Harrisville Conservation Commission
Wednesday, April 6, 2022
Meeting Minutes

The HCC held a regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, April 6, 2022 at the town offices and via zoom.

Members present: Harry Wolhandler, Chair; Les LaMois, Diana Shonk, Ralph Zingaro, Don Scott, Kathy Scott

Attendees:  Barbara Watkins, Todd Chamberlain, George Lowrey, Bonnie Lowrey, Jeff Grosner, Ted Braun, Louis Lovas, Sarah Kendall, David Thompson, Ben Dexter, Winston Sims , Dennis ?, Pegg Monahan, Earl Horn

The Chair opened the meeting at 7:00 pm, welcoming all. He reviewed the agenda and proceeded with the following business:

Discussion among Harrisville’s Lake Associations
Representatives of Silver Lake Association, Lake Skatutakee Association and Harrisville Pond Association shared perspectives and information about their Lake Host programs, Weed Watching efforts and budgetary expenses and potential needs for the upcoming season. Focus was on levels of boat traffic over the past several years and the continued goal of protecting water quality in all the town’s 10 publicly owned water bodies, 10 acres or more in size.

Mr. Wolhandler shared graphs of data from the three lake associations depicting the number of boat inspections by boat type (non-motor, motor and motor with ballast), using this number as a proxy for the number of watercraft. He also shared information regarding findings of invasive species, all variable milfoil, in lakes in surrounding areas of NH. He noted that the Connecticut River contains more and different types of invasives. The concern is that boaters travel from lake to lake, thus potentially carrying damaging invasives to Harrisville’s waters. Should milfoil enter town lakes, the cost of cleanup is very steep. Another focus of discussion was strategies to attract more volunteers for both Lake Host positions for boat inspections as well as weed watching around all sections of water bodies.

Lake Host program
Lake Association representatives shared current and planned-for coverage at boat ramps, including the days and hours of existing and future shifts.

Silver Lake – To date, Silver Lake has summer weekend coverage only from 6 am to 6 pm, usually paid. Ben Dexter noted that, beginning in July, the SLA will add Fridays from 6 am – 6 pm. The association would also like to add more hours on weekdays.

Skatutakee Lake – For the last 4 years, the LSA has been fully staffed from 6 am – 6 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Eight of these hours each day are fully paid through NH Lakes; the remainder are filled by volunteers. Otherwise, every weekday, they try to cover at least the early morning and evening hours so that coverage is 7 days of the week throughout the summer. Currently they have 14 volunteers and 3 paid Lake Hosts. This additional paid Lake Host will increase the Association’s costs but not excessively.

Harrisville Pond – Les LaMois, Pegg Monahan and Sarah Kendall noted they have weekend coverage, with shifts from 9 am – 1 pm and 1 pm – 5pm. Any expanded hours are likely to be Thursday and Friday afternoons. The challenge is recruiting volunteers when boat traffic is very light. Sarah Kendall commented that the town beach, Sunset Beach, presents unique dynamic compared to the other lakes and other lake association communities. Having so many absentee property owners also makes it difficult to attract volunteers.

Outreach strategies
Attendees shared how they’ve attracted volunteers over the years and gained buy-in from property owners in their communities.

Silver Lake Association has an annual newsletter, FB page and website, as well as bulletin boards at the end of Eastside and Westside Roads and at the boat ramp. Ben Dexter noted that they do what they can to stop by and converse with the Lake Hosts during slower shifts to keep them engaged.

Lake Skatutakee Association communicates by email and internet via the Lake Association webpage. The Lowreys shared their effort to convey to lakeside property owners the shared responsibility of taking care of the lake they all enjoy and protecting its beauty. He noted that the boat ramp location on Hancock Road makes for frequent visits by passersby. They also thank the volunteers with picnics at the beginning and end of the season. The calendar of lake host shifts also is distributed regularly so all can see the coverage and coverage needs.

Harrisville Pond uses email and regular mail to reach out to its members and property owners. They also encourage their property owners to be part of a shared community and participate in the shared responsibility to protect their resources.

Kathy Scott commented on the helpfulness of raising public awareness through Common Threads and the association members getting together periodically to share ideas. She encouraged all to continue to submit anything new to the newsletter, maybe twice per year to keep townspeople up to date. She also encouraged continued education that the boat ramps aren’t just for motorboats but are for use by all watercraft – kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, etc., which also should be inspected.  All noted the tremendous increase in kayakers and paddle boards.

Weed watching
In addition to boat inspections, the lake associations have varying levels of weed watching around their lakes, to date undertaken solely by volunteers. Both Silver Lake and Skatutakee Lake divide their lakes into sections with volunteer responsible for monitoring anywhere from once a month over the summer to several times a year. They are always looking for more volunteers for this program. Silver Lake has had the same group of volunteers for many years now.  Skatutakee now has 10 volunteers who rely on helpful information from Amy Smagula at DES. Digital images are posted on the lake association website to help watchers identify what they’re seeing. Winston Sims noted that invasive animals also can be problematic and he hopes someone can pilot a program to prevent an influx Asian clams or zebra mussels, for example.

Pegg Monahan of the Harrisville Pond Association suggested having one paid person to weed watch at all 10 lakes, as no one is checking on smaller ponds. Ted Braun of Silver Lake noted the difficulty of weed watching given the inability often to see the bottom of the lake. Harry Wolhandler noted that DES has online training available.

Asked by the chair how much the lake associations spend on their Lake Host programs and how much additional funding would be helpful, representatives answered as follows:

Lake Skatutakee Association will receive $1750 this year from NH Lakes. They anticipate a total outlay of about $2400 if/when a 3rd paid lake host is added.

Harrisville Pond will receive $1200 in funding. Given the higher wage they are offering the paid hosts for 2 days each week, and only about 30% contribution from around the pond contributing roughly $1,000, the association would appreciate a contribution from the town of between $500 and $1,000.

Silver Lake – Ben Dexter stated they are funded for 2022; however if they want to expand the hours to another day each week, this would cost the Association $1,300 approximately.

George Lowrey stated their appreciation to the Conservation Commission for the effort to get everyone together. He suggested that any funding from the town be distributed on an as-needed basis. All expressed interest in meeting again in June or over the summer.

Patton Property Conservation Easement
In the fall of 2021 the town took ownership of a 10-acre parcel, between Dublin Road and Skatutakee Road, willed to the town by former owner Judith Patton. The land is in conservation, via an easement granted in 2007 to the Monadnock Conservancy. Chair Harry Wolhandler spoke with the Conservancy’s stewardship director about the property and easement, which is adjacent to town property and the Skatutakee spring.

Mr. Wolhandler shared highlights of the Conservancy’s report on the parcel, including its soil and forest characteristics, and description of frontage on the two roads.  A stream runs roughly the length of it, with a trail alongside the stream. The purpose of the easement, among other things, is to protect the land, water and wildlife, and is for the enjoyment by the public for passive outdoor recreation; in other words, walking and hiking but no motorized vehicles.  The trail will offer a pleasant accessway for pedestrians who wish to avoid walking on the state road, especially the curved portion at the bottom of Willard Hill. The Trails Committee will work with the HCC on any recommendations or planned trail work and the Select Board will then review. All agreed an updated survey would be money well spent.

The Chair welcomed all interested in walking the trail with Mr. Metzger of the Conservancy to meet April 14 at 10:30 am on the Dublin Road side. Cars should park just off Dublin Road, north of the “Saddleback” sign.

Conservation Commission organization
The Chair introduced new HCC member, Ralph Zingaro, appointed by the Select Board. Mr. Zingaro shared his horticulture and forestry experience, particularly his work in California with developing a treatment for sudden oak death and his current work with Cornell University, and the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study, on hemlock disease. He looks forward to working with the HCC.

Subsequently, the HCC discussed the need to re-elect its officers for the coming year. Don Scott moved to re-elect the current slate. Les LaMois seconded. All voted in favor. Harry Wolhandler will continue to serve as Chair, Don Scott as Vice-Chair and Les LaMois as Secretary. 

The meeting adjourned at 9:00 pm.