for the pond, and maintains an information kiosk there, but doesn’t control the boat ramp area.

“For safety purposes, we really shouldn’t have people swimming there,” he said.

Graaskamp said Fish and Game, the N.H. Audubon and the town were planning on arranging a meeting to discuss how to handle issues reported at the pond, and said the entities were trying to work cooperatively.

Windmills going up

Another coming impact to the pond is the beginning of the construction of a 9-turbine wind farm on Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain ridgeline. With some turbines located within a mile of the sanctuary’s boundaries, it’s anticipated that six or seven of the turbines will be visible from Willard Pond, with the visual impact varying depending upon which side of the pond they’re being viewed from.

Developers of the project, Antrim Wind Energy, submitted a request to begin construction at the start of this month.

One of the impacts of windmills is that birds can be killed by running into the turning blades. That could be a concern for a wildlife sanctuary known for its bird wildlife. Willard Pond is most known for its population of nesting common loons, but also is home to species of wood duck, the hooded merganser, raptors and eagles and a host of songbirds.

Antrim Wind CEO Jack Kenworthy did not respond to attempts to reach him by press time Monday, but Antrim Wind does have a strategic plan for mitigating impacts to birds and bats. Specifically, the plan calls for a period of study, followed if necessary by shutting off specific windmills during times or seasons where there is an issue. Also, if in the project’s lifespan, there are ways to deter birds and bats that are not cost-prohibitive, Antrim Wind will employ them.


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