Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Fyfeshire year in review

To all outward appearances, 2011 was not a very eventful year at Fyfeshire—the ponds and trails look very much as they did a year ago at this time. But that is deceptive—both the town and Mother Nature have been active in the Fyfeshire Conservation Area. We thought we’d take a moment to review some of the highlights:

—The year starts with the Conservation Commission’s decision to remove the dam threatening the existence of the ponds. The Group for the Preservation of Fyfeshire Ponds begins meeting on a regular basis. The state releases a report [pdf] on the local financial impact of the Dam Safety Law, stating that out of 627 municipally owned dams in Massachusetts, 100 “relatively large” dams in 62 cities are in poor or unsafe condition. Of 32 such dams in Worcester County, most were designated in "poor" condition, with six in the “unsafe” category, the lowest designation, including Fyfeshire Dam in Bolton. The report recommends creating a loan program to help cities and towns address their failing dams.

—The Conservation Commission plans to submit an article for removal of the dam at the town meeting in May. The Group begins collecting signatures on a Citizen’s Petition to put repair of the dam on the town meeting agenda.

March—The Bolton Conservation Trust holds a walk around the Fyfeshire Conservation Area led by Beth Lambert, River Restoration Program Coordinator for the Division of Ecological Restoration of the MA Department of Fish and Game, who talks about dam removal in Massachusetts. At a Bolton Selectman’s meeting, the Group for the Preservation of Fyfeshire Ponds presents the case for dam repair. See posting for details on both of these. At the end of the month, the state Office of Dam Safety grants an extension to the town of Bolton to comply with the dam order until June 2012 to allow the town to take advantage of pending legislation that would give dam owners assistance in complying with dam safety orders. Both the Conservation Commission and the Group remove their warrant articles from the town meeting agenda. View posting: Both dam articles being pulled from town warrant for details.

April—the Group hosts a pond party and art exhibit, featuring a narrated slide show of Fyfeshire Conservation Area, an exhibit of wood carvings of plants and animals native to Fyfeshire, and lots of refreshments. Kids have the chance to pet a live snake and view other live animals. State representative Kate Hogan is in attendance. 

State Representative Kate Hogan (left) admires a carving
by artist Rona Balco (right) at a Pond Party last April.

July—Massachusetts Senate passes SB.1985 which is now before the House. View Nature Conservancy press release. This bill would establish a loan fund to provide low-interest long-term loans for repair and removal of unsafe dams.  View the bill. 

August—the Group organizes a Community Service Day to clean up the area.  The next day, Hurricane Irene hits.  The dam holds, and we capture the flow of water over the dam before and after the storm on video. View posting with before and after videos.

September—the Group holds a Save-the-Ponds night at the Bolton Roadhouse to raise money to defray the cost to the town of repair of the dam.  The place is packed! 

October—over 200 witches and wizards descend on Fyfeshire to participate in Potterwalk, a Harry Potter themed walk around the ponds.  Abutters give permission for families to walk through their private land so hikers can walk all the way around the pond during the event.
John Balco coaches a young wizardas he tries
to catch Hufflepuff's cup on the tip of Gryffindor's sword.
View posting of Potterwalk with photos

At the end of the month, a freak snowstorm hits the area, causing lots of downed trees and several days of power outages.

The entrance to Fyfeshire the morning after the
October snowstorm that downed trees and caused
massive power outages throughout New England.

Thanks to Rona Balco’s chainsaw artistry and the help of volunteers, the trails are now clear once more.

December—the Conservation Commission offers an alternate solutionl: to lower the water in Fyfeshire Pond to a level that would remove the pond from regulation by the state.  The Bolton Selectman discuss the idea in a recent meeting, as reported in the Clinton Item:  Lowering dam level may be win-win solution.

We are now looking into this latest proposal and hope that it may prove to be a viable solution to make the dam safe without destroying the ponds or disrupting the habitat of the creatures who live at Fyfeshire.  Fingers crossed, and may this be the best dam year ever!