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Police will now patrol state boat launches

CORNWALL — Boat launches across the state will now be patrolled by the State Police and Environmental Conservation (Encon) officers from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

The patrols were announced by the State Police on Friday, July 24.

Earlier that day, the town of Cornwall had sent out by email its town newsletter, noting in it that crowds and trash had been extreme during the recent hot weekend (see story, Page A3). 

Area ponds and the Housatonic River have long attracted visitors from all parts of the state as well as from New York state and New Jersey. Many of the gathering spots are not set up for swimming and tourists and do not have toilets, garbage cans or parking. Town officials and Northwest Corner residents have become increasingly concerned not only about trash left at riverfront sites and ponds, but also about the dangers of swimming in unfamiliar waters with no lifeguards. The Great Falls in Salisbury and Falls Village as well and the falls at Bull’s Bridge in Kent over the years have been the sites of fatal swimming accidents at a rate of one or more each year (see story on last week’s rescue  on this page, above). 

The state has closed the park at Kent Falls, which has parking and other visitor facilities. The state’s Kent Falls website says, “Due to challenges in maintaining appropriate social distancing, Kent Falls State Park will be closed for the duration of the public health emergency.”

The boat launch in Falls Village/Salisbury has been blocked with sawhorses, cones and caution tape in recent weeks but visitors continue to park along the roadways (blocking the way of emergency services vehicles) and to move the cones, tape and sawhorses.

The Cornwall bi-weekly town newsletter on July 23 quoted First Selectman Gordon Ridgway saying there has been “increased use of Mohawk Pond and sections along the Housatonic River including River Road. 

“The Selectman’s Office has reached out to DEEP for more supervision and is looking into creating signage at pressure points reminding people of the proper use of these recreational areas (i.e. pick up your trash). 

“The state is opening some inland parks and beaches and the Selectman’s office will request that Kent Falls opens as well. Reminder: if you see any unlawful activity, please call the police.”

The newsletter also thanked town resident Patience Lindholm, “who volunteered to clean up sections of River Road this week, which saw large gatherings and trash left over the weekend. Thanks to Jim Vanicky for taking the trash to the transfer station and to anyone else who volunteered to clean up!”

The announcement that Encon officers and the State Police would begin to patrol state boat launches was sent out the day after the Cornwall newsletter. 

Kent Falls remains closed at this point. 

In their announcement, the State Police and Encon said, “The area surrounding the [boat] launches are not to be used for picnicking, camping, or swimming; those activities are prohibited at the launches.

“The hot weather, in combination with coronavirus restrictions, have caused an increase in the use of personal watercraft throughout Connecticut. Parking lots at all state-owned boat launches have limited parking. Boaters are urged to safely unload their boats and operate them in a safe manner on the state waterways.

“A reminder from DEEP that the possession and consumption of alcohol is prohibited. There are no trash receptacles at boat launches, so patrons must carry out what they carry in to keep the area free of litter.”

In response to an email query, the State Police said that, “This initiative will be taking place at all state-owned boat launches.”

Mohawk Pond is a state boat launch. For a full list of other state boat launches, go to www.portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Boating/Boat-Launches/Boat-Launches-in-Connecticut.

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