West Hill Pond has been for many years one of the best-loved places in New Hartford and Barkhamsted; its rocky shores and tree-clad surroundings and its crystal clear water and peaceful atmosphere have attracted generations of people to come and relax and enjoy. More and more people come to it every year, and this is as it should be. But it is very easy to forget that all of this is really very fragile; that it is all too easy to love it to death, to do things which seem innocent (and each of which, taken one at a time, are perhaps innocent) but which over time conspire to damage – and ultimately will destroy – that atmosphere which we all value.
In an effort to provide users of the watershed with some direction on how to approach activities in the watershed, we’ve started to assemble – with the help of volunteers from the West Hill Lake Shore Property Owners Association and Town of New Hartford – a set of Best Practices designed to answer basic questions about activities that might ultimately impact the lake. The purpose of this is to provide people influencing watershed activities with a set of voluntary guidelines so they can better understand how their activities impact the watershed. Hopefully, this will allow participants and constituents with the knowledge they need to make sound choices – choices that ultimately protect the lake and its water quality. Clearly voluntary guidelines must dovetail with regulations – which must always be met.
Our expectation is that these Best Practices will continuously evolve and provide people active in the watershed with empowering guidance for real world activities.
What are the Best Practices?
Landscaping and Lawn Care – Whether it is caring for lawn, removing poison ivy, raking leaves, or protecting trees from a pest – if our activity is uphill from the lake – there is a chance what we’re doing will impact water quality. What is the best way to do our chores and still protect the lake? We know that forests retain more storm water that lawns, and lawns more than paved driveways and roofs. So how do decisions we make about our landscape – and ultimately the care we give it – impact water quality? What can we do to become better neighbors and improve our property’s environmental friendliness?
Storm-Water Management – West Hill Pond has a small watershed that being atop a mountain can receive storms of exceptional violence. It is not uncommon for a storm to bring two to three inches of rain. Most water that lands in the watershed ends up in the lake, as does everything it has picked up along the way. What are steps you can take to help ensure that water that crosses the landscape you’ve influenced is as clean as possible?
Septic Care – Farmington Valley Health Authority is the regulatory agency for all things septic in the West Hill Pond watershed, but there are lots of alternatives to consider when looking to upgrade. We provide some ideas to consider when discussing changes with your professional engineer, or to help you answer that perennial question, “it is time to pump out that tank.”
Aquatic Plant Management – Aquatic macrophytes (plants and weeds) can be emblematic of a healthy ecosystem, or one in trouble! We’ve worked to assemble some best practices you might consider when wondering if weeds are part of the former or latter. We also talk about efforts to ensure that no unwanted visitors arrive as hitch-hikers on boats or trailers from other ponds or lakes.
Wildlife Management – Geese, Ducks and Cormorants along with a bey of other fowl have come to view West Hill Pond as a choice environment for a visit or long stay. What are the impacts and is this something we should encourage or discourage?
Waterfront and Beach Maintenance – West Hill Pond is a unique lake whose geology produced no natural sand. Beaches are therefore a completely unnatural creation, the side-effect of which is the distribution of silt to the lake bottom creating a foothold for aquatic vegetation. So how does a homeowner or community create an inviting waterfront?
The purpose of these best practices is to help you, as a visitor or property owner who cherishes the lake, select actions which will help to preserve it as you love it. Most of the suggestions are nothing more than common sense, but common sense isn’t really anything more than accumulated experience and knowledge.