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By Emily Finnegan, Caledonia County Natural Resources Conservation District
Phone: (802-424-3149), Email:

Mark Milazzo’s determination to protect the clean water of Peacham Pond, where he owns shoreland property, earned him recognition this summer. Mark’s property received top marks in a Lake Wise Evaluation, securing him a Lake Wise Award which is now proudly displayed at the top of his driveway. A Lake Wise Evaluation is a voluntary property assessment that teaches lakeshore property owners how to make their property as lake friendly as possible. Lake Wise evaluators spend up to an hour and a half assessing each property and providing advice in four categories – shorefront, recreation area, driveway, and structures and septic. If the property passes in all four categories, it receives the Lake Wise Award sign. “I chose to get my property evaluated to know that my development of fragile shoreland property was done responsibly and would have the least impact on the lake, a lake that I want many generations after me to enjoy,” says Mark.

The goal of the Lake Wise Program, a Vermont Agency of Natural Resources initiative that is often carried out by local conservation districts and watershed groups, is to create a “new normal,” a new culture of lakeshore landscaping that is proven to help protect lakes. Martha Winston, the President of the Peacham Pond Association and tireless advocate for the Pond, has always wanted to work with the Lake Wise Program. When she found out that Emily Finnegan, District Manager of the Caledonia County Natural Resources Conservation District was able to do a few Lake Wise evaluations on Peacham Pond, Martha reached out right away. “Most pond owners want to do what is best for their property and also best for the health of the pond. Many don’t recognize that some common activities are detrimental,” Martha says. Emily Finnegan adds, “Peacham Pond is a hidden gem, tucked away in the southeast corner of Caledonia County. While the Lake Wise Program can certainly help reverse worrying clean water trends in our lakes and ponds, it is also an important tool to help protect lakes and ponds with excellent water quality, like Peacham Pond. The Caledonia County Natural Resources Conservation District is excited to work with the Peacham Pond community to help protect a resource that many Vermonters enjoy.”

According to data gathered by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, the nutrient trends in Peacham Pond are classified as “stable.” The shoreland condition, however, is rated as “fair.” That score is based on the intensity and amount of development around a lake. As lakeshores are disturbed, the shallow water habitat next to the shore and water quality can suffer. Over time, if shoreland conditions don’t improve, it is possible that nutrient trends will rise. The Lake Wise Program helps educate shoreland property owners on how to lighten their development footprint on the lake. Lake Wise is a voluntary program, and the recommendations are suggested, not mandated. Common recommendations include rain gardens, water bars, establishing no-mow zones, planting lakeshore vegetation, and establishing pathways.

For her part, Martha Winston is convinced that, “as properties at Peacham Pond are recognized with the Lake Wise Award, we predict they will become models for neighbors to follow.” Mark, too, hopes that others will see his award and wonder how they can make improvements to their properties. “I like that my lakeshore land retains much of its natural characteristics, and I hope others on Peacham Pond become interested in the Lake Wise Program goal.”

If you are interested in learning how to make your property on Peacham Pond more lake friendly, contact Martha Winston, President of the Peacham Pond Association at If you live on a different Vermont lake or pond and are interested in the resources available for Lake Wise, please contact Alison Marchione, Lake Shoreland Coordinator at the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation at