By Katy Savage
The construction of a proposed hut on Silver Lake in Leicester has drawn unexpected controversy from the public.
A number of residents attended a public information meeting on Wednesday, June 8. One described the lake as an “oasis of solitude” and many had concerns about development.
Don Brush, a neighbor to the proposed hut, said the structure doesn’t belong on Silver Lake. “It’s not a developed piece of property,” he said. “Once you start down the road, you can’t go back.”
Brush said the lake has become overused in recent years and urged the hut to be moved elsewhere.“We have a jewel,” Brush said. “It’s close to my heart.”
Linda Andrews, another resident, said she was concerned about the sound of construction and the environmental impact the hut would cause.
“Do we want a party house at Silver Lake with noise that will disturb the wildlife?” Andrews said.
RJ Thompson, the executive director of the Vermont Huts Association, said he was surprised about the amount of concern.
“We hadn’t experienced this before,” Thompson said in an interview after the meeting. “I couldn’t tell you why there was such a vocal force that attended that meeting.”
The proposed 16-foot by 32-foot hut would be insulated, with enough bunks to sleep 10. There would not be plumbing, but there would be propane-fueled cooking and heating. It would cost campers $65 to $165 per night to rent the hut, depending on the season and the weekend. The hut would generate an annual revenue of $26,933, bringing $14,000 in estimated profit to the Moosalamoo Association and the Vermont Huts Association.
This would be the Vermont Huts Association’s 12th hut in the state. A hut in Manchester is currently breaking ground.
Thompson said the organization will regroup and review the public comments about Silver Lake. “I didn’t personally hear anything that really swayed my opinion on the Silver Lake hut being the ideal location,” he said.
Thompson elaborated, saying Silver Lake is an ideal site because there is infrastructure in place that would make it relatively easy to construct the hut.
The location is a recreational area that provides access to cross-country skiing, fishing, hiking and paddling. Thompson said the hut would be located in the woods, hidden from view of Silver Lake.
“We’re not trying to ruin a beautiful view for people on the water,” he said.
Thompson also shut down public concern that there would be roads or trails constructed for the hut. “The public cannot drive to the hut,” he said. “They’ll have to bike in or hike in just like any other hiker using Silver Lake campground.”
Public comments can be submitted to the U.S. Forest Service until July 11. The hut could be open as soon as 2023.
Chris Mattrick, the Green Mountain National Forest ranger for the Rochester district, will decide at the end of the public comment hearing period about how to move forward.
“We’re going to look at all comments before making a decision,” Mattrick told the crowd at the meeting.