Conflict over Hobbs Pond may be tempest in a teapot
Hope — Selectmen devoted most of their Tuesday, May 13, meeting to a discussion of issues regarding Hobbs Pond.
President David Hall and Vice President Jeff Connon of the Hobbs and Fish Ponds Association presented a list of concerns to the Board, said Town Administrator Jon Duke. Recreation Committee Chairman Andrew Stewart was also present, Duke said.
Some of the association's concerns included parking along Barnestown Road by people using the pond, and resulting traffic problems; as well as the rock pile in the pond, which the association has asked the town to remove. Duke said the association has marked the pile with a buoy. Other concerns were centered on erosion along the property line between the town road next to the pond and the neighboring property; ice damage to the concrete boat ramp that makes launching boats difficult; and water quality monitoring of the pond, which the association asked the town to pay for, Duke said.
Speaking Monday, May 19, Hall said his association's primary mission is to protect the quality of the water as well as the wildlife in and around the pond.
Regarding the traffic and parking issues, Hall noted that Pond Road, which accesses the pond, runs off Barnestown Road in a 40-mile-an-hour speed zone where passing is allowed. With the increase in children and families using the pond in the last few years, children often walk or ride bikes along that stretch of road during the summer to go to the pond, he said.
In addition, because of limited parking on Pond Road, people park along Barnestown Road near the pond.
The association and the town share a concern about the risk to pedestrians, cyclists and cars resulting from this situation, he said. Since the state Department of Transportation has historically refused the selectmen's request to lower the speed limit along that stretch, the town has proposed to put up signs warning drivers of the presence of children, and post the area for no parking, Hall said.
He said the rock pile, which has been built by generations of children who swam in the pond, now poses a danger to boats. While it is a public body of water, the pond is the town's responsibility and the town has the authority to move the rocks and replace them on he shoreline, where they came from, he said.
Regarding the erosion issue, the damage is occurring along the side of the boat ramp, where silt is washing into the pond, Hall said. He noted that allowing silt to get into the pond is against state law. He said he believed adding crushed rock in the area of the erosion and covering it with coarse gravel would halt the damage.
"We're just asking the town to take responsibility and do something," Hall said.
The concrete boat ramp was put in by residents, he said, rather than the state.
The association's most serious concern is about the quality of the water in the pond. Hall said the association has monitored the water quality for decades, and last August a bacteria known as Enterococcus was found.
The association reported the finding to Duke, and it was agreed the association would post signs letting the public know that the water was not safe to drink and might be unsafe for young children to swim in. The water was retested a week later and found to be free of contamination, Hall said.
At the May 13 selectmen's meeting, the association asked the town to set up a procedure for notifying the public when contamination is found. Hall said he anticipated that the Board would act on the request.
Selectmen took no action on the association's concerns at the meeting, Duke said, but encouraged the association to work with the Recreation Committee to resolve the issues.
In fact, Stewart invited the association to have representation on the Recreation Committee, Hall said. He said he was optimistic that the association's having a voice on the committee will help to solve the ongoing issues at the pond, because a recommendation from the committee will carry more weight with the town than a request from the pond association.
"We were glad to have our chance to talk to the town, and hopefully something will being to happen," Hall said.
Duke said conflicting views of the historical use of the pond on the part of different residents has contributed to the problem: “Is it a boating area? Is it a swimming area? Can both uses coexist?”
Stewart agreed with Duke that there is some conflict over the pond, but said he felt it was overblown.
"I do think some people have overstated how much of an issue there is," he said.
He confirmed he invited Hall's association to nominate a member to the Recreation Committee. "We're open to anyone joining at any point," Stewart said. Like Hall, he believes having a member from the association on the Recreation Committee will help solve any problems at the pond.
He said while they might be at odds over how to accomplish certain goals, the town and the pond association are essentially on the same side.
"We're in agreement on every issue," he said. "People just have to be respectful of other people and get along."