State official to discuss future of Guilford's Sweet Pond
GUILFORD -- Sweet Pond has not been forgotten.
That's the message a top state official will bring to Guilford for a planned meeting with supporters of an effort to restore the drained pond, deteriorated dam and Sweet Pond State Park.
Though he could not yet commit to a time frame for fixing the dam, Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder declared that "We want to see this happen." He is expected to visit Guilford on May 14 to deliver that message.
"Nothing's changed from our end. We get it. We see the value," Snyder said. "It's in our capital program to rebuild and get it back to all the good uses that go on there."
Sweet Pond, once a popular recreational spot, was drained in April 2011 after state officials decided the dam was unsafe. There is support for a dam-rehabilitation project that an engineering study has estimated would cost $330,000.
For a while in 2012, it appeared that the project was poised to move forward relatively quickly. But state officials in early 2013 said there no longer was adequate funding for Sweet Pond. While the project remains on a list of capital projects, there is no funding attached at this point.
Snyder pointed to the state's long-term recovery costs associated with flooding from Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. After Irene, he said, "our capital budget was moved around, because there were so many needs," he said.
But restoring the dam and pond remains a priority, both at the state and local levels. In Guilford, a Sweet Pond Steering Committee has lobbied for the project and has raised money; for two years in a row, the group has set up a fundraising table at the Guilford Fair.
Linda Hecker, a committee co-chairwoman, said such efforts are "on hold" pending further action from state officials.
"We've got $6,000 or $7,000 in the bank from our previous efforts, and they know that it's available," she said.
In order to maintain the connection between Sweet Pond backers and Vermont officials, state Rep. Mike Hebert, a Vernon Republican who represents Guilford, arranged for Snyder to visit on May 14. Snyder, whose department operates within the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, is expected to meet informally with members of the steering committee, Selectboard and Guilford Planning Commission.
The intent "is to reassure the people in Guilford that this is still on the table," Hebert said. "It's still a high priority for Parks and Recreation. It's still a high priority for the secretary of ANR. They do want that dam replaced. They don't want it taken out."
But Hebert, acknowledging the "tough economic times the state's having," said the project would happen in fiscal year 2016 at the earliest. Until the project is funded, he expects to continue to lobby for Sweet Pond.
"I've done a considerable amount of work on it," Hebert said. "But I think, also, the people in the town of Guilford have done good work on it."
Snyder reiterates that "it's just a matter of money. Otherwise, we want it to happen."
"There are a lot of needs (statewide)," he said. "And we have to pursue this in the context of those needs."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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