by Pete Kallin
Last week was difficult for me because I couldn't get out and really enjoy the lakes: no fishing; swimming; or sailing. I had some minor surgery on one of my fingers, and my doctor didn't want me to touch fish or lake water for at least nine days afterwards. It has been the first time since ice out that I have gone an entire week without fishing! I did manage to get out and hike some of the local trails, beginning with BRCA's French Mountain Trail off Watson Pond Road in Rome.
French Mountain was the property that led to the formation of the BRCA. In 1988, a developer was trying to put a hotel on the top of the mountain, which has an exceptional view of Long Pond, Whittier Pond, and surrounding areas. To prevent this, a group of camp owners on Watson Pond banded together and bought the property and then formed one of the earliest land trusts in the state, called the Watson Pond Conservation Trust (WPCT), taking on the mission of protecting French Mountain and Watson Pond.
Shortly thereafter, the same scenario took place on The Mountain, between Great Pond and Long Pond. Members of the Belgrade Lakes Association (BLA) banded together and bought The Mountain. They approached the land trust about taking over the property and shortly thereafter (1991) the WPCT changed their name and reincorporated as the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance (BRCA), taking on the mission of protecting land and water quality and the natural heritage of the entire Belgrade Lakes Watershed, 180 square miles in 13 municipalities spread across three counties.
Over the next 25 years or so the BRCA has conserved over 9000 acres in the watershed and now administers numerous water quality programs throughout the watershed on behalf of and in coordination with the five lake associations in the watershed. But French Mountain is where it all began.
I went to French Mountain to inspect the new parking lot off Watson Pond Road, next to the trailhead. There I met Shannon and Norman from Waterville and Jamaica, respectively and congratulated then on being among the first to use the new lot. Shannon grew up in Smithfield and has been hiking this trail most of her life. She complimented the BRCA on making the trail a loop a few years ago and installing the new lot. I also met Steve Alaria of Lakewood Estates on Long Pond and Sugarloaf who was taking some friends from NJ on a foraging expedition looking for mushrooms, which were scarce due to the dry summer.
The next day, my wife and I went for a hike on The Mountain, arriving just as Phyllis Matson and Shannon Dilts of Rome finished a hike with their labradoodles. On the way down, we met Martin Warren and Bridget Robbins of Hanover, NH, who were staying at Bridget's parents' camp at Crystal Springs on Great Pond. They have been hiking the local trails for years and were very impressed at how the trails are continually maintained and improved. I emphasize that this doesn't happen by itself. It is the product of the hard work of the BRCA Stewardship Committee, which is always seeking new volunteers. Call
It is hard to believe that this is the final issue of Summertime in the Belgrades for this year. I hope this column has inspired some of you to get out and explore the outdoor recreation opportunities the region has to offer, and I hope you took a kid or two along. Until next year I encourage everyone to "take it outside."
Pete Kallin is a past director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance.