Our Opinion: Bowl's welfare a Stockbridge responsibility

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Issues can and do become contentious in any town, but Stockbridge may be unique to the Berkshires in the intense emotions that erupt regularly over various town topics. There is perhaps no better example than the long-running saga over what to do about about invasive weeds in the cherished Stockbridge Bowl.

A month ago, the Stockbridge Bowl Association (SBA) won a ruling in Berkshire Superior Court allowing it to go ahead with its herbicide application plan in the lake as long as the state Department of Environmental Protection approves it. The ruling negated the Conservation Commission's decision to forbid herbicide treatment of the lake.

At a meeting of the Select Board last week, Chairman Terry Flynn declared that the town should not "spend another dollar" to maintain the state-owned Bowl should the private Bowl Association go through its with its chemical treatment of Eurasian milfoil. The herbicide plan has been controversial as everyone in the community has an interest in what is best for the "Great Pond." Mr. Flynn stated the town has always wanted to help with maintenance of the bowl because "we felt that it was all our lake," but that should end, along with funding, if the Bowl Association is going to take on that sole responsibility itself.

Chairman Flynn is obviously unhappy with the SBA's decision to challenge the Conservation Commission's decision and its victory in court. However, Patrick White, who is a member of both the Bowl Association and the Conservation Commission, was correct in stating at the meeting that the idea that the Select Board "would take their marbles and go home, and not continue to find the lake" would be a "terrible mistake." The property owners presumably cannot afford to purchase their own harvester which is needed to address a weed problem in the lake which may become worse with global warming. The lake is important to the entire town and the town cannot walk away from its responsibility to protect the lake out of spite for the SBA.

The Select Board did, however, agree to a proposal by board member Roxanne McCaffrey to create a lake management task force, with Chairman Flynn joining the 3-0 unanimous vote. Ms. McCaffrey suggested that the various groups working to keep Stockbridge Bowl healthy, of which there is a large number, could unite behind the common goal of working together "instead of going in different directions." While broad representation is needed, too large a task force could become bogged down in argument. Finding the right balance will be challenging.

Stockbridge Bowl means too much to residents for the town to wash its hands of it because of unhappiness with abutting owners. The task force, whose members will be chosen this week, could accomplish what Ms. McCaffrey hopes and is well worth the attempt. Maybe it will lead to peace, harmony and the happy resolution of at least one Stockbridge dispute.

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