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Candlewood Lake Turns 83: A Time to Celebrate, Not

A letter from local lake advocate Jim McAlister on Candlewood's upcoming anniversary.

Birthdays are typically joyous occasions — times of reflection, celebration, and hope. Friends and family descend to offer congratulations, cheer the milestone, and extend well wishes. And so it was three years ago when Candlewood Lake marked its 80th birthday.

The community joined to celebrate its rich past, reflect on the Lake’s health, consider additional protective measures, and share hopes for its future. Noted local poet Alfred Colo offered a birthday tribute to the Lake which ended in sober conclusion, “Lest we attend its wake, We must befriend our Lake...” 

Back then, the Lake’s challenges were manageable, the outlook positive, and there was cheer aplenty.

This Friday, Sept. 28, 83 candles will flicker on the occasion, but with heart-felt concern rather than celebration being the order of the day. Eurasian milfoil blankets much of the shallows, crowding out local plant species, causing an ecological blight of Candlewood’s waters while strangling navigation and swimming. With continuing development within the Watershed and insufficient sensitivity for our environment’s vulnerability, stormwater pollution poses further threats as fertilizers, chemicals and debris enter. And poised just outside Candlewood’s gates, bi-valve barbarians known as zebra mussels threaten to invade, risking further havoc and irreparable harm to the Lake’s health and ecology. Inevitably, other invasive species will try to hitchhike through the gauntlet and will likely succeed… if attempted under today’s welcoming conditions.

These are challenging and very concerning times indeed. Momentum is with the marauders. Invasive species are becoming pervasive… and understandably so. There is no regional czar or strategic defense plan, much less an offense version.

Parties charged with the Lake’s welfare are stretched and strained. Dedicated human and financial resources are slim; there is no invasive species defense fund. State agency bias is towards open lake access despite the inherent and uncontrolled risks. Our perimeter defenses are not. Insufficient manpower leaves our boat ramps unmanned so essential inspections and cautions do not occur for extended periods. There is no provision for decontaminating vessels. Localized breeding grounds of zebra mussels have not been neutralized. Needed legislative and regulatory measures are woefully inadequate. Multi-media educational programs and ongoing reinforcement are less than visible.

Bottom-line: despite noble efforts, we seem to be placing faith on ‘a wing and a prayer’ and the odds are clearly on the side of the aggressors.

Importantly, those with the most at stake — our Lake-area community residents and users — while clearly annoyed by the milfoil, otherwise seem oblivious and disengaged as these life-changing risks mount around us. This is understandable since we all have come to expect that the Lake is here for our pleasure and will somehow dispel all villains and care for itself. Unfortunately the handwriting is clear: it can’t and without our thoughtful intervention, it won’t.

If we are indeed to celebrate future birthdays and avoid attending our Lake’s ‘wake,’ it’s time to cultivate a Lake-sensitive ethic, assume responsibility for our Lake’s welfare, volunteer our time and funds, and muster the will to protect and preserve this ‘Crown Jewel’ in our midst. Otherwise the outlook is clear and the Lake’s destiny is preordained. This, we cannot allow to happen for our generation or those to follow. Please join me in wishing Candlewood Lake the best on this its 83rd birthday, and then committing to help make it happen.

Jim McAlister
Candlewood Watershed Initiative
Steven DeVaux September 27, 2012 at 11:19 AM
100 years ago it wasn't a lake and 100 years from now it might not be either. Check the study done on the life span of the damn up in New Milford used to form this private enterprise body of water. It will never be a potable water source due to PCB's just as Lakes Lillanoah, Zoar and Housatonic can't be. Candlewood fills up be water being pumped up, not naturally through rainfall.

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