The Battle on Great Hosmer Pond

Scullers on Great Hosmer Pond. Photo: visittheusa.com

24 August 2016

The other day, Göran R Buckhorn came across a copy of the independent Seven Days, a Vermont weekly newspaper. In the summer issue was an article about Craftsbury Outdoor Center (COC), famous for its sculling camps, which have been organised on Great Hosmer Pond for slightly more than four decades. But the COC has run into trouble, Göran reports:

One of America’s most famous sculling camps, Craftsbury Outdoor Center (COC) has been thrown into a dispute with its neighbours around Great Hosmer Pond, where COC holds its activities, the brilliant weekly Seven Days reports in the article “Rowing Pains” (on the web as “Water Rights: Scullers vs. Motor Boats in Craftsbury”) from the 29 June-6 July issue of the newspaper.

COC – aka Craftsbury Sculling Center – was founded in 1976 by Janet and Russell Spring in Craftsbury Common, Vermont. In 2008, the camp was bought by Dick Dreissigacker (who founded Concept2 with his brother Pete) and his wife Judy Geer – both being rowing Olympians. Dreissigacker and Geer are running COC as a nonprofit organisation and it has become a great business success. Now in its 41st year, the camp has between 800 and 1,000 scullers (and 45 to 50 visiting coaches) taking classes per year. This is also the reason COC has clashed with the neighbours around the 2.25-mile long, but not so wide, Great Hosmer Pond. The lake has proved to be ideal for sculling and rowing, as the surrounding hills prevent the wind from coming crashing down, keeping the surface of the water calm all summer long.

SevenDays-coverAccording to the Seven Days article, written by the newspaper’s Ken Picard, many of the neighbours claim that COC is monopolizing Great Hosmer Pond, not leaving room for people to go fishing, motor boating and waterskiing (!) on the lake. The article states:

Vermont boating laws require motorized vessels to minimize their wake and maintain a distance of at least 200 feet when passing a non-motorized craft. Because of Great Hosmer Pond’s unique shape, that regulation presents a significant – if not insurmountable – challenge for motorboats and sculls occupying the same waters.

At certain spots, the narrow Great Hosmer Pond is not even 200 feet wide. While COC would like to coexist with their neighbours, some voices raised in the article from the COC’s antagonists think this is impossible.

Frictions between COC and its neighbours around the lake have been going on for quite some time, but the conflict comes and goes; right now it seems to be at an all-time high.

The tension between COC and their neighbours reached a breaking point at last year’s Labor Day weekend, the newspaper mentions, when COC made an announcement that the center was holding a three-day sculling camp during that holiday weekend. Seven Days writes:

When neighbors caught wind of the plan, many were incensed. In protest, scores of them took to the water that weekend in kayaks, canoes, paddleboats, party barges and fishing launches and just hung out. With so many other boats on the water, it was impossible for scullers to row. The COC was forced to cancel its weekend sculling camp and refund its campers.

This coming Labor Day weekend, COC is not holding a sculling camp, according to the article in the paper.

Of course, not all neighboors are against COC’s activities on the lake. Andrew Tripp thinks that the hullabaloo is ‘a tempest in a teapot’ and sees COC’s camps as a big boost for the community’s economy. He tells Seven Days, ‘Frankly, I like sitting on my dock and watching world-class rowers go by. It’s a lot of fun’.

There seems to be no resolution of the conflict in sight.

Read Ken Picard’s whole article in Seven Days here.

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