CHESHIRE -- Officials are asking Cheshire Lake users to follow town rules on littering and burning on the ice, and are considering stepped-up patrols to stem a tide of recent violations.
"We thought we had this problem solved, but obviously we don't," Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said at a meeting this week.
She added in an interview Thursday, "We're going to try and have the police department patrol [the lake] with a four-wheeler more frequently."
Monday morning found spent boxes of fireworks and burnt up wood piles left on the lake following last weekend's ice fishing derby, and the debris remained late into the week.
A $300 fine for those who leave behind trash and burn on the lake was established by officials in 2012 and aimed to curb such practices.
Selectmen Paul Astorino also suggested stepped-up patrols in a Thursday interview.
"The lake is there for everyone to use, but it's not anyone's personal backyard, though we do our best to make them feel that way," he said.
But the Rod & Gun Club, who hosted Sunday's derby, organized a cleanup after, Astorino added. He said many non-derby individuals went out on the ice Sunday, the fireworks occurred late at night and it was "obviously not the Rod & Gun Club who caused the mess."
Ray Fisher chairs the Hoosac Lake District Prudential Committee and operates the floodgates of a nearby dam off Route 8 for the state. It was Fisher who brought the
"What happens to all this debris is it gets snowed over, forgotten about and ends up adrift come spring," Fisher said. "Then the same people who put it out there hit it in their bass boats and it comes to clog the sluice gates of [the nearby dam]. I have to get the [town] Highway Department to remove it. Many times this has happened."
Added Fisher, "It's more than aesthetics that we're worried about. It's the damage [the debris] ends up causing."
Fisher said the majority of users are conscientious, but a few constitute what he calls "the great all-American outdoor sportsmen" -- who get into their coolers early and often and may not be so scrupulous.
The Hoosac Lake District was incorporated by an act of state legislature in 1994. They worked with the state until its department of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance bought all three basins of the lake from former private owner Raymond Shea in 2000.
"The weeds were so bad [when Shea owned the lake] you could walk across it," Fisher said.
The success story of lake cleanup efforts, in which the district and town played major parts, is told by the spike in property values waterfront homeowners have enjoyed since then. As of 2013, these roughly 104 assessed properties included within the district are valued at just under $24 million.
According to a member of the Board of Assessors who wished not to be named Thursday, this represents a leap of better than half over that period. Fisher's calculation is more dramatic. He says in 1999 the figure was a mere $7 million.
The town splits the difference of a $23,000 annual weed maintenance bill with the district.
"It works very well," Fisher said. "At some point in time we'll probably ask the state to kick in, too."
To reach Phil Demers, email