Lakeville and East Freetown Massachusetts
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Citizens rose up to protect the state's lakes and ponds

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 invasive weeds.
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 Assawompsett Pond.
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!

Bonnie Howland
Mrs. Howland of East Freetown is the wife of state Rep. Mark A. Howland.

This story appeared on Page A8 of The Standard-Times on August 14, 2004.

Citizens rose up to protect the state's lakes and ponds