Eagle Scout project still tied up in court 9/25/08

Proposed dock intended to serve community

Sept. 25, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Summer has come and gone, another season of waiting for a Williston teen whose Eagle Scout project, a dock on Lake Iroquois, is stalled amid neighborhood opposition.

File photo
Boy Scout Jeffrey Dumas stands near Lake Iroquois last year. The teen has been trying to build a dock on the lake, but the proposal has stalled during an appeal process.

Jeffrey Dumas proposed the dock to fulfill a requirement for Eagle Scout, Boy Scouting’s highest rank. But residents who live near the lake are against the idea, saying it will bring more boats to the already overcrowded lake and spread invasive aquatic life.

Now, months after the dock received state approval, the proposal remains tied up in the appeal process. Under Boy Scout rules, Dumas must complete Eagle Scout requirements before he turns 18 in April, well before the next boating season begins.

Dumas did not return telephone messages left at his home and his school. But Diane Dumas said her son is now doing other work to earn his Eagle rank, although he’d still like to complete the dock after spending so much time on the project.

“It hopefully will happen soon,” she said.

Meanwhile, absent a “magic wand” Dumas said her son will continue to wait.

Jeffrey Dumas has put more than a 100 hours into the project, his mother said. He spent months researching the dock, raising funds and attending meetings before the permit application was filed.

As planned, the dock would be located adjacent to the public boat launch on the northwestern side of the lake. It would be 50 feet long and have wheels so it could be removed when the boating season ends each year.

The dock was intended to ease access for those with age or physical limitations. Boaters must now launch from a ramp and then climb over the side after their boat is in the water.

But neighboring property owners are urging the state to deny a permit for the project.

Dozens turned out for a January meeting on the proposal. Opponents argued that it would attract more boat traffic and thus increase the chances of a collision on the small lake. They also asserted that the lake was already infested with milfoil and warned that more boaters could bring in other invasive aquatic species.

Supporters complained that the neighbors wanted to turn the lake into their own private recreation area. Some noted that not everyone was fortunate enough to own lakefront property.

In March, the state Department of Environmental Conservation granted the permit. The Lake Iroquois Association, a nonprofit group that includes residents who own property on or around the lake, then appealed in Vermont Environmental Court.

Roger Crouse, president of the association, said the appeal questions whether the state followed its own rules and procedures when issuing the permit. The appeal also questions the dock’s effect on wildlife, water quality and boat navigation and asks if there is no feasible alternative.

Despite the opposition, Crouse reiterated his and other residents’ previous expression of support for Boy Scouting in general and Dumas in particular.

“Poor Jeff Dumas,” he said. “He had very good intentions in trying to receive his Eagle badge. Personally, I feel sad to have him waiting while all that crap goes on in court.”

The appeal was still pending before the Environmental Court as of Tuesday afternoon.

Lake Iroquois Association members had urged Dumas to undertake an alternative project, such as a check-in station where volunteers could ensure boats do not have invasive aquatic life clinging to their hulls.

Over the summer, the association did open such a facility and took other steps to protect water quality and ensure boater safety, Crouse said. Channel markers and speed limit signs have been installed, and weevils were introduced to control invasive plants.

William McSalis is the scoutmaster for Williston Troop 692, according to the Web site for the Green Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America. McSalis did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Diane Dumas said her son is working on another project to complete Eagle requirements before he turns 18. She declined to be more specific.

She said she is not angry or resentful about the opposition and neither is her son.

“There’s nothing to be done about that now,” she said. “So he’s mature enough to push forward with a project that he thinks will benefit the general public.”

She and her husband, Steve, have remained circumspect throughout the process, deflecting questions about their views on the issue and framing the controversy in terms of their son’s future. The latest interview was no different.

“It’s a learning process,” she said. “He’s gained so much knowledge that he’ll use the rest of his life.”