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Untidy picnicking is discussed by the Cornwall selectmen

CORNWALL — While state parks are closed or limited due to the pandemic, visitors who are intent on enjoying a picnic are fanning out to scenic river locations and area ponds — but they are raising concerns that were discussed by the Board of Selectmen at their meeting on Tuesday, July 21.

Issues have come up at the state boat launch at Mohawk Pond and at various points along the Housatonic River where it parallels River Road (see story, Page A1).

The selectmen voiced agreement that visitors are always welcome and are even encouraged to visit the Northwest Corner. But larger-than-usual numbers are gathering along the waterways and byways, for unsupervised recreation. There are concerns about parking in unsafe roadside locations and a large amount of litter left along the roads and riverbanks and near ponds and waterfalls.

The selectmen theorized that the state’s decision to keep Kent Falls state park closed has led to people fanning out to find alternative picnic sites. 

First Selectman Gordon Ridgway said that it may be necessary to educate people on how to behave. He said that people are over-partying.

He warned that it takes emergency crews 20 minutes to reach the sites where the partying was happening.

“There is no reason for people to engage in outrageous behavior just because they are hot. Some stuff is out of control,” Ridgway said, echoing sentiments from residents who have witnessed the situation and volunteered to do clean-up after the picnickers have left refuse where it fell. 

In addition to picnic garbage, volunteers also found what was termed “personal items” left behind. These include soiled diapers.

Ridgway has called upon the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to provide greater supervision, and the selectmen plan to create more signage reminding visitors to pick up and remove their own trash, as well as posting safety warnings about river hazards.

Planning ahead for his conversations with state DEEP officials, Ridgway said, “I would like to see more urban recreational spots.”

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