Category Archives: Personal Stories

Island Life to Us

We were fortunate enough to purchase our cabin on Shelly Island in 1988 but had been boating on Lake Frederick for many, many years prior to that. Our daughter has been on the island since she was two weeks old.  We have spent every summer since enjoying our weekends out on the island.

We have forfeited many other vacation destinations over the years because this is where we feel our heart and soul belongs for the summer.  Our cabin is only ten minutes from home so all our necessities over the years have been purchased at our local stores and shops, therefore keeping our monies local instead at out of town locations.

Because cabins didn’t go up for sale very often, and it was usually by word of mouth, we felt very fortunate a few years ago to purchase the cabin next to us for our daughter.  She is now married with a family of her own and we feel we are so lucky to be able to spend weekends with them on the island.  We have met the most kind hearted people who are willing to literally “give their shirt of their back” to help anyone in our time of need.

There have been many activities over the years from playing cards and games, our children putting on plays, chili contests, Christmas in July parades and even end of the season “clean out the refrigerator” parties.  We also did a poker run which raised over $4,000 for the Township Fire Co.  We have also witnessed several weddings, graduation, retirement and reunion gatherings and even have had several celebrations of life.  But our best time is spending quality time relaxing with our family and friends, boating and swimming, sitting around campfires and especially watching the spectacular sunsets on the Susquehanna River.

We have weathered many storms over the years but out biggest blow came last year when we were told we were not in compliance and would have to remove or dismantle our cabins by the end of 2017.  Since then we have raised thousands of dollars to fight this injustice.  We had to switch spending each weekend from our family quality time to fundraising to “save the islands”.  We did this by holding bashes, a chili cook-off, corn hole tournament, selling chicken bbq’s, ice cream and merchandise to name just a few.

The fact remains that after generations of families putting all our blood, sweat and tears in to fixing up our cabins throughout the years Londonderry Township is now “FORCING” us to remove our places at our own expense after paying taxes all these years – which is totally absurd!!

Our LFHOA board and team have spent countless hours constructing an alternative compliance agreement that the landowners and FEMA agreed upon of which the Township reiterated at their meeting back in 2016 they would consider.  It is now beyond reason why they will not even entertain this well planned alternative agreement.

Below is a short video of our “river life”.  We want to continue this for our future generations.  We are going to do everything in our power to remain on these islands for generations to come!!

PLEASE STAND WITH US!!!  To learn more about our plight go to LFHOA.NET

PLEASE SHARE!! PLEASE SHARE!!We were fortunate enough to purchase our cabin on Shelly Island in 1988 but had been boating on Lake Frederick for many, many years prior to that. Our daughter has been on the island since she was two weeks old. We have spent practically every summer since enjoying our weekends out on the island. ​We have forfeited many other vacation destinations over the years because this is where we feel our heart and soul belongs for the summer. Our cabin is only ten minutes from home so all our necessities over the years have been purchased at our local stores and shops, therefore keeping our monies local instead at out of town locations. ​Because cabins didn’t go up for sale very often, and it usually by word of mouth, we felt very fortunate a few years ago to purchase the cabin next to us for our daughter. She is now married with a family of her own and we feel we are so lucky to be able to spend weekends with them on the island. We have met the most kind hearted people who are willing to literally “give their shirt of their back” to help anyone in our time of need. ​There have been many activities over the years from playing cards and games, our children putting on plays, chili contests, Christmas in July parades and even end of the season “clean out the refrigerator” parties. We also did a poker run which raised over $4,000 for the Township Fire Co. We have also witnessed several weddings, graduation, retirement and reunion gatherings and even have had several celebrations of life. But our best time is spending quality time relaxing with our family and friends, boating and swimming, sitting around campfires and especially watching the spectacular sunsets on the Susquehanna River. ​We have weathered many storms over the years but out biggest blow came last year when we were told we were not in compliance and would have to remove or dismantle our cabins by the end of 2017. Since then we have raised thousands of dollars to fight this injustice. We had to switch spending each weekend from our family quality time to fundraising to “save the islands”. We did this by holding bashes, a chili cook-off, corn hole tournament, selling chicken bbq’s, ice cream and merchandise to name just a few. ​The fact remains that after generations of families putting all our blood, sweat and tears in to fixing up our cabins throughout the years Londonderry Township is now “FORCING” us to remove our places at our own expense after paying taxes all these years – which is totally absurd. ​Our LFHOA board and team have spent countless hours constructing an alternative compliance agreement that the landowners and FEMA agreed upon of which the Township reiterated at their meeting back in 2016 they would consider. It is now beyond reason why they will not even entertain this well planned alternative agreement. ​Below is just a few pictures of our “river life”. We want to continue this for our future generations. We are going to do everything in our power to remain on these islands for generations to come. ​PLEASE STAND WITH US!!! To learn more about our plight go to LFHOA.NET#riverratsunited #londonderrytownship

Posted by Vicki Kuba on Saturday, August 19, 2017

A FEW TEARS DEEPER

A FEW TEARS DEEPER…

After a year the time had come where I needed to face the reality of what was taken from us. I awoke and got ready to venture out to the island we used to vacationland. As a family of seven, we didn’t always have the extra money to go on long expensive vacations, so our island property that was so ignorantly taken from us was referred to by our children as such. I set the hitch to the old girl one last time before being sold to the new owner and set off for the marina where she used to be kept before having to sit in a my driveway the past year or so. I loaded a few supplies for my journey but not the usual clothing and food we once packed; instead, it was traded for trash bags, gloves, and an old stick I had set a nail in to assist with picking up trash I thought I might encounter on my last journey. As I began to back Guinevere into the water, I realized that my mind had been consumed with emotion and wandering thoughts that I did not even remember driving to her old floating grounds.

At one time I used to race East across the Susquehanna river in anticipation of our beloved slice of heaven. This time I choose to endure the pain and heartbreak at a slower pace as the island came closer into view. I found it hard to pull up to shore anywhere because all of the debris that had washed up. The once cleaned shoreline was hardly recognizable with out the island residents there to care for it. I maneuvered Guinevere north in search for a suitable place to tie up. As I motored my way up river I couldn’t help but be reminded that these shorelines were once lined with docks, and other expensive investments. Around the docks, children and adults of all ages were once seen swimming, fishing, and making family memories. Unfortunately, only those memories remain and the river was a few tears deeper. I finally reach the only recognizable feature of the island and tie up my vessel to the old farmers landing. The farmers landing was primarily used for loading and unloading farm equipment for the cornfield that once lavishly grew in the center of the island. However, for many islanders we also used the farmers landing for many things; pulling and placing docks in the water or hulling scrap and trash off the island. Despite the many snakes (and I’m not talking about our nature friends we shared the island with) that thought all we did was party and drink we were more than just vacationing families, we were the stewards and custodians of island nature. I grab my supplies and start walking up the overgrown stone path. As I reach the hill, I am met with a decision I had not thought of, do I turn left towards what we called the freaky forest, straight across the cut towards the low side of the island or turn right towards the direction our cabin once stood? I decided to take the scenic route and hike the entire golf cart path. Well, what used to be a golf cart path any way. Shortly after I began my trek through the overgrown path I recalled how at one time little kid footprints could be seen in the dust of the trail. The footprints acted as evidence of good memories made. Precious memories, as precious as a dusty footprint when rain threatened the island. Never in my life did I imagine these little memories would have such an impact on me.

It didn’t take long before I was snapping on the gloves and snapping a trash bag with air preparing it for garbage. I was picking up trash of all kinds; broken beer bottles, empty cans, and yes even spent poison needles. The sight of the needles almost made it unbearable to continue as it put a dark cloud over our island once filled with laughter and happiness. Trash replaced the foot printed path and disgust replaced sadness. I continued anyway towards the freaky forest and before long I came to the grounds where the historic one room school house and cemetery of the Shelly family existed. As a historic building, it was the only protected structure, well protected from the township vultures anyway. It appears in just one years’ time squatters, and vandals had broken into the schoolhouse so I began walking towards it to investigate its condition. The foul smell of feces and urine pultruded through the broken door and windows and it became clear the squatters and vandals had used it since it was the only standing structure anymore. The smell was too strong to enter so I make way towards the grass-hidden cemetery. Again to my disgust I made another horrible discovery, the cemetery was not grass hidden rather nearly every headstone had been broken and smashed into nothing but dust and rubble. Headstones that stood since the 1800’s destroyed in just 1 year.

As I passed each lot where friends used to be I stop and think about all of those friends, and I am taken back and can picture every cabin. I pass the cabins where young river rats joined our river family, and cabins where long standing river rats have traded our slice of heaven for another heaven. I pass cabins where I have helped friends and recall those memories and the gratefulness like it was yesterday. Then there were the cabins I passed where we gathered as friends celebrating birthdays, Thanksgiving, and on rare warm occasions even New Years. Standing on the banks, I shed a tear for each of them making the river one tear deeper. Anyone who knew the island knows it was not a short walk and by the time I reached where my parents cabin stood on lot 71 and our cabin on lot 70 I had already run out of trash bags to fill. It was a long exhausting walk with many trash bags in tow. I did not think I had any emotion or tears left by the time I reached our lots but that is where the most emotion overtook me. The sight of the overgrown lots that were once filled with kids toys, yard games, rope swings and an enormous fire pit where many stories, laughs, and even tears were shed was now as empty as I felt, and as overgrown as my depression. As I wander around what once was a happy place where our kids were able to roam free, experience live a learn to grow socially I couldn’t help but recall our last day there on our lots. Watching my mom and dad and their grama and papa pack up a few last treasured items and burn what could be burnt was as painful witnessing as I’m sure it was for her watching unused craps being burnt. Allow me to explain that one. Kenna, one of the youngest girls had a hard time early on saying “crafts” and it always came out as craps. Therefore, grama always had “craps” and kept craps in their cabin for the kids to do.

As I collected trash around vacation land I had separated what can be burnt and what needed recycled just as we did during our days on the island. I began to burn what I could safely burn, when something in the overgrown pit caught my eye. I safely retrieved it and began to wipe it off. I don’t know who it belonged to or how it got there. What I did know is that it was a small silver anchor pendant like the ones all of the girls received as gifts from my mom, or like the ones she used when she crafted or crapted jewelry for one of the many island fundraisers we held trying to save our islands. Once more the river became several more tears deeper.

I made my way back to Guinevere and started motoring back towards the old run down marina that used to buzz with boat motors. It was particularly windy which caused my boat to bounce violently. One last memory entered my head that only my family will ever understand or know what is meant by it. “Watch for boobies” and at somepoint down the road transformed into the common phrase heard, “Hold your boobies”.

The islands and the island life had brought a lot of business to the area from Pizza shops, to marine mechanics, and even the many marinas that folks on the islands boated from and stored possessions over the winter months. All of the suffered loss just as we did. Many are not around anymore which affected the local community. The void of island residents whom paid taxes year in and year out to Londonderry Twp were no longer paying taxes to the township. I’m not sure how they made up for that revenue, but likely the residents in Londonderry Twp are covering the red with increased taxes. The taxes we paid to the township did not benefit the island residents since we had no roads to maintain, infrastructure that needed upkeep, or roads to be plowed which helped the residents of the mainland township. The township sure seemed to have a plan for this land otherwise why not let the island residents stay who benefit the township. It was promised during a township meeting that if an approved plan could be made available that they would consider it. Turned out they are all lying corrupt politicians and lawyers whom only affected the township they are sworn to work for. If only the residents understood the impact before they took our paradise.

As I load my boat for the last time only one thing is for sure, they can’t take my memories and the good times spent here, and I leave the river many tears deeper.

This is obviously a fictional story thought up from many dreams and a lot of thought as I spent time thinking of what could happen. This is not intended to sadden anyone. The only intention is to maybe sway one mind, change a few perspectives, and fan the fire for all river rats to keep pushing and keep coming together stronger than ever. RIVER RAT STRONG – IN IT TO WIN IT!

An island life

As children we were able to run around a neighborhood to play with friends, develop socially and learn how to solve problems on our own, a time where we nor our parents had to worry about a “bad guy”, a time that has since past. As I raise my five children I look back on my childhood and compare how different it is nowadays. A constant fear of allowing children to play in the streets until the street lights come on has not only affected my children but all the children that are our future.

I wasn’t always a river rat, but was blessed to be introduced to the island life as a young teenager. It goes without saying for most of us that many wonderful memories and friendships have been molded from a life on our island properties. With this tight knit group of family and friends I have the ability to allow my children to experience a childhood like I had without fear of something horrible happening. Everyone on the islands look out for one another, and are always willing to provide a helping hand. How many people who jeopardize our way of life on the island can look at there neighbors in a community and can say without a doubt that they would have an enormous amount of help at their doorstep when something needs fixed? When something goes wrong with their home or vehicle they are calling an electrician, a plumber or a mechanic and paying for these services. On our islands if someone needs help we are there for them without any hidden expectations. We don’t have neighbors we have a river family that we can all count on in a time of need. This island isn’t just a place to relax and kickback (in fact I work more here than I do relax) it is a place where my children can learn, grow and experience life. Our cabin is cable and internet free which forces the kids to put down electronics and the remote and get outside to be active. It challenges our children to use their imagination to keep them from being bored, something that is lost in today’s world that is full of instant gratification through technology.

My primary residence on mainland isn’t right around the corner from grandmas house. But on the island it is. Because of this their bond is stronger than it would be if we didn’t have this property. This is important to our family and for child development.

It absolutely disgusts me that Londonderry Township and the monkeys behind the mic fail to recognize the benefits of the island properties and have the audacity to lay claim that all we do is party. I can say for myself that the majority of my time on the island is spent helping others, raising my kids and teaching them how to grow into respectful and responsible adults. To those who jeopardize this way of life this is my promise that I won’t back off and I won’t go with out a fight and with that I say fuck off to these corrupt bastards!

-end of rant- 😉

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Personal Letter to Dr. Kristina Johnson of Cube Hydro when this started

April, 2016

Dear Dr. Johnson,

I’m one of the seven elected Board of Directors for our recently formed Lake Frederick Homeowners’ Association. As you may know by the many recent media stories, we represent the lessees of the 300 some lots your company now manages.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m sure we are nobody to you and you have highly paid and brilliant attorneys and strategists at your disposal who will advise you not to worry about us, Still, I wouldn’t feel I had done everything I could do if I didn’t make some kind of impassioned plea to you on our behalf.

You see, we were very blindsided by this, and still continue to scramble and look for hope wherever we can. So when we heard a couple weeks ago that you had contacted one of our team, we were very excited.  We read up on as much of what we could find on who you were, and everything we read led us to believe you would be someone who might work with us. We thought you would see the potential in what we wanted to do. We were absolutely looking forward to meeting you and showing you what a community like ours is capable of getting done.

And then we heard you had come out to our area, taken a tour, and without meeting any of us, or getting the view the way we see it, decided against working with us.

I think I’m writing because I’m hoping the last part is not true and that you are simply just a very busy person who was unable to meet with us.

I am hoping to appeal to your humanity in this sea of corporate entities and government bodies. I know you have vast experience in both of those arenas, and I think if we could reach out to you with some of our ideas on how to save our islands, you might actually be interested in at least working with us, and maybe even helping us achieve some of these goals.

At a high level – we’re hoping to propose the nation’s first “model green community”  in a floodplain/floodway. One where we can address minimal impacts to the environment if there is a major flood every 50-100 years. One where we live up to our reputation as mindful custodians of our environment. One where we use new ideas and technologies to solve graywater and blackwater issues, energy consumption and storage, waste removal, and more. It could make a great PR story right? One where in this age of divisiveness, we have so many instances of people vs. corporations vs. government stories out there that this could be one where federal & local government work together with corporate entities with and for the people, instead of against and without them, as is the norm. With your expertise, knowledge and passion in the areas of STEM and alternate energy, we saw you as someone who might not only support us in this endeavor, but join us.

Maybe all of it is wishful thinking on my part, but we really don’t have anything else to lose. As it stands now, we lose everything: our history, our community, our property, our investments, our serenity. I may be an idealist, but that’s where the best ideas start, right? With something someone else sees as an unattainable dream.

So to put a human face to this, and mine is only one story of many…

I am a single mom of two teenagers. My ex-husband left us 20 days before Christmas in 2001 when my children  were only 3 and 1 years old. At the time I worked an entry level job in customer service and unbeknown to me we were 3 months behind in rent, car payment and all utilities. Within days of him leaving, I had utilities shut off, my car repossessed and was served with an eviction notice…all in the weeks just  before Christmas.

Thankfully I managed to climb my way out of that hole. It took years of hard work, taking classes when and where I could, a little at a time,  and working like crazy at a career I could maintain while raising two young  kids and going to school. I’m in a much better position now than I was back then because of it. I made choices I may some day regret with regards to time I could have spent with them that I will never get back. A lot of their early childhood years are a complete sleep deprived blur for me. I did the best I could with what I had.  I raised them in a city I could afford to live in, but the trade off there meant they were bullied, didn’t fit in well, and with few friends. Vacations were out of the question. There really wasn’t ever any money for extras of any kind.

So after 2 summers in a campground on land on the west side,  we had the opportunity in  2009 to buy our lot on the island. Being at the river is in my blood. After retirement from 20 years in the US Navy, my father continued his career in service to our country by working in the State Department, Foreign Service and I got to grow up overseas. When we came back to the US every couple of years between posts, I spent my days at my Uncle’s place on Shelly Island. All of my best memories have always been here. I’ve literally lived all over the world and found no where else quite as special as this place. But, I digress, back to 2009.

A friend of ours was willing to sell our current lot to me on a payment plan.  We had met him while we were staying in the campground for a summer, and as I mentioned before I had always dreamed of having my own lot out here on Shelly Island because every fond memory of my childhood is tied to our visits to it.  As a single mother I had very limited means, so I had to be very careful about my purchase. It never occurred to me that license agreements would eventually not be renewed, even with the changing verbiage in the agreements we had to sign. They’ve always been there as far back as I can remember. Even the FERC application EIS published on the old Olympus site indicated that the lots would be continued for “decades”. I trusted we were in “compliance” when we purchased it  because when we finished paying off our cabin to the original owner, YHPC came out and did an inspection for the transfer.

What this purchase meant to us is that my two kids, who never had vacations, finally had a place they could enjoy recreation all summer long. My kids didn’t  learn to swim until they were almost 10  because in our city, there isn’t a place for them to swim that didn’t involve driving somewhere and paying a lot of money.  They didn’t learn to ride a bike until later because they were often stolen and we lived on streets with a lot of traffic. But they learned to swim and ride a bike at the river. And they learned how to make friends, avoid poison, jump off a dock into the water with abandon for hours, cook a meal over a fire they started themselves, and sleep under the stars. It’s not for everyone, our river way of life, but it worked for us.  My kids are older now and we’re financially much better off today. We could go out of town for vacations….some day we may…but this is how we choose to spend our summer,s now, supporting the local economy.

I have so many other things I’d like to share. Like the history of our island and Daniel Shelly who was hanged there as a traitor in 1802, the schoolhouse, the graveyards, the people and community who take care of those things and are the mindful custodians of the river environment. There are so many families out there with history, so many more stories just like  mine. There are probably over 500 different stories of how we got here and why this is important to us and they all have the same theme. It’s not just the place, it’s the community we built. We would love nothing better than an opportunity to meet you or anyone on your team and show you who we are.. Please come meet us, spend a little time with us and give us some time to help you understand why this is so important to us. There just has to be a way we can stay.

This compliance agreement cannot be the only solution. I want to appeal to you on a human level, person to person. I have hope that while you represent a huge corporate entity, there is a person behind the title who will at least hear us out. I believe the information you receive from your legal staff is an inaccurate representation of the full situation. You’ll find we’re a people of multiple skill sets, we work really hard and we come together in crisis like no one else you’ll ever meet. Just as I worked hard to pull myself out of the hole I was in, I’ve seen these people do this over and over.  I saw this happen after Tropical Storm Lee and again when my uncle’s cabin burned down. Every one of us is willing to work to try to address any concerns anyone has, but to unilaterallly terminate all of our lot licenses without at least giving individuals like me the chance to address floodplain concerns is so unfair. We desperately need your help. Please just hear us. Please give us a chance. I’m not above begging, as you can see. Please.

Very truly yours,
JoAnne Little, Shelly Lot 128