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Smallwood-Mongaup valley

Posted 3/3/23

March 3 – What with the sudden spate of snow storms hitting us in the past few weeks it has sometimes of late been difficult to safely enjoy a good brisk walk around Smallwood’s …

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Smallwood-Mongaup valley


March 3 – What with the sudden spate of snow storms hitting us in the past few weeks it has sometimes of late been difficult to safely enjoy a good brisk walk around Smallwood’s delightful Mountain Lake. The road, pushing potholes and shorn to rags along its edges where snowplows have clipped by, is mostly flat at water’s edge and permits a good view of the lake and houses on the distant shore. Last evening, just before sunset, a kettle of black vultures soared gracefully in loose, overlapping spirals above me as I walked the road in blue shadow. Higher, beyond the birds in full sunlight, soared a crescent moon, crisp flake of white in an ocean of blue. Ah, Smallwood! Ah, Mountain Lake!

Mountain Lake is the single most important and defining landmark in Smallwood. The lake makes our hamlet possible and beloved. Did you know? Lakeshore Drive and all the roads in Smallwood are the responsibility of the Town of Bethel. Meantime Mountain Lake and its splendid beach and shoreline belong as private property to the Smallwood Civic Association (SWCA), a  501c7 Not-For-Profit Social Club Organization which bought them many years ago. 

The docks at water’s edge along Lakeshore Drive on Mountain Lake are individually owned and maintained by members of the SWCA. The Association has allowed these docks to be placed on the Association’s shoreline with the proviso that every dock is available for use by all SWCA members and their guests.  It’s a nice touch, and now you know: you can sit on this or that dock if you are a member or member’s guest!

When I first moved to Smallwood, I thought the SWCA was actually Smallwood’s ‘town council.’ Not so. The SWCA only controls its private assets (foremostly: Mountain Lake, its Beach and its Lodge) and exercises no civil authority over Smallwood like the Town of Bethel actually does. While the Association pays its employees at the Smallwood Beach and pays for services such as the Lake Patrol and refuse removal, it functions with an all-volunteer unpaid Board of Directors which the Membership elects every two years. The Board oversees the Association’s many and various activities such as community events (4th of July fireworks, Halloween Walk, Thanksgiving Bonfire, New Year’s Day Walkabout; maintenance of the Association Lodge, pickleball/tennis courts, and boat launch; summertime yoga, kids swimming lessons and Children’s Carnival; regular scientific assessment of water quality and the dam in Mountain Lake, etc). The scope of the Association’s activities has grown quite breathtaking under the current Board of Directors whose vision, with time, has only grown more ambitious, strategic, and transformative. 

Challenges remain. For one, the Association’s most valuable asset—Mountain Lake—is endangered by the encroachment of new developments, overuse of fertilizers and pesticides in neighboring properties, and leaking septic tanks. All pose major challenges to the lake’s long term health and sustainability. If you are interested in helping secure the health of Smallwood’s most valuable jewel, Mountain Lake, please join SMarT (Smallwood Aware Residents’ Team) whose website can quickly be found on Facebook. Reader, be well!


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