The controversy concerning proposed trails at Treasure Island has escalated on the listserv. Whether or not the trails are appropriate is one question, but another question rests in the extent to which the state has jurisdiction over permitting.
Misha Cetner, the Lake and Shoreland Permit Analyst for the Wetlands Program at the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, explained over email:
Shoreland Protection has jurisdiction over the creation of impervious surface and cleared area within 250 feet from the water. "Cleared area" means an area where existing vegetative cover, soil, tree canopy, or duff is permanently removed or altered. … However, given how close the proposed trail is to the water, I’m not entirely sure this would be something that could be permitted.
While the Selectboard is hoping to build these trails in early July, Misha said it’s unlikely. “It’s not feasible for a Shoreland permit to be issued by early July, as those permits include a 30-day public notice period.”
Misha also noted that, “The northern end of the proposed trail area is a Class II wetland, and the creation of a trail in a wetland would likely be jurisdictional to the Wetlands Program as well.” In other words, the project could require two separate permits.
“As Misha noted, there are confirmed Class II wetlands on the north portion of property,” wrote Julie Follensbee, District Wetlands Ecologist with the same Wetlands Program as Misha. Julie explained:
Trails in wetlands or their 50-foot buffers are evaluated much in the same way as for Shorelands, and a permit is likely to be required for the establishment of a new trail in wetlands or buffer zone….Essentially, even a primitive walking trail requiring soil or vegetation removal will trigger a wetland permit. Wetland permits cannot be reviewed and permitted in under a month. Nor can permits be issued for avoidable impacts.
However, there are more wetlands than just the Class 2 wetlands at the northern end of the property. Julie visited Treasure Island in 2020 before the Treasure Island Exploratory Committee was formed and took preliminary soil samples. It was Julie’s visit, along with the other restrictions imposed on the property by the U.S. Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, that inspired the formation of a committee tasked to develop options for the property in light of the property’s extensive limitations.
At the time, and based on extant wetland vegetation and a high water table, Julie recommended the Town pursue a formal wetland delineation and provided a list of consultants. The Town did not move forward at the time, opting instead to wait for the development of a clear Master Plan, which then-Recreation Director Nathan Maxwell had been working on.
“I’ve sketched in blue approximately where I observed wetlands during a 2020 site visit…This is not an accurate boundary, nor does it show the regulated 50-foot buffer zone.”
The proposed northern trail loop passes through the undelineated wetlands. Vegetation is thick, and the ground is soggy to the step. One misstep could result in wet socks.
The orange flagging marks the proposed trail, cutting through, perhaps with a boardwalk, the middle of an already small natural resource.