“Significant damage” at the West Cove beach

Visiting Lake Willoughby in the summer is a classic Northeast Kingdom experience for many. Steep cliffs, clear deep water, swimming, fishing, boating, hiking and more.  For the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation, however, Willoughby State Forest, which encompasses the South End of the lake, is an ongoing struggle. Last week, department staff discovered “significant damage” at the West Cove beach, locally famous for clothing-optional swimming.  According to the report, vandals cut ropes and removed half of the cedar posts and signs being used to delineate a wetland protection and shoreline restoration area. The posts were partially burned in an illegal open fire pit and discovered floating in the lake along with several Twisted Tea cans. The vandalism also had a significant impact on the morale of people trying to improve the site. Last week’s incident was only the latest act of vandalism at the site. Last summer in the midst of a five-week, $30,000 project to restore and maintain trails along the South Shore trail, staff planted hundreds of native trees and constructed a fence.  Many of the freshly planted trees didn’t even make it through their first weekend, as vandals dug them up and used them in their campfire. There has been frequent litter, human waste in the woods, “toilet paper flowers,” soil compaction and trail widening. This past Monday, staff found 10 illegal fire pits in the area, along with a dead fish and a bag of miscellaneous trash, bottles and cans. People don’t realize camping is illegal along the lakeshore. Regarding the acts of vandalism, there’s been no word yet on how they’ll be addressed.

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