Monmouth selectmen vote to continue boat ramp closure

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WINTHROP — People who want to put boats into Annabessacook Lake will need to use the ramp at a Winthrop campground for the foreseeable future, after the rampant growth of an invasive water plant led to closing a ramp in neighboring Monmouth this month. 

On Wednesday night, Monmouth selectmen voted to keep the ramp on Waugan Road, at the southwest corner of Annabessacook Lake, closed.

Area residents have said they’re concerned boat traffic through the southwest corner of the lake could spread milfoil to other areas.

Monmouth selectmen specifically voted to close the Waugan Road launch for as long as boaters have an alternate way to drop their watercraft into the lake, according to Town Manager Curtis Lunt. They made that decision after holding a public hearing Aug. 22 that drew about 85 people. Just one person spoke against the proposed closure, Lunt said.

For now, the alternative is Augusta West Kampground in Winthrop, which is at 138 Holmes Brook Lane. The owners of that business, Kale and Brittany Malmsten, have agreed to let the public use a boat launch on their premises.

The campground is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and has about a dozen parking spaces for boat trailers. The Malmstens agreed to let the public use the launch in part because Annabessacook Lake doesn’t get the same level of traffic as places such as Cobbosee and Maranacook lakes. So far, just a few people have been using the launch each weekday and up to a dozen people have been using the launch on weekends. 

“It’s been pretty good so far,” Kale Malmstem said. “No one has caused a problem. People are fairly nice. We enjoy people coming in. Overall it’s been a good experience.” 

The campground will close for the year Oct. 15, at which point the launch will be open 24 hours, he added. 

At the same time, lakefront property owners have been pushing the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to construct a new, public boat ramp. 

That could happen in the next two years, according to Kent Ackley, a legislator from Monmouth who runs a retreat on an island in the lake and is vice president of the Annabessacook Lake Improvement Association, one of several groups focused on its protection.

Those groups have been working with state officials to contain the spread of milfoil using a mix of approaches, including sending divers to remove it from the lake bottom and posting warning signs to steer boaters away from infestations.

Variable leaf water milfoil is a resilient plant that grows in thick, underwater forests and can spread when just a small fragment floats to a new area. It can crowd out native species and has been associated with reduced lakefront property values. 

Officials say they’re not sure the milfoil can be eradicated totally, but they hope to contain the spread by removing the invasive plant through regular diving operations. They think it will take at least a couple of years to get rid of the infestation. 

The fisheries department “is very active in searching for another (boat launch) location, and the hope would be that we would have a suitable site operational by the end of 2019,” Ackley said. “That site would be in a location where milfoil is not likely to take root.” 

Despite the efforts of volunteers who inspect boats going into the lakes around Kennebec County, new infestations of milfoil and another species have been discovered in western Kennebec County this summer.

In the past two months, two invasive species, Eurasian water milfoil and European frogbit, were found in Cobbosee Lake

Also, Cobbossee Watershed District workers recently discovered variable leaf water milfoil growing in Wilson Stream, which connects Annabessacook Lake to Wilson Pond in North Monmouth, according to Ackley. 

Now that the Waugan Road ramp is closed, the lake groups also hope to convince the state to restrict boat access to areas infested with milfoil, Ackley said.

WINTHROP — People who want to put boats into Annabessacook Lake will need to use the ramp at a Winthrop campground for the foreseeable future, after the rampant growth of an invasive water plant led to the closure a different ramp in the neighboring town of Monmouth. 

On Wednesday night, Monmouth selectmen voted to continue the closure of a boat ramp on Waugan Road, at the southwest corner of Annabessacook Lake, after first voting in early August to close the ramp temporarily.

Monmouth officials decided to shutter that ramp at the urging of area residents who fear the spread of variable leaf water milfoil, an invasive plant that has overrun the area near the Waugan Road ramp. A vocal group of area residents has said they’re concerned boat traffic through the southwest corner of the lake could spread milfoil to other areas.

The Monmouth Board of Selectmen specifically voted to close the Waugan Road launch for as long as boaters have an alternate way to drop their watercraft into the lake, according to Town Manager Curtis Lunt. They made that decision after holding a public hearing Aug. 22 that drew about 85 people. Just one person spoke against the proposed closure, Lunt said.

For now, the alternative is Augusta West Kampground in Winthrop, which is at 138 Holmes Brook Lane. The owners of that business, Kale and Brittany Malmsten, have agreed to let the public use a boat launch on their premises.

The campground is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and has about a dozen parking spaces for boat trailers. The Malmstens agreed to let the public use the launch in part because Annabessacook Lake doesn’t get the same level of traffic as places such as Cobbosee and Maranacook lakes. So far, just a handful of people have been using the launch each weekday and up to a dozen people have been using the launch on weekends. 

“It’s been pretty good so far,” Kale Malmstem said. “No one has caused a problem. People are fairly nice. We enjoy people coming in. Overall it’s been a good experience.” 

The campground will close for the year on Oct. 15, at which point the launch will be open 24 hours, he added. 

At the same time, lakefront property owners have been pushing the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to construct a new, public boat ramp. 

That could happen in the next two years, according to Kent Ackley, a legislator from Monmouth who runs a retreat on an island in the lake and is vice president of the Annabessacook Lake Improvement Association, one of several groups focused on its protection.

Those groups have been working with state officials to contain the spread of milfoil using a mix of approaches, including sending divers to remove it from the lake bottom and posting warning signs to steer boaters away from infestations.

Variable leaf water milfoil is a resilient plant that grows in thick, underwater forests and can spread when just a small fragment floats to a new area. It can crowd out native species and has been associated with reduced lakefront property values. 

Officials say they’re not sure the milfoil can be eradicated totally, but they hope to contain the spread by removing the invasive plant through regular diving operations. They think it will take at least a couple of years to get rid of the infestation. 

The fisheries department “is very active in searching for another (boat launch) location, and the hope would be that we would have a suitable site operational by the end of 2019,” Ackley said. “That site would be in a location where milfoil is not likely to take root.” 

Despite the efforts of volunteers who inspect boats going into the lakes around Kennebec County, new infestations of milfoil and another species have been discovered in western Kennebec County this summer, to the dismay of those who care about the water quality. 

In the last two months, two invasive species, Eurasian water milfoil and European frogbit, both were found in Cobbosee Lake

Also, Cobbossee Watershed District workers recently have discovered variable leaf water milfoil growing in Wilson Stream, which connects Annabessacook Lake to Wilson Pond in North Monmouth, according to Ackley. 

Now that the Waugan Road ramp is closed, the lake groups also hope to convince the state to restrict boat access to areas infested with milfoil, Ackley said.

Annabessacook Lake and the boat launch at Augusta West Kampground in Winthrop are shown Wednesday. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)

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