Freedom—December 30, 2021—In a few days, we will begin our 19th year as a non-profit organization. It’s not a number that leaps off the page as a cause for celebration and remembrances, but it will be a notable year for us nonetheless.
We created the Alliance to keep lake property owners and long-time visitors informed about what was happening locally that could affect the lake. There was a lot, as it turned out. Much of it was alarming, and most of it never made the local papers.
Within a year, we had an audience. People were eager to hear the news, but we also learned they were willing to take the time—it’s always about time—to engage on issues and speak up.
In our years as an organization, we’ve had wins and losses like everyone else, and there’s never been a shortage of things to worry about. At the moment, the issue is the proposed gas station at the old Boyle’s Market site.
We don’t always hear about things quickly, and we heard about the gas station only after the Effingham ZBA had approved it. It made us realize how much we were taking water protections for granted.
Green Mountain Conservation Group spent years doing the heavy lifting of educating the public about our drinking water and rallying volunteers to protect it. We applauded when local voters gave a thumbs-up to water protection by making it part of zoning, and similar protections are now part of the ordinances of 109 communities in the state. All was well, we thought.
Yet here we are. In the course of a brief meeting, a single board in a single town set in motion a scenario that threatens to topple water protections we believed were sacrosanct. Sadly, several of the ZBA members who voted to override the ordinance were among those who helped secure those very same protections ten years ago.
If the ZBA’s decision is allowed to stand, it will be used as a precedent to unravel ground water protections in Freedom, Ossipee and around the watershed. As we have written elsewhere, this issue isn’t about a gas station, it’s about our water.
The question now is whether a sufficient number of people care enough about preserving existing, voter-approved water protections by taking the time—remember, it’s always about time—to speak up and tell the Effingham Planning Board it should deny the gas station site plan application when it is presented to them in the coming weeks. We’ll see.
“Never take anything for granted” is a truism that sounds trite until it hits home. In 2021, it hit home with us. Our resolution for 2022 is to keep that truism at the core of our thinking in everything we do. It’s a resolution we plan to keep.