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I Failed LakeSmart

By Charlie Tarbell

Oh, the shame. Here I am, President of the lake association, and my property failed its recent LakeSmart review. Maybe I should resign in disgrace? The shame, it burns! The Backstory I’ve been spending summers on Keoka my entire life. My sisters and I share a camp that has been in our family now for four generations – almost five if you include my daughter’s pending child. Back in 2010, our camp garnered Keoka’s first LakeSmart award. The camp property is a model of lake-friendly development. Then in 2012, I had the opportunity to buy a property on the north side of the lake. My wife and I relocated, remodeled, and retired on this property. I knew that the property was sub-optimal for a LakeSmart award, but I also knew that I could take steps, over time, to remediate its failings, and perhaps, one day, earn another LakeSmart award. Among the changes we made are the following:

  • Relocated the septic leech field away from Johnson Brook.

  • Relocated the driveway out of the 100’ buffer zone.

  • Rehabbed the house and added drip-line trenches all around the perimeter. We did expand the footprint of the house, but only to the extent allowed under shore land zoning.

  • Stopped cutting and raking the lawn and let the lakeside return to low bushes.

  • Began to build up the duff along the immediate lakefront with the plan to plant blueberries and other native plants.

  • Created clearly marked winding pathways over the buffer zone to minimize trampling of the under story.

Then, in 2020, when I was approached by the new Keoka LakeSmart team for a LakeSmart review, I agreed, knowing that I had accomplished a lot….and alas, it was not quite enough. The Review The Keoka LakeSmart Team, Ginger Eaton, Priscilla Treadwell, and Doss Hasson (all neighbors around the lake) arrived at my place on a morning in early July. They were all very friendly and professional. They seemed to have a great working rapport among the team. First off, they asked me for a history of the property and for some basic facts about the place. Then, guided by their LakeSmart App (there’s an app for everything) the four of us strode around the property reviewing various aspects (driveway, parking area, septic, roof line, buffer zone, shorefront, wooded areas, etc.). The team clearly had a lot of knowledge of lake-friendly development best practices. At each juncture, they asked questions about what they saw and what I had done. They shared observations and recommendations about options to improve. They talked among themselves, but always included me. I found it fascinating and I actually learned a lot. I was surprised, as I thought I knew a lot to begin with, but their training has definitely prepared them to bring real value to the review and discussion. The entire process took about 90 minutes. At the end, they handed me some materials and we parted ways. The interaction was friendly, helpful and it was great to get to know some lake neighbors, better. Alas, it was not a real surprise when I got the call about a week later and was told that my property did not yet qualify for a LakeSmart award. The shorefront buffer zone needed to be “built-up” a bit more with native plants that would stabilize the soil. Even though there was no erosion evident, the criteria for the award was clear and my property still needed some work. I was encouraged to reapply after I had upgraded the buffer zone. Next Steps And so I am left with this shame, this failure. What am I to do? Well, it seemed the proper thing was to fess up and tell the organization that I am working on it. Indeed, the whole point of LakeSmart is not necessarily to notch a bevy of awards. No, the point of the review is to get exactly what I got out of it – guidance and direction as to how I can make my property as lake-healthy as possible. Yes, I failed to get the award, but I got valuable advice and I know what I can do to help Keoka. If all properties around the lake and up the tributary streams got the same review, and took the advice of the LakeSmart Team, it would be a very good thing for the health of Keoka. And so, if you have not had your property reviewed for LakesSmart, won’t you please take the time to make an appointment with the team. You will learn just what you can do to help benefit the health of Keoka. And please feel free to call me (if) when you fail. We can commiserate in our shame. Keoka LakeSmart Team Leader – Ginger Eaton – (978) 804-3539 Sincerely, Charlie Tarbell President, Keoka Lake Association

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