Swan in the Weeds
After attending a
meeting of the Long Pond Association this past
week, I walked away with the feeling of accomplishment.
My husband, state Rep. Mark A. Howland, had spearheaded
a bill to rid our beautiful ponds and lakes of
For years, residents of Freetown and Lakeville
have been perplexed over what to do with the invasion
of these weeds in our beautiful Long Pond and
Just take a ride on Snipatuit Road in Rochester,
where there used to be a beautiful small pond.
Now there are weeds and green slime, and sometimes
swans still trying to swim on it. It is a heartbreaking
vista. New Hampshire and Maine had programs to
alleviate their weed problems, and have been very
successful. Someone had to address this problem
for recreational boats, fishermen and swimmers'
safety, and it became a focus for my husband's
attention as the state representative in a district
with some of the largest natural bodies of water
in the state.
This is the water system for New Bedford and Taunton.
Many officials in the cities and towns heard complaint
after complaint about the weeds. It is a huge
problem, and no one knew where or how to start
to fix the problem. Mainly, there was no money
to fix the problem.
The governor had vetoed the bill, assuming there
is no state agency to manage this program, but
in actuality there is a state agency called the
Lakes and Ponds Program that does deal with invasive
weeds with just enough money in its budget to
pass out information about the problem.
Mark and his aide, Anne Grant, had a map of all
the state representatives and the ponds in their
districts and contacted each conservation commission
to find out if they had weed problems. It was
alarming to discover that the problem we are having
in Long Pond with more than 100 acres of infestation,
is so common everywhere in Massachusetts. Mark
reached out to every state representative and
state senator to make them aware of the problem.
While working on this problem, Mark had received
word that our environmental police were being
severely affected by budget cuts. Some of the
funds from the invasive weeds will go to enforcement
of out-of-state boaters to make sure our weeds
and their weeds are not intermingled and spread
in Massachusetts. Boaters will have to display
a $5 invasive-weed sticker on their boats to enjoy
our lakes and ponds.
Nancy Yeatts, the conservation commissioner in
Lakeville who started a letter writing campaign
to the Committee on Natural Resources, had more
than 1,000 people who live near SouthCoast ponds
writing for the bill's passage, which in turn
spawned a letter writing campaign by Carol Hildreth,
president of the Lakes and Ponds Congress for
Massachusetts. The state committee in charge of
reviewing the legislation received more than 5,000
letters. This was the citizens' involvement in
the democratic process at its best.
When the vote was taken July 22, it was a unanimous
155-0 in the House and 35-3 in the Senate. Thanks
to state Sen. Joan M. Menard with Freetown and
Lakeville in her district, along with Sen. Mark
C.W. Montigny in New Bedford and others, ultimately,
the Senate agreed that this was a problem to tackle.
This all started in 1993 when the Long Pond Committee
noticed weeds in our lake, worked very hard to
make people aware and asked Mark for his help.
He, in turn, asked the Legislature for their help.
The residents all over Southeastern Massachusetts
who have worked on this problem can be proud of
themselves for speaking out. Working together,
they have helped the people who live near and
use Long Pond in Freetown and Lakeville, Assawompsett
Pond in Lakeville and Middleboro, Gurney Pond
in Sassaquin, and Massasoit Pond in East Taunton.
Great work! Job well done!
Mrs. Howland of East Freetown is the wife of state
Rep. Mark A. Howland.
story appeared on Page A8 of The Standard-Times
on August 14, 2004.