Every summer since 2008, people have gathered at Nancy Moran's barn in Craftsbury.
This informal group of Craftsbury and Albany residents shares a keen interest in increasing our appreciation and understanding of the Hosmer Ponds.
The theme of this year's party was a celebration of summer, conservation, and Mimi Grosser's recent decision to donate a conservation easement on her waterfront property on Little Hosmer Pond.
"I would see other lakes with shorelines all chopped up," Mimi says. "I thought it would be nice if we could agree not to do this here."
Mimi is not alone in thinking that Big and Little Hosmer Ponds, and the land surrounding them, are worth protecting. Elinor and George Osborn also donated a conservation easement on their property along the Black River, which parallels the ponds.
"Craftsbury is a tight community with a wide variety of people coming from every point of the political and socio-economic spectrum," says Nancy Moran. "But what we all share, I think, is a real love for this land."
This common interest brought Nancy and other Craftsbury residents together five years ago to start what they called a Craftsbury Land Discussion Group to explore whether there was something they should be doing to protect what they felt was a special place.
Tracy Zschau, Vermont Land Trust's director for the Northeast Kingdom region, sat in on a few group meetings. The discussion group became the Hosmer Ponds Watershed Initiative (HPWI), which builds appreciation of the ponds by offering speakers, workshops, guided walks and paddles, and an informative newsletter. Land conservation is seen as a natural outgrowth of the effort.
Conservation, Mimi Grosser points out, isn't always a fast moving process. A self-described procrastinator, she began thinking about conserving 10 years ago. Her conservation easement, which took about a year to prepare, protects 1,700 feet of shoreline near the Little Hosmer boat access and limits further development on her parcel. She was one of the first landowners to contact Tracy after HPWI began its work.
While protection of the wildlife, flora, and fauna of the area is paramount, the history of recreation in Craftsbury also runs deep. The Osborns' conservation easement protects a northern cedar swamp, through which runs a cross-country ski trail from the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.
The Outdoor Center, founded by the Spring family in 1976, was purchased by Judy Geer and Dick Dreissigacker four years ago. After purchasing the center, the two immediately restructured it as a nonprofit that promotes lifetime sports, teaches sustainable practices, and protects the land it uses. The Center is an active participant in HPWI, as it depends on private landowners allowing skiers to use trails on their land. Eighty or so properties that have ski trails used by the Center.
"Recreation bonds communities because you see your neighbors," remarks Elinor. Ruthie's Run, which passes through Elinor's property, is one of Craftsbury Outdoor Center's great touring routes. "We began thinking about conserving just as soon as we moved to the area in 2003."
Both Mimi and Elinor came to VLT with clear goals and the desire to conserve their land forever. The two parcels are not huge, but they are a start. "One piece doesn't make a huge difference when there's a whole lake to consider," says Mimi. "But you do what seems right at the time and hope it has an effect."
Because of the generosity of Mimi and the Osborns, future generations will continue to experience the beauty of Big and Little Hosmer and know that the water quality of the ponds will be protected. They will enjoy Elinor's cedar swamp and its balsam firs, goldthread, warblers, and rare woodpeckers, and Mimi's scenic lake frontage.
"My family and I have loved this beautiful little lake for many years," says Mimi. "Part of what we cherish is the shoreline, where the woods, the fields, and the water create the sense of peace and calm that one always feels on Little Hosmer. Anything we can do to preserve this is worth doing."