South end of Willoughby becomes a state park

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copyright the Chronicle July 5, 201

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

WESTMORE — In a surprise move, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR) announced on Saturday that it’s turning management of the beach area at the south end of Lake Willoughby over to the state parks system.

The decision was made about a month ago by Forests, Parks, and Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder, said Susan Bulmer, the regional manager of the state park system.

“You’re the first to know,” she told the 80 or so people who nearly filled Westmore’s Fellowship Hall on the evening of July 1.

The crowd had come to see the formal presentation of the department’s revised plans for parking, bathrooms, and runoff management at the south end of the lake.

Many had participated in a months-long letter writing campaign organized by a group called Protect Willoughby. Its goal has been to get the department to downsize or abandon its plans.

Originally FPR called for parking for up to 90 cars, a 17-foot wide bathroom building, handicap accessible trails, and an observation deck.

And despite the fears of Protect Willoughby’s organizers that the holiday weekend was a bad time to schedule a public meeting, about 50 people had sloshed through a downpour earlier in the afternoon for guided walks around the East Cove and West Cove beach areas.

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Body on cliff awaits recovery

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copyright the Chronicle May 17, 2017

 

The body found Monday on a cliff at the south end of Lake Willoughby in Westmore may not be recovered until Thursday, State Police said.

Other agencies will have to help because of the extreme nature of the terrain and the equipment and expertise needed to access the area, a State Police press release says.

It says the body is about 300 feet down a precipice and 200 feet up from the bottom of the drop-off, resting on a rock shelf.

Police have asked officials with the Vermont National Guard, as well as other technical experts, for advice on the best way to recover the body.

“While positive ID has not yet occurred, the family of Tyler Robinson has been advised of the process underway to recover the individual,” the press release says.

Mr. Robinson, who is 23 years old and from Orleans, was last seen at his home on Water Street on Friday. Police and search and rescue teams had been scouring the county looking for him.

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ATVs — pest or new economic driver?

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copyright the Chronicle March 22, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

When a group of ATV enthusiasts went before the Westmore Select board recently to ask that some town roads be opened to them, they touted the usual arguments, the main one being that allowing people who love to ride on the versatile machines to get to stores and restaurants would be good for the economy.

And they received the usual arguments for the select board’s hesitation, the main ones being the town is worried about rogue riders and liability if something happens.

“They’re hoping to get some roads open so they can connect to Brownington roads, which are all open,” said Selectman Bill Perkins. They would also like to have access to amenities, he added.

As of Sunday, the board hadn’t made a decision, though Mr. Perkins, at least, wasn’t inclined to offer much resistance.

“Our main concerns are the same as with snowmobiling,” he said. “We just want to make sure the town isn’t going to be held liable for anything if there’s ever an accident. We don’t want the town responsible in any way. Other than that we don’t see a big problem with them.”

The Westmore request is only one of the latest in a growing debate about whether ATVs — which some think may replace snowmobiles as a major economic engine driving Vermont’s outdoor economy — should be provided more access to town and village roads.

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South beach project faces opposition

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copyright the Chronicle March 1, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

LYNDONVILLE — About 70 people filled the Burke Mountain Room at Lyndon State College on February 23 to express their concerns about plans to put restrooms, parking, and handicapped-accessible trails at the south end of Lake Willoughby. The land is part of Willoughby State Forest.

Site plans were recently released by the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR), and the public was invited to Thursday’s informational meeting.

Participants seemed to be divided between the simply curious and people who wanted to see the plans scaled back. A vocal few just wanted the beaches at the south end of the lake left alone.

“This is nature’s cathedral, why don’t we protect this?” asked Beverley Decker.

Louis Bushey from the St. Johnsbury office of FPR seemed a little taken aback by the size of the group and the objections.

“We held a public meeting in November 2015,” he said. “And these plans are the direct result of what people said they wanted.”

“All of the calls that I’ve gotten have been positive,” said Bill Perkins, a member of the Westmore Select Board.

Because the south end of the lake is state land, the select board has no control over the plans, he said.

The plans aren’t intended to change the nature of the south end of the lake, Mr. Bushey said. And they’re certainly not intended to increase the volume of visitors, though that’s likely to happen over time, just because the population is growing.

The point, he said, was simply to address existing problems — cars parked along the road shoulder, paths eroding from foot traffic, human waste in the woods, and runoff from the road going directly into the lake.

“We’ve all seen the plume after a rain,” he said to nods around the room.

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State plans new parking area for Willoughby’s south end

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copyright the Chronicle January 25, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

WESTMORE — About 20 people attended the select board meeting here Monday, where construction of a parking area at the south end of Lake Willoughby, and a request from snowmobilers to use a stretch of Long Pond Road to get to the Willoughby Lake Store were the major items on the agenda.

Louis Bushey from the St. Johnsbury office of the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR) unveiled the department’s plan for dealing with traffic and crowds at the south end of Lake Willoughby.

Anyone who has headed south along the lake on Route 5A knows the road can be nearly impassable near the beach area, with vehicles parked along the shoulder and sticking out into the road.

In summer, it’s swimmers. In winter, it’s ice climbers.

Trails down to the lake are steep and eroding. And with no bathroom facilities except a cluster of Porta Potties, a lot of people slip into the woods when nature calls, creating a health hazard.

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New state park opens overlooking Willoughby Lake

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Windsor and Florence Wright stand in front of the stone outline of the original farmhouse on Hinton Hill Road where their family once spent its summers.   The Wrights, who now live outside of Kansas City, Kansas, donated the 356-acre parcel of land in Westmore  to create Sentinel Rock State Park.  Photo by Elizabeth Trail

Windsor and Florence Wright stand in front of the stone outline of the original farmhouse on Hinton Hill Road where their family once spent its summers. The Wrights, who now live outside of Kansas City, Kansas, donated the 356-acre parcel of land in Westmore to create Sentinel Rock State Park. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

copyright the Chronicle July 15, 2015

by Elizabeth Trail

WESTMORE — About 13,000 years ago, the last retreating glacier left a huge boulder, twice as tall as a person, overlooking Lake Willoughby near the top of the Hinton Hill Road in Westmore. Generations have watched sunsets from the rock, picnicked at its base, and gathered berries in the surrounding fields.

On July 11 the great rock, and the site of the old farmhouse that once stood nearby, became the focal points of Vermont’s new Sentinel Rock State Park.

Vermont’s newest state park was made possible by the generous gift of 356 acres by Windsor and Florence Wright. The Wrights summered in an old Victorian farmhouse on the site for decades after Mr. Wright’s father bought the place in 1947, said Vermont State Parks Director Craig Whipple….To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Truck fished out of Willoughby

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A pickup in Willoughby.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

A pickup in Willoughby. Photo by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle May 13, 2015

by Joseph Gresser

WESTMORE — Bob Wesoja was out fishing on Willoughby Lake last week — for his truck.

Back in February, Mr. Wesoja was headed for his fishing shanty when the wind kicked up, and in white-out conditions he lost his way, steering his brand new Ford 150 onto a patch of thin ice.

He and a friend jumped through the windows to safety as the truck plunged into the lake’s frigid waters.

On Thursday of last week Mr. Wesoja, Chris McCarthy and Jereme LeBlanc started off at around 8 in the morning figuring the job would be done in a couple of hours.

They had little reason to think otherwise….To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Editorial: Fight tar sands oil — for the right reasons

copyright the Chronicle February 26, 2014

Next week at Town Meeting four Orleans County towns will vote on a resolution that basically says they don’t want tar sands oil to be shipped through the Portland Pipeline’s Northeast Kingdom oil lines.  They are Albany, Glover, Westmore, and Charleston.

Unfortunately, none of those towns are host to the pipeline and would not be directly affected by any such plan.

For years now, Vermont environmentalists have warned about the possibility of the flow of the lines being reversed and Canadian tar sands oil being shipped south and west through them from Alberta to Maine.  For two years, 350 Vermont has attempted to show opposition by persuading towns to adopt resolutions at Town Meeting.

Although their efforts were a bit more organized this year, they still seem to be inept at best.  One of the towns that would be most severely affected by any oil spill is Barton, yet that town will not be voting this year on a tar sands resolution.

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Westmore woman plays prescriptive music

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Linda Schneck plays her harp at her home in Westmore.  Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

Linda Schneck plays her harp at her home in Westmore. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle February 5, 2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

WESTMORE — Linda Schneck’s father died, in front of her, when she was nine years old.  The family was on vacation in Florida and he died suddenly and unexpectedly, and she was there.  That changed her life in all sorts of ways.

At first, she became withdrawn and uncommunicative.  She had been extremely close to her father and was devastated at the loss.

Her family did all they could to console her.

“My uncle traded a woman a roof for a piano,” she said.  Her uncle was a roofer, and he put a roof on the woman’s home in trade for a player piano.  Young Linda had been begging for piano lessons for a long time.  Her uncle made it happen.

“I think music is what really helped me,” she said.

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What kind of birds fly through Orleans County?

American woodwock.  Photo by Bob Stymeist

American woodwock. Photo by Bob Stymeist

by Martha Steele

Seasons in Orleans County are not just about changing weather, leaves, or recreational pursuits.  They also bring wide swings in bird populations, from the near absence of sound or flight during a mid-winter walk in the woods to the deafening chorus of an early spring morning.

My husband, Bob Stymeist, and I have been regularly visiting my mother in Westmore and chronicling the birds we see and hear all year-round.  In 2013, over 56 days, we tallied a total of 152 bird species in Orleans County for the year, our personal record.  In all, birders recorded 179 species in Orleans County in 2013, according to Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s eBird.  Our total number since we started birding the county about a decade ago is 178 species.

Birders love statistics and to keep lists.  A yard list.  A town list.  A county list.  A year list.  A trip list.  A life list.  The term “lifer” becomes a unique word for birders, not only indicating a new species that the birder has never seen, but expanding to anything new to the individual, be it a road, a restaurant, or anything at all.

For us, Orleans County holds special affection.  It is where we welcome back our avian friends every spring.  “Our” wood thrush returns every year to a particular spot on our property.  A northern waterthrush greets us with song every spring morning along the road to Willoughby.  A chestnut-sided warbler sets up territory near our mailbox.  We are truly astonished and moved by the ability of birds to travel thousands of miles to and from their wintering or breeding grounds, only to settle in the same place as the year before.  Welcome back indeed.

These snow buntings were photographed on Schoolhouse Road in Brownington.  Wheeler Mountain is in the background.  Photo by Bob Stymeist

These snow buntings were photographed on Schoolhouse Road in Brownington. Wheeler Mountain is in the background. Photo by Bob Stymeist

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