Lakeside homeowners, sculling camp clash over waterway use

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CRAFTSBURY, Vt. (AP) Rowing is thought of as a relatively quiet, benign sport but some owners of lakeside vacation homes say too much of it by a renowned sculling camp is hindering them from enjoying the public waterway they share.

The Craftsbury Outdoor Center has operated a rowing camp on Great Hosmer Pond in Craftsbury, Vermont, since the 1970s. The center also trains athletes from around the country and world and has added a community rowing program.

''It's too much,'' said Sarah George, Chittenden County state's attorney whose family has owned a summer home on the lake for decades. ''From our perspective, it's just gotten to this point where it's a business that's monopolizing a public body of water.''

The state has stepped in to develop rules for the lake's use that could include time restrictions on rowers. Meanwhile, tensions persist in the community.

George, who also represents a homeowners group, says dozens of sculls are on the water for more than eight hours a day on weekdays.

''It's the coaching that gets obnoxious,'' she said. ''When the coaches are yelling at the people out right in front of your camp and you're trying to read on your deck or something, it's pretty annoying.''

Homeowners also have safety concerns, she added, citing difficulty kayaking or paddleboarding while the rowing programs are running.

The center says the schedule is about seven and a half to eight hours and smaller sized groups are out at different times of day. Troy Howell, the center's managing director, added that several homeowners have operated their motor boats in violation of water rules, and he'd like to see the rules enforced.

The center has made adjustments to the schedule to appease homeowners, it says.

Among the adjustments, rowers with the center are now off the lake on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends as well as four other summer weekends. It also has no rowing from 1 to 4 p.m. on weekdays.

''I think we really have a pretty good balance right now in terms of the amount of time the lake gets used to the benefit to a big group of people,'' said Judy Geer, a center director.

But she acknowledges the changes haven't helped the relationship with neighbors.

''It seems like the more we try to make things better and take more time off the lake, it doesn't seem like it's gotten better,'' said Geer, a former Olympic rower, who said some of the scullers have gotten yelled at by homeowners.

George said the homeowners appreciate the changes, but the sculling programs appear to be growing, which puts more pressure on the lake's use.

''So that tension just gets bigger and bigger,'' she said, while the center says it's actually cut back on the sculling camps.

Friends of Hosmer Pond, a group including year-round residents, say any decision on water activities doesn't just affect the center and homeowners. Members of the community also take advantage of the lake for kayaking, fishing, and swimming. They say limiting rowing would take away dollars from the center's affordable youth summer bike and winter ski programs and impact jobs.

''The center is much more than a rowing camp. It's the heart and soul of our community,'' said Gina Campoli, who has lived in Craftsbury since the 1970s and also uses the lake. ''I've been paddling my canoe while rowing is going on and never have felt like I couldn't do that, enjoy the lake.''