from today's Valley News
Troublesome Beavers Win the Day in Thetford
By Kerry Trotter
Valley News Staff Writer
Thetford -- If beavers could party, there might be a few near Godfrey Road wearing lampshades about now. Town officials announced yesterday that the family of beavers once sentenced to death would be spared, as funding has been secured for a steel plate to reinforce Godfrey Road, where an aging culvert and beaver dams have combined to undermine the road surface. “I feel really good about it because there were so many citizens who worked so hard on this issue,” said resident Laura Shepard. “Everybody had a part to play and everybody played it for a good resolution.” At Monday's Selectboard meeting, it was Shepard who alerted the board that the grant awarded to the town for a new box culvert at the trouble spot could be amended to include money for a plate. Selectboard Chairman Tig Tillinghast, in contact with the same state official as Shepard, received confirmation and was given the go-ahead to buy a plate. While many logistical odds and ends remain, planning is under way and the plate should be installed soon. Monday's Selectboard meeting yielded a 3-2 vote in favor of allowing three days to explore the possibility of acquiring an inch-thick, 8-by-20-foot steel plate that would ensure safe passage over the culvert.
Many in attendance complained that three days was too little time to scrape together the money-- $2,500 to rent a plate, $3,500 to buy. Tillinghast said that within 18 hours of Monday's meeting he'd received enough pledges from townspeople to fund a rental of the plate, and now those folks can hold on to their money.“We knew we were going to pursue an increase in the grant,” Tillinghast said. “We didn't want to put it on the taxpayers.”The steel plate suggestion came courtesy of Fran Haugen, whose fix has been dubbed “The Fran Plate” around Town Hall. "I'm pleased the idea was acted on,” Haugen said. “That was very gratifying.”Godfrey Road spans Class II wetlands, where a handful of beavers live and dam. A vessel of choice had long been the old culvert near Quail John Road. Initial jury-rigged attempts at blocking off beavers' access were unsuccessful, and a sizable clog developed.
About three weeks ago, foreman Doug Stone arrived with a backhoe and a large log to ram through the debris, and the washed out road beneath Stone's wheel buckled. The Selectboard, fearing worse could happen, acted swiftly and voted to trap and kill the beavers. The decision prompted vociferous opposition among many townspeople, special meetings, several delays, some creative thinking, and now, the final beaver repriever. The dilapidated culvert, which some say posed a safety risk even without the beavers, now has a plastic culvert around it. The opening has since been effectively fenced to keep the beavers out, and Stone's daily visits amount to removing a little mud and some grass. The Selectboard has been paying midnight visits to keep an eye on water levels. Since the washout, all's been quiet on the Godfrey Road front. The plate installation will require continued monitoring of the area, and Tillinghast said the grant money would include a flow control device that would act as a beaver deterrent. The new, bigger culvert, which may arrive as soon as June, is expected to be more beaver-friendly. As for the plate, the chairman is pleased with the outcome. “We are preserving this long-term ethic Thetford has that we live among wildlife,” Tillinghast said, adding that respectful discourse fueled a favorable outcome. “We really didn't want to kill the beavers.” The hefty number of the wetland-dwellers in the area and beyond surely means more human-beaver conflict down the line, but officials and residents have done their homework and now know what to expect. “It's not a fait accompli,” Haugen said, “but it's certainly looking good.”