Vassalboro Conservation Commission Minutes 2023 April 11, Tuesday 6:45pm at the Town Office

Present: Paul Mitnik, Matt Pitcher, David Jenney, Steve Jones, Peggy Horner (via Zoom), Holly Weidner (chair), Peter Soule (guest)
Matt Pitcher was welcomed as our newest VCC member. He was approved by the select board 2 weeks ago.

Peter Soule introduced himself. He is interested in joining the VCC. (See below)

Old Business:

  1. The 2022 Annual Report was officially approved with minor corrections.
  2. Town Forest: The town manager was apprised of the management plan needing some oversite. He will consult with the select board as to whom should manage this. Steve added some historical memory of the original Forest Management plan.  The forest management plan was done in 2003 prior to the present conservation commission by Forester Vite Vital. David remembers that the VCC had another forester from the state do a brief, free walk -around sometime after 2008 and the forester recommended no update plan was needed at that time as the forest had not grown many mature trees from the last cutting. The Vassalboro Trail committee took on developing a trail as per the 2003 management plan.

    There was a brief discussion about the purpose of the Town Forest: is it for recreational, timber or wildlife habitat? Here is a quote from the 2003 plan: The primary goal of the Town of Vassalboro is to manage the property for its forest resources on a multiple use basis which includes but is not limited to timber production, wildlife habitat management, recreational needs of the community, and the protection of its water resources. In addition and equally important is the potential for public education that can be demonstrated through sound forestry practices.

    : No further action needed by VCC until select board makes recommendation on who should be managing the town’s forest resources and the Town Forest.

  3. Eagle Park: Steve reported that the Project Canopy grant for 8 maple street trees was submitted last month and the state will announce grant recipients by May 5th. Three partners were found for the project: the China Regional Lake Alliance (CRLA) can offer labor in the summer, the Vassalboro Community School’s Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) can offer labor in May or June for planting, and Fieldstone Garden can offer planting supervision /expertise, 1 year maintenance and materials. As far as starting on the parking lot, and trail to the water, the Public Works has staked out a lot about the size of the one at the Town Forest and planned to start this spring or summer. Steve mentioned that when he mowed the field, the site was very uneven and would need leveling to make a more usable space and make mowing smoother.
    Action: Steve will check with Aaron to see when the parking area can be started, to coordinate this with the Project Canopy planting (if the town gets the grant). He will also check about a plan for doing the leveling site work and how that will be paid.

  4. Solid Waste issues: (Amy Davidoff submitted a summary) The first meeting of the Transfer Station task force was on April 6, 2023. Members are Chris French (Chair), Doug Phillips, Amy Davidoff, Maggie Stickle, Jim Webb, Dan Bradstreet, Zack Smith (absent). Aaron Miller and George Hamar (are ex officio). They plan to meet every 2 weeks.
    The goal of this task force is to come up with a plan (within 1 year) regarding infrastructure changes needed to accommodate and improve Vassalboro’s current/future needs for handling solid waste. The strategy will be to design a ‘system’ that can handle current methods of trash disposal and be flexible to incorporate recycling, composting, and other means to reduce waste.
    The mission of this task force is different from that of the Solid Waste Sustainability Committee (SWSC) that is as yet, an unofficial committee. There was a discussion about the SWSC being the entity to serve as a long-term resource for the Town, such that it would continue to review modern options/technologies, and serve to educate the public and town staff about best practices, etc.… No conclusion was drawn.
    The group discussed the current problems of the layout of the transfer station, the uncertainty about the waste disposal and recycling in the future with the MRC, and the contractual constraints through MRC to deliver minimum tonnage to the Hamden facility.
    Some recycling options were also discussed as well as considering funding for upgrades.

New Business

  1. Webber Pond and CRLA programs: Holly met with Lake Smart volunteers: Jennifer Lacombe and Erika Bennett. They reviewed the CRLA proposed budget for 2023-24. They also discussed what work can be done using the funds from 2022-23 budget and the hurdles in getting the word out about Lake Smart availability. (They are using their Facebook page for Webber Pond Association members, Town Line and the Vassalboro Community Facebook page);

    Action: Have VCC and Lake Smart write up a summary of what was accomplished from 2022-23 on Webber Pond, particularly specific roads surveyed and which homes were involved with Lake Smart assessment to be used to inform the public.
  2. Webber Pond water quality issues: The town had offered some funding for the WPA to use for buying water quality testing equipment and some temporary fixes to the dam level apparatus to make it safer to use. Presently, the WPA is working with Landis Hudson –Maine Rivers, on applying for grants for this.
  3. Toxic algae bloom: Who is responsible for alerting the public about such a problem so that people don’t unknowingly swim in the water or drink it? VCC discussed some solutions from posting information on the Town website, to posting warning signs around entries to the lake. But the primary concern was how will the town know of the problem and who will develop an emergency communication response system. As an aside: the bass fish kill on WP was brought up as an example of how the town people can be informed of an evolving situation. Communications were disseminated from the DEP to local papers and the WPA sent out reports by Facebook and emails. Peter mentioned that when he was on Webber Pond last spring, there were hundreds of dead fish that created a stench.
    Action: No solution was decided on how to inform the public but Holly will talk with Aaron about the general problem of communicating with the public. Since the DEP is the first to find out about toxic conditions, they need to contact the town if any health concerns occur. It may be that the town would want to get the Health Officer involved with an emergency plan for this or other contingencies that might arise or work with DHHS.
    Paul will contact DEP to see who would be the contact at DEP for the town.
    Action: Peter will contact the Maine Dept. of Inland Fish and Wildlife to assess contacts there.
  4. New members: A hearty welcome to Matt Pitcher! We are also glad to have Peter Soule interested in joining the VCC. He has past expertize in horticulture
    Action: Peter Soule (pronounced Sue’ –wal) will be recommended to the select board to be added to the VCC 2025.
  5. Statler sludge site: Maine DEP had cancelled the last meeting in spring 2022. Noted that Don Robbins was professionally involved in the past and has relevant history and advice.
    Action: Peggy will take the lead on gathering Aaron, Don Robbins, Peter and Paul to gather information on the history of this site and what options the town has to work with the state.
  6. DOT is to replace bridge on “Meadow Brook” (which the Trail committee calls “Red Brook”) on Bog Rd. The DOT has an announcement for comment mostly on how to reroute people for the months of replacement or do one lane travel.
    Action: No action is needed by VCC.

Next meeting: usually the second Tuesday at town office. Holly can’t meet then, Will do the third Tuesday May 16th. Matt can’t meet then but will join us in June again.
Respectfully submitted, Holly Weidner, chair