Tuesday July 30, 2013

GUILFORD -- Though Sweet Pond has been dry for more than two years, a volunteer group is working to ensure no one forgets about the Guilford landmark.

Sweet Pond Steering Committee is planning a presence at the Guilford Fair on Labor Day weekend, and the group will continue to lobby state officials for money to restore the dam and popular pond.

Though a rehabilitation project has been delayed, steering committee co-chairwoman Linda Hecker said Sweet Pond's supporters are not backing down.

"We really want to keep this in the public eye -- let people know it's not a dead project," Hecker said.

In April 2011, the pond -- located in Sweet Pond State Park -- was drained after state officials declared the dam unsafe. There is support among local and state officials for a dam-rehabilitation project with an estimated cost of $330,000.

In fact, the state Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation website notes that the department "has decided to move toward rehabilitating the dam."

"The eventual result will be a pond the approximate size and configuration of the previous pond and a dam that is structurally sound but retains much of the important historic and aesthetic characteristics of the original structure," the site says.

But the state's website also says construction could begin in fall 2013, and that's no longer the case.

Officials disclosed earlier this year that there was no money available in the department's fiscal year 2014 budget for Sweet Pond.


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At the time, state Rep. Mike Hebert, a Vernon-based Republican who represents Guilford, said significant funds had been diverted to repair the state's storm-damaged Waterbury office complex.

Hebert also said there is "a critical situation financially in the state of Vermont."

Nonetheless, he and others have expressed optimism that the Sweet Pond project still could move forward in a few years.

Sweet Pond advocates have continued to work toward that goal. In March, a group of Guilford residents traveled to Montpelier to meet with Deb Markowitz, state Agency of Natural Resources secretary.

Hecker said Markowitz and Michael Snyder, commissioner of the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, still are on board with the project.

"It's really a matter of funding now," she said.

The steering committee's plan is to "keep the pressure on legislators to make sure funds are appropriated," Hecker said, adding that Hebert also continues to lobby for funding.

Locally, the group plans to set up a table at the Guilford Fair on Sept. 1 and 2. A similar presence at last year's fair was well-received, Hecker said.

"It went really well," she said. "We had a lot of interest, and a lot of people signed our petition."

Volunteers are needed to staff the fair table; Hecker said anyone who is interested can contact the steering committee through the "Save Sweet Pond" Facebook page.

Hecker said the group also has placed a donation jar and petition at the newly reopened Guilford Country Store.

She believes support for Sweet Pond restoration remains strong, pointing to a video she recently posted on the committee's Facebook page.

"Over 2,000 people viewed it in two days," Hecker said.

A new inspection report, she added, shows that the old dam continues to deteriorate. And officials have said that, eventually, the structure must be either rehabilitated or removed.

"It's not an option to do nothing," Hecker said.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.