Summerfest Fishing Derby promotes conservation

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Wed., Jul. 10, 2013
Grandpa and Tyler Cromwell of Stafford and Vernon caught a few perch and sunfish at the Summerfest Fishing Derby. Photos by Annie Gentile.
Grandpa and Tyler Cromwell of Stafford and Vernon caught a few perch and sunfish at the Summerfest Fishing Derby. Photos by Annie Gentile.

The Stafford Conservation Commission hosts several regular events each year, but its annual fishing derby is certainly a local favorites. The free derby was held at Dennis Pond on Ice House Road on Saturday, July 6, for children up to the age of 12, with prizes awarded for the first fish caught, the largest fish caught, and the smallest fish caught. All participants also received a gift certificate from a local ice cream shop.

Former commission member and continuing volunteer Linda Mester and her husband Bill Mester said the derby is put on largely to get people outside and make them aware of the variety of town-owned conservation land that is available for residents to enjoy.

“Fourteen kids signed up this time,” said Conservation Commission Chair Ingrid Aarrestad. “We’ve had as many as 50 and as little as five in past years,” she said. Aarrestad said the derby used to be held at the duck pond in Hyde Park when the annual Summerfest celebration was held in the park, but it has since been moved to Dennis Pond, in part to show the public some of the improvements the Conservation Commission has made to Dennis Pond. This includes working with the Parks Department to repair the storage building on the property, planting raspberry and blueberry bushes, and maintaining the donated gazebo.

Tyler Cromwell, of Vernon, came to the pond with his grandfather, who he spends summers with in Stafford. “[Tyler] loves to fish and if he could, he’d either fish 24/7 or play video games 24/7. I figured this is better,” Tyler’s grandfather said. Tyler had some good luck at the derby, catching several perch and sunfish.

Serenity Goodell, of Ashford, was fishing nearby with her father. Asked if she caught anything that morning, her father, Mike, said she hooked onto a tree a couple of minutes earlier. Not to be outdone, Serenity said she might have caught something had “someone” not gotten lost on the way to the park. No matter - father and daughter had a good time, so it was well worth the trip.

Besides creating a fun day for fishing enthusiasts, Linda Mester said the annual fishing derby also helps the Conservation Commission figure out what kinds of fish make their home in Dennis Pond. This year she said they saw samples of perch, pickerel, pumpkin-seeds, bass and sunfish.

Aarrestad said the Stafford Conservation Commission is an advisory group and does not have any legal or regulating authority in town, but that only frees the group up to take on whatever pet projects its members might be interested in. This has included advocated for open space and preservation, doing plantings on town-owned properties, and creating and maintaining hiking trails on town-owned properties. Additionally, one year the Conservation Commission took to the streets, affixing stickers on storm drains around the borough to discourage illegal dumping. “It’s been a big effort for us the last few years between snowstorms and hurricanes cleaning up all the blow-downs on our trails,” added Aarrestad.

The Conservation Commission currently has vacancies and welcomes new members. Interested residents are encouraged to attend a meeting, held at 6:30 p.m. on third Wednesdays of the month at Town Hall, and, should they wish to join the commission, to send a request to the selectmen’s office to be appointed.

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