This is the third year of our Greeter/Education initiative at the boat launch. After two years of attempting to “man” the launch with a short, and ever diminishing, roster of revolving volunteers, the Lake Fairlee Association Board decided that we needed to budget for a paid greeter this summer. This would improve the educational benefits by maintaining some quality control: a consistent, well-informed message would be delivered in a consistently non-threatening way and hopefully, the logs would be more complete for more accurate data collection. Administratively, having a paid greeter we could count on would simplify things: there would be one training session at the beginning of the season rather than a quick overview with each new volunteer, and it would eliminate the constant angst of trying to schedule volunteers during busy summer weekends. We were fortunate enough to find a mature finish carpenter/law student, Aaron Gilbert, who grew up going to camp on the lake, lives locally and is a scuba diver by avocation. His wife is on the Thetford Conservation Commission, and they are both committed to preserving Lake Fairlee.
The Board had budgeted for 14 weekends, including the 3-day holiday weekend of Labor Day in September. However, due to an unusually wet summer, our greeter worked on only 21 Saturdays and Sundays, starting the first weekend in June and ending on the Monday of Labor Day. He worked at the launch a total if 91 hrs., making personal contact with boaters (most likely 2 or more people/boat) from 209 different vessels ranging from canoes and kayaks, sail boats, recreation boats and fishing boats. Aaron gave each boater the following handouts:
- The Lake Fairlee Association Fact Sheet (1.5 pgs. of information that has been culled from the past three years of Greeter Workshop Presentations at the DEC in Montpelier)
- Instructions for washing boats
- A map if Vermont bodies of water, with specific locations of invasive species
- A map of N.H. bodies of water with specific locations of invasive species
- A “STOP AQUATIC HITCHIKERS!” sticker from the U.S. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Service to put on each boat trailer hitch as a reminder to check their boats when leaving a body of water, and to wash thoroughly.
Aaron conscientiously completed the Greeter Log each day he was at the ramp. The data he collected revealed a few interesting facts.
- Boaters from 8 of the vessels were unaware of invasive species
- He found milfoil on 5 boats as they left Lake Fairlee, thus preventing Eurasian Milfoil to hitchhike on these boats to another body of water.
- 11 boats, which had not been washed after being on another body of water, entered Lake Fairlee. In reality, this number could be higher, since boaters (through our education and other lake’s programs) know it is preferable to say their boat has been washed.
- The “unwashed boats” came from other bodies of water that have known invasive species (ie., 6 from lake Morey, 2 from the CT. River, 1 from Mascoma Lake).
- The majority of boats coming to Lake Fairlee that were last on other bodies of water came from either Lake Morey (27 boats) or the CT River (31 boats).
- 5 boats came to Lake Fairlee after being on Lake Champlain where they have more invasive species than Eurasian Milfoil.
- 4 boats came from Hall’s Pond in Newbury, VT where variable-leaf milfoil has been discovered recently.
- The boaters who were most interested in our Greeter Program came from Lake Champlain, the Androscoggin River in Maine, the Bay of Fundy (!), Groton Pond, and Harvey Lake. All of these boaters were keenly aware of the issue of invasive species and came from lakes or rivers where there are already strong prevention programs at work, and/or they have state laws mandating the washing of boats.
Training for Boating Counselors
The Lake Fairlee Greeter Program extended its spread prevention awareness this summer to the 5 summer camps on the lake. A workshop was coordinated with Leslie Matthews of the DEC at the beginning of the summer. Boating counselors from two of the camps attended the workshop, listened to the presentation and received handouts to bring back to the camps to “spread the word” to their camp community. A folder of handouts was personally delivered to the three camps which were unable to send counselors to the workshop explaining the importance and relevance of spread prevention in their boat departments. Efforts will continue next summer to more fully engage these three camps.
Overall, the board feels that the greeter program makes an impact each summer. In a perfect world we would have a greeter at the launch daily, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, delivering a powerfully cogent message to instill a “wash before you float” ethic within each boater. More importantly perhaps, we would have a wash station nearby and state sanctions imposed on boaters to enforce following such an ethic.