Letter to the Editor, Woodstock Times, January 3, 2019
Over the last few years, I had the fortune to meet and befriend many people for whom Beaver Pond holds a special place in their hearts. What emerged was the near miracle of the conversion of so many different elements that made this pond a unique place. It is an unusual type called circumneutral bog that provides a habitat for a wide array of plant and animal species, including human. It has a century-old history from the busy summer resort in the good part of the 1900s to the private ownership of the recent. It shares overlapped interests among multiple stakeholders, including landowners, city and state governments, sportsmen’s club, users, environmental nonprofits, and scientists. Even its legal state is an interesting mix of individual ownership and land open to public use.
These multiple elements created a sense of timeless commons, increasingly rare in our society—neither completely private nor public, sustained in the fine balance of unspoken agreements and word of mouth, and most of all, in communal appreciation for this priceless gift. It was a quintessential Woodstock in a classic sense.
But all good things come to close. With the fence, private property sign, and the statement published last week from Ms. Erin Moran, the new owner of the west end of the pond, the long chapter of Beaver Pond as a beloved local commons ended.
What she has in mind for her portion of the pond is not clear. Whether her vision is a private lake reserved for the select few or a public preserve in a local land trust or municipality, Beaver Pond will never be the same. Let that be.
A group of pond lovers is exploring the possibility of improving accessibility in the back part of the pond, owned by NYC DEP and accessible to anyone with permit, available for free on their website. In this option, the pond will become more public and attract people from a wider area. Perhaps this is the unavoidable outcome of the increasing popularity of the Catskills. However, Beaver Pond has a built-in protection: lily pads.
Between the lily pads that overcrowd the surface from June to September for kayaking, and fluctuating weather that changes skating condition day to day, it is possible that the pond will remain a commons that rewards local users over visitors from far away.
Or perhaps Beaver Pond will transform to something that could be a model for other communities with similar situations—a living platform for people to share ideas and solve problems, with the passion for a lifestyle that builds community and centers around the natural environment, while improving the well-being for all.