Sweet Pond Dam reconstruction plans move forward
A view of Sweet Pond before the drawdown that took place in 2011 amid concerns about the integrity of the dam.

Sweet Pond Dam reconstruction plans move forward

GUILFORD — The timetable for Guilford's Sweet Pond Dam reconstruction was recently released by the state, and locals are already lining up to help decide the future of the popular recreation site.

The pond, located about eight miles from the town's center, was drained in the summer of 2011, after the state's Dam Safety Section deemed the structure unsafe.

In response, locals formed a grassroots campaign to fix the dam and restore the pond. They raised almost $7,000 to contribute to site enhancements, said Linda Hecker, a member of the Sweet Pond Steering Committee.

State Rep. Michael Hebert, R-Vernon, took on the cause. At a Selectboard meeting last May, Hebert admitted he was a “pest” in the Statehouse, and the issue became known in Montpelier as “Hebert's Damn Dam.”

His efforts worked. Hebert secured $405,000 for the town from the state, with the help of Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Forest, Parks, and Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder, and Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz.

In mid-September, the Sweet Pond Steering Committee threw a party celebrating the securing of the funding, and the imminent return of the pond and its surroundings. Politicians spoke, a band played, and locals and visitors cheered the victory.

And now the work begins. Or at least the planning of the work.

Reconstruction timetable

The steering committee recently received an email from Ethan Phelps, Parks Regional Manager at the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, detailing the timetable of Sweet Pond's restoration.

Phelps told committee members the competitive bid process to choose the engineering firm is complete, with Dubois and King of Randolph selected to “prepare design and construction documents for the dam reconstruction project.”

“The contract is being finalized,” Phelps wrote.

Between now and August 2016, Dubois and King will work on the design of the project, and obtain the fairly extensive set of state and federal permits needed to do the work.

Come autumn, the engineering firm will “prepare construction documents, obtain permits if not completed, and assemble [the] construction bid package,” Phelps wrote. After this step is complete, Dubois and King can put the project out for bid.

Phelps anticipates construction to begin in June, 2017, and end in September.

Then, he wrote, the final step is to, “refill the pond!”

Recreational enhancements

In his email to the Sweet Pond Steering Committee, Phelps said he met with consultants to, “go over some details pertaining to the recreational enhancements that are going with the project."

Some of these additions include, “a better organized parking area at the cartop boat launch, improv[ing] the path to the launch site, and dredg[ing] a portion of the pond behind the dam for swimming."

Phelps also informed the members, “the foot bridge across the top of the dam will no longer be allowed, so the bridge will be moved a few hundred feet downstream and the trail re-routed."

He noted these enhancements depend on funding, and asked for additional ideas.

Hecker sent an email to “everyone who has supported Sweet Pond's restoration,” informing them of the news. She wrote, “What would we like to see there? Benches? Signage?"

“Goose prevention” and the gifts the animals leave in their wake was high on the list, Hecker told The Commons.

Some of the other ideas interested parties shared with Hecker were a rope swing, a little book to write in with a weatherproof box and pens, a field guide for wildlife, benches for hikers and skaters, a small pier with a ladder to make “access for the young and old easier/safer,” picnic tables, improved non-motorized boat access, and “a safe fireplace for warming winter skaters."

Hecker said the committee had raised almost $7,000 for these enhancements.

“We're not actively seeking new funding but we welcome contributions,” she said, noting, “a few people made donations in response to the good news."

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