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Isn’t it possible?: Keeping safe and being responsible while communing with nature

The Lakeville Journal Editorial

The decision of First Light power company to limit access to the Great Falls area in Falls Village and Amesville is not only due, but overdue. What that will look like is still in planning, but it took another dangerous situation with a child in the Housatonic River there and pleas from first selectmen Curtis Rand of Salisbury and Henry Todd of Falls Village to finally make it happen. Unfortunately, while the planning is apparently ongoing for what to do about the very large number of visitors to the Great Falls, last weekend, July 11 and 12, the area was packed with people, at least 100 cars jammed into the parking lots and surrounding roads, the river running freely and the situation no better, and maybe even worse than Fourth of July weekend. (See the story on Page A1 this week by Patrick L. Sullivan.)

The Fourth of July weekend was especially rough this year, with overcrowding, lack of social distancing and face covering in a time of pandemic, rampant litter, and most significant of all, the need for local volunteers to rescue a young boy who was trapped on rocks in the middle of the river. That incident could have had a very different outcome had that youngster not been able to pull himself from the river current (which had grabbed him and carried him away from his family) and bring himself to rest on those rocks. Who could blame him for being reluctant to venture once more into the current? Kudos to the first responders from Falls Village, North Canaan and Salisbury who are so well trained in this kind of rescue and brought the boy to safety.

This newspaper has been covering the crisis situation at this recreational area for years, and in recent weeks Senior Reporter Patrick Sullivan wrote about it in depth, as did Executive Editor Cynthia Hochswender. We editorialized last season about the lack of clear signage both at the Great Falls and at Bull’s Bridge in Kent, a recreational area that has claimed lives again this year and now is closed. There is still a need for better signage, and having those signs in more than just English would be a help to those visiting the sites for relaxation and rejuvenation, often escaping the heat of urban areas. The last way anyone wants such a day of fun to end is with a call to 911.

The towns of Kent, Falls Village and Salisbury surely want to be welcoming to those who wish to appreciate nature in  the Northwest Corner. We have some of the most beautiful and remote sites in the area here, and are glad to also be accessible to those who come from outside the area. But such use of natural sites has to be done safely to be enjoyable for all. That has taken on new meaning in a time of pandemic. People have been cooped up indoors all spring, or are just venturing out to work and shopping for essentials, and need a way to break the monotony. Yet doing that responsibly is still paramount.

Whatever limiting of access First Light comes up with as a solution, it needs to be actually monitored and enforced, as there are alternate routes into all these recreational sites. Improved signage will help, if that can be agreed upon, but it is ultimately down to the choices made by those who visit these parks in Kent, Falls Village and Amesville to be respectful of the land and water and understand the dangers they face when they look for ways to cool off in natural surroundings during the summer.

What will it take, before effective action is taken? Another death?  Let’s hope not. Real action is needed now to save one of the most beautiful natural sites in the Northwest Corner, if not the state, and to keep visitors safe while doing that.

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