Greeter program launched, hopes to keep invasive species at bay
by Lauren Harkawik
Jun 03, 2017 | 3171 views | 0 0 comments | 133 133 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lake Raponda
The greeter station at Lake Raponda.
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WILMINGTON- The town kicked off its new greeter program at Lake Raponda last weekend. The program is intended to aid in warding off invasive species, which, if introduced into Lake Raponda’s waters, could threaten the recreational mainstay. Throughout the summer, the program will station trained greeters at the lake to educate boaters about the threats such organisms pose and how their introduction into the water can be prevented.

Species that the greeters will be working to ward off include Eurasian watermilfoil, variable watermilfoil, water chestnut, curly-leaf pondweed, hydrilla, zebra mussels, Asian clams, and spiny water flea.

Lake Raponda Association member Randy Knagg says watermilfoil is a particular point of focus for the program, as it has been found in nearby Whitingham’s Lake Sadawga and in other lakes in Vermont, including Lake Bomoseen and Lake Champlain.

“Milfoil drew our attention because we’re hearing that on Lake Bomoseen, they’re spending $40,000 a year to clean it,” says Knagg. “And it’s still spreading.”

Knagg says that watermilfoil would be particularly problematic in Lake Raponda, which is relatively shallow. “Lake Raponda isn’t much more than 17 to 20 feet deep anywhere,” says Knagg. “If light can reach the bottom of the lake, the plant can grow there. And it just chokes everything else in the lake out.”

The greeters will be tasked with educating visitors about what invasive species are and how such species might hitch a ride on a boat and into the water. According to Knagg, the greeters’ goals will be to educate the public and to empower them to take on an active role in invasive species prevention efforts. “More than enforcing, we want to be educating,” says Knagg. “It doesn’t take much to prevent these species from invading. If boats are drained after being in a lake and boaters are making sure they’re not carrying any plant materials, they really don’t spread.”

Knagg says the greeters may ask visitors if they can take a look at their boats, kayaks or paddle boards and may need to do a little “detective work” to figure out what plant materials are on a vessel and if they may be threatening. If something troublesome is found, Knagg said that the greeters will work with the vessel’s owner to mitigate the problem. “It’ll be a collaboration,” says Knagg.

Greeters will also ask visitors where else their boats have been, which may help tamper some concerns. “If they’re coming from the Harriman Reservoir where we know there are no invasive species, we’re not going to be as concerned,” says Knagg. “But if they’re coming from Sadawga, we’re going to be scrutinizing, as we would be if they’re coming from Lake Champlain. It really depends on the dialogue that unfolds.”

The greeters will be collecting data throughout the summer, in an effort for all parties involved to better understand where boats that end up at Lake Raponda are coming from, and what type of risk those travel patterns might create. Greeters will also do some work helping to clarify where boats should be launched and where visitors should park.

“Green Mountain Beach is not where boats should be entering the lake,” says Knagg. “And people tend to park down by the boat launch area because they aren’t aware there’s a parking area right above it. So they will be working on educating around those things, too.”

The greeters won’t enforce lake rules themselves, but if they see something dangerous or otherwise troubling, they will reach out to the appropriate authorities.

“They aren’t police by any means,” says Knagg, “but if they see something dangerous like a drunk boater, they’ll call authorities.”

Greeters will be stationed at the boat launch area at the northern end of the lake, where a small hut has been constructed to display educational materials and offer some shade for hot days.

The town and the Lake Raponda Association are currently holding interviews for the greeter positions, which will be paid seasonal work. For now, volunteers are staffing the greeter station. Knagg says the program is funded for approximately 60 hours of paid work per week, which will be split among those who are hired. The schedule will be worked out with those individuals, and volunteer greeters may fill in scheduling gaps as needed.

The program is made possible by contributions from the Lake Raponda Association, the town of Wilmington, and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Aquatic Nuisance Control Greeter Program Grant, which the town and the Lake Raponda Association teamed up to apply for and received.
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