LOWELL - Opponents of the Lowell Mountain wind turbine project held an open house on the mountain Sunday to allow interested individuals the opportunity to see what is happening and to explain why the protesters are occupying the mountain.
Nearly 90 people made the difficult trek up the mountainside, a hike that took about an hour to reach the ridge line. At the top, participants were welcomed and offered campfire hot dogs, s'mores, hot chocolate, coffee and tea.
At the start of the event, an announcement was made that the event was not an act of protest, just an informational gathering. â€śYou can make up your own mind,â€ť several event leaders said.
Two uniformed police officers were visible and standing with a man in regular clothing. The three watched the open house from start to finish. When the first group reached the ridge line, the police made their way over and pointed out the red tape as the boundary line, which people were not allowed to cross.
Visitors respected the line and gathered peacefully while speaking passionately about how they feel about the project. Others asked questions.
A group of opponents were available to answer questions and provide literature on the project. They also suggested what steps individuals could take, including contacting their local representatives to voice their opinions.
Green Mountain Power (GMP) received a Certificate of Public Good from the Public Service Board to construct 21 450-foot wind turbines on the Lowell Mountain ridge line.
Opponents say they are deeply concerned about destruction of wildlife habitat, fragmentation of an intact ecosystem, and alteration of the mountain's hydrology. Other concerns include the impact on property values and noise levels that pose quality of life and other health-related issues, they said.
Some opponents have set up camp near the boundary line and some are taking turns staying all night.
Event leaders said that one of the best things to do is take many pictures of what is going on and document it.
The standoff between GMP and project opponents has lead to several court battles.
An Orleans County Superior Court Judge has issued a Preliminary Injunction against mountain occupiers. If occupiers stay within the 1,000 foot safety zone in blasting times, they can be held in criminal contempt and arrested.
Dave Martorana is a Sterling College freshman studying sustainable agriculture. He is one of the mountain occupiers. He was surprised by the large turnout on the ridge line. Martorana said he loves nature and says what is happening to the mountain is sad.
He feels the main problem is energy consumption and peoplesâ€™ attitudes regarding energy. â€śThe project doesnâ€™t make sense economically, socially, or factually,â€ť he said in an interview.
None of the mountain occupiers had been arrested as of Sunday. Martorana said that itâ€™s up to the individual if he or she moves out of the blast zone or gets arrested, but he feels that people can be more effective as a group.