South Pond & the Ames Hill – Marlboro Community Center
South Pond is beautiful and pristine – a very special place. Have you ever wondered how it has remained this way all these years? I am the current President of the nonprofit conservation organization, the Ames Hill – Marlboro Community Center (AHMCC). I hope to provide some history and clarification at the same time.
There is some misunderstanding about the status of South Pond and the land that borders it. I thought it would be helpful if I explained the actual situation. All the land bordering South Pond is owned by either one of two entities, The Ames Hill-Marlboro Community Center and the Whittemore-Paton Trust. The AHMCC owns 408.8 acres. This includes all three beaches. Founders and past members of our organization have gone to great lengths to protect it for past, present and future generations. Current members strive to continue this mission, the first and primary focus being, “to promote and further the conservation and preservation of the natural resources and ecology of the Marlboro – Ames Hill forest areas as a natural sanctuary for wildlife”. Our mission also includes minimizing pollution. Secondary to these includes furnishing “facilities for social, recreational, and educational activities of its members and the youth of the area.” Balancing the first part of our mission with the second part has, at times, been very challenging.
Much of the history you are about to read was gathered by Lanice Aldridge. According to her history, the land now belonging to the AHMCC was originally purchased by E.B. Barrows in 1919. In July of 1938 members of a preexisting association met, “to discuss the possibility of buying some of the lakeshore, including the beach they’d been using for so many seasons.” They believed the natural character of South Pond should be protected and maintained both to protect water quality and to preserve its’ surrounding environment. The purchase price was $10,000.00 and our current organization was born and incorporated. In October of that same year, “certificates of indebtedness were offered to all who had pledged support for this ‘priceless opportunity…to bring the whole lake property under proper control [with] reasonable restrictions.’” At present, certificate holders govern and guide our stewardship of the water and the land.
Once the AHMCC was created and had a mission to focus on, the next issue was access. Unfortunately, there was a conflict of interest between the AHMCC and local fishing groups regarding access to South Pond. The Fish & Wildlife Service intervened. In Vermont, any body of water greater than 20 acres is considered a public body of water. South Pond is approximately 68 acres. So in 1960, the AHMCC conveyed to the State a small parcel of land, which now gives fishermen access to South Pond under the auspices of the Vermont Fish and Game Department. Unfortunately there has been some confusion about the use of the fishing access so some people have used it as a public beach (there is actually no swimming allowed), and at night its location occasionally attract delinquents whose behavior results in vandalism and destruction of property. Very occasionally it has been used as a dumping site for garbage and unwanted junk.
Fishermen weren’t the only ones to take notice of the pleasures of South Pond. The beauty and tranquility of South Pond had also caught the attention of the Marlboro Music Festival, which voiced a desire to also have access. The AHMCC signed its first lease with the Marlboro Music Festival in 1972. This beach has been used exclusively by the Music Festival ever since. Local residents also wanted to share in this prized site so in 1975, the Marlboro Park Association was formed and a lease was signed with them for use of the other beach. This leased beach is often referred to as the “Town” beach even though it is not town property. A person must be a member of the MPA to access this beach. The last remaining beach off of the fishing access is reserved for members of the AHMCC. Although all beaches are private or ‘members only’, the number of people, children included, using the beaches has been steadily increasingly over the years. The AHMCC continues to limit the number of its own memberships in order to protect the lake and its’ surroundings from increasing impacts of usage.
In 1984, a major step was taken to protect South Pond as a natural environment.
Lanice writes, “The Ames Hill – Marlboro Community Center and the Whittemore – Paton Marlboro Trust signed an agreement with the Vermont Land Trust to place 176 acres on the pond’s shores under conservation restrictions. The intent of the agreement is spelled out as ‘the preservation of the premises predominantly in its natural condition, the protection of environmental systems, the protection of the property’s scenic beauty, and the encouragement of the sound utilization and conservation of forestry and other natural resources’”. Then in 2002, the AHMCC added all but about 25 of its’ acres to the Land Trust agreement. Here, Harvey Pofcher of Ames Hill must be given credit. It is in great part due to his vision and efforts that our land will be protected and undeveloped for perpetuity. A plaque has been placed in his honor at the fork in the road going in to South Pond.
There you have a brief history of South Pond and an explanation of the Ames Hill – Marlboro Community Center. I hope that the readers will understand the restrictions and limitations regarding access. It is the beautiful, perfect place it is today due to the dedication and hard work of many people. I ask that you be mindful of the AHMCC mission while you are there so we can all try to preserve the Pond and its surroundings.
[Editorial contributions from Megan Littlehales and Dick Lewontin]