Douglass Beach has a long, complex history. Before 1945, there was no public beach on the east side of the lake, though locals went swimming anyway. On the west side, there was 485 feet of accessible beachfront in Bondville.
In 1945 and ‘46 two local women, Florence May Pettes, wife of Charles Thornton, and Isabelle Mitchell, married to Russell Call, bought land on the east side of the lake and then sold this 53,000 square feet of shoreline to the Village of Knowlton – the beginnings of Douglass Beach. The women specified that it be used for the enjoyment of the local population. The town bought more land in 1979 from the Mullins family and the next year bought the final parcel which now makes up Douglass Beach. Martin Frost, sold that slice for “… the enjoyment of people of the Town of Brome Lake without the establishment of artificial noisy uses.”
Noise pollution a worry 41 years ago?
Since then, the amount of land that could provide public access to the lake has diminished. The beachfront in Bondville was subdivided and is in private hands. Many opportunities to buy more lake frontage were not taken. Only in 2019, with the donation of the old Terrace Inn site by CARKE and the Poulin family, has TBL acquired more lakefront (80 metres of lakefront and 13 acres of land). There have been motorboats on Brome Lake for many years, but nothing like today. By 2008, there were 467 motorboats on the lake. In 2015, the last year for which we have data, there were 539. What is significant is the increase in wakeboard boats, growing 85% from 76 to 141. Winter activity on the lake increased significantly in 2018, when TBL cleared a skating track on the lake. Last winter, in the midst of COVID, the frozen lake became a major attraction for both residents and visitors. Activities included fishing, walking, skating, cross-country skiing and kite skiing. In winter the issues of overcrowding were not as extreme as in the summer.
However, last summer, Douglass Beach was often overwhelmed by visitors. To prevent such chaos, this summer, TBL is expanding parking by paving, and is introducing parking metres for visitors. We will have to see how this works.
What might be the long-term answer to the growing pressure from visitors on our small lake? In the past, when the resident population of TBL was not growing, and when retail was thriving, visitors were given priority. But the balance has reversed. Hundreds of new residents are making a significant impact on TBL’s society and economy. Many more hundreds of potential new residents are looking for an opportunity to live in TBL. Central to their choice is the attraction of the lake. Maybe it is time to make the interests of residents the priority again?