Treasure Island Still Short on Cash

  • Aidan Salisbury, 8, of East Thetford, runs to the end of Treasure Island to retrieve his sandals at the end of the day of camp in West Fairlee, Vt.,, on July 15, 2013. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, October 05, 2017

Thetford — Officials in Thetford say revenue from the town-owned Treasure Island dipped by more than $9,000 this past summer, but they’re hopeful that will improve next year.

Selectboard Chairman Stuart Rogers said “everything ran well” at the park on Lake Fairlee this year, with rainy weather posing the biggest challenge to attendance. The Selectboard hired town resident Marty Betts Moses as the park’s part-time manager this year, he said and also was able to accomplish several projects.

The park saw more than 3,000 attendees this season, according to an update Moses gave to the Selectboard on Sept. 18. Revenue totaled $24,381, about $5,618 less than the $30,000 that was budgeted. Last year, the town received $33,489 from Treasure Island revenue and $28,875 in 2015, according to the town report.

Treasure Island is in West Fairlee but is owned by Thetford.

Messages and emails left on Tuesday for Moses, who also is the Selectboard’s administrative assistant, were not returned. Town policy states that all communications to media are the responsibility of Rogers, the Selectboard’s chairman.

The town’s management of Treasure Island has been an issue of contention for some who would like to see more resources devoted to the park.

Last year, a group of residents from Thetford and Fairlee formed the nonprofit Friends of Treasure Island with the hopes of raising volunteers and creating a long-term maintenance and management plan

However, the group wasn’t able to garner full support from the Selectboard, and decided to step down after being told it would have to acquire its own insurance to manage the property.

The group doesn’t have any plans to reconvene, according to Alexis Jetter, a founding member of Friends of Treasure Island. Still, she said, that doesn’t mean all’s well at the park.

Jetter praised Moses’ efforts this year, saying the manager did “a really good job with far too few resources.”

“A good chunk of the times I was there this summer there was no lifeguard on duty,” Jetter said, adding that could have contributed to low attendance. The park itself also would benefit from Moses taking over full-time, she said.

Rogers said discussions about Treasure Island’s future aren’t over. Moses is expected to address potential improvements as the Selectboard drafts next year’s budget, he said.

“Then we will cross our fingers and hope that next summer’s weather cooperates too,” Rogers said.

Meanwhile, local and federal officials still would like to know who attempted to close the outhouses at Treasure Island before its summer opening, or why anyone would want to.

During a walk-through of the beach this spring, officials came across an unusual find: the outhouses on the island, were padlocked and an accompanying sign ordered them “permanently closed to the public due to affect on water quality.”

The sign had markings of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to Rogers, and pointed to a nonexistent regulation.

“We had never heard anything of it,” Rogers said on Tuesday, adding no state or federal officials had previously contacted the town with problems.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife officials were then contacted, and the case was handed off to J. Eddie Edwards, a federal wildlife officer who works in the Twin States. He met with Rogers and Thetford Police Chief Michael Evans early this summer to seize the sign.

“That’s a unique incident,” Edwards said on Tuesday. “I haven’t seen anything like that in the Northeast.”

The sign likely was made with a commercial printer to look as though it were official, he said, adding that forging a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service logo is illegal. Edwards said he hasn’t been able to determine who is responsible, though.

“When an incident like that, it was just the one time and the sign was taken down,” he said. “It’s anyone’s guess what happened there and how they got the logo.

But soon after the sign was gone, the town received an email from someone claiming to be from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“It is imperative that the toilets be removed from service and permanently closed as per the regulation cited,” the email said. “Pit toilets are no longer allowed on banks of open waterways of lakes (within 200 feet of water) in the State of Vermont due to water quality effects.”

The outhouses at Treasure Island are not pit toilets, Rogers said, and actually have a concrete tank that is pumped yearly. The email was sent from a .org account, he noted, rather than a .gov.

The Selectboard sent the email to investigators and replied to the email writer with an invite to visit the site, but never received a response, according to Rogers.

“The challenging part is that we went through reworking a management system and keeping things working (at Treasure Island)” he said. Yet “it’s difficult when we’re being sabotaged along the way.”

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.