It was late in the meeting when Michelle Kirby rose to address the commissioners during the October 2 meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission. Kirby is the newly-appointed president of the newly-organized Snow’s Pond Association whose goal is the preservation and protection of the historic fresh water kettle pond.
Kirby explained that in recent years the pond has gone from “crystal clear” to a host for invasive plant species such as myriophyllum, common name “milfoil,” and urticularia, common name “bladderwort.”
Giving a bit of historical perspective, Kirby said that there are 15 abutters along the pond’s shoreline, many who are family members of the Hartley Family Trust. In 1970, the residents of the area restricted the used of gas motors on the pond. All seemed well with the water remaining clear and clean. However, by the mid-1990s, new plant types began to appear in the pond.
In 1998, some of the private property owners brought their concerns to the Conservation Commission. Laurell Farinon, Rochester’s conservation agent, enlisted the assistance of a wetlands scientist who subsequently found three invasive plant types inhabiting the pond. The expert suggested methods for removing the plants that included the use of herbicides along with mechanical removal. But who would pay for that?
Farinon suggested to the concerned residents that they organize themselves, ensuring that all voices were heard and all the help that could possibly be garnered as a group could be achieved.
“Nothing happened,” Kirby replied.
Kirby continued, “Fifteen years later, another property owner brought in a scientist who found six invasive species, but didn’t think it required a management plan.”
Later that same year, Kirby said, the scientist reversed his thinking due to the abundance of plant growth. But, again, nothing happened.
“Now this summer was the worst I’ve ever seen,” Kirby lamented. Farinon’s assistance was one again asked. Farinon’s response: “You need a unified group.”
Kirby proudly announced the creation of the Snow’s Pond Association, a group of property owners with a common interest – preserving Snow’s Pond now and into the future.
Kirby said that they would be seeking professional services for the 2019 spring and summer growing season so that weed mapping can take place and management planning can begin.
“We wanted to put this in front of you,” said Kirby. “The pond is a great resource in Rochester worth protecting.”
Kirby said that, unlike neighboring states, Massachusetts does not have an invasive species program that mandates the cleaning of water vessels before entering fresh bodies of water, a practice used to help prevent cross contamination. And, while there isn’t any public access to Snow’s Pond, access by foot is available through property owned by the Wildlands Trust.
“As many as a thousand people enjoy the pond in the summer,” said Kirby.
“We should do everything we can to help you,” commission member Laurene Gerrior said, and the commission agreed to provide guidance and applauded Kirby’s efforts.
Farinon said she has been encouraging property owners with interest in the pond, a part of the Mattapoisett River Water Shed region, to join forces and that moving forward, “any plan will require permitting,” said Farinon. “We are all going to be learning together on this one.”
Earlier in the evening, Kirby and A. Hammerman, applicants for a Request for Determination of Applicability, received permission to remove three trees on their property located at 80 Snow’s Pond
Also coming before the commission was Nicholas Araujo with a RDA for property located on Old Schoolhouse Road. Araujo received a Negative determination of applicability for scraping and leveling an existing driveway and trimming overhanging vegetation.
At the beginning of the meeting, Chairman Michael Conway expressed his continued frustration with applicants who ask for repeated continuance.
A Notice of Intent hearing for REpurpose Properties was continued until October 16. Farinon once again said that there was movement on the proposed multi-unit 55+ residential project, but that pre-existing issues were still being worked through. She said that an old Order of Conditions required the clean up of fill on the site located adjacent to Plumb Corner, and that drainage from the retail complex also needed to be addressed. Farinon said she had been in contact with REpurposes’s attorney, and she remained confident all matters were well on their way to be finalized.
Also continued until October 16 was a NOI hearing for Borrego Solar Systems for wetlands delineation at property located at 75 Vaughan Hill Road, and CorGo LLC’s NOI hearing for the construction of a single-family house.
Conway insisted that applicants seeking a continuance do so in writing, not via e-mail, and that they specify the reason why the continuance is necessary.
The next meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission is scheduled for October 16 at 7:00 pm in the town hall meeting room.
Rochester Conservation Commission
By Marilou Newell