Another popular swimming hole has fallen victim to an explosion in popularity through social media and travel websites, this time closing for good. The section of the Millstream just above the intersection where Millstream, Ohayo Mountain and Tannery Brook Roads meet, a popular summer spot for a century and more, also known to locals as Sully’s, has become too much to handle for its owners.
Tom Bullard has owned the Woodstock Inn on the Millstream for about 25 years. His property includes the swimming hole and the stream banks on both the hotel and the Ohayo Mountain Road side. Maintaining his section of stream has been increasingly difficult over the last 10 years, but the past few summers were particularly taxing for Bullard, and especially Innkeeper Karen Pignataro.
Bullard had no issue with people using the stream when it was just a few locals. Some beer bottles got left around here and there but it was largely under control until word about where to swim started to spread on the internet.
“For the past 25 years, The Woodstock Inn has allowed people onto our private property to enjoy the Millstream,” he said. “This has always been troublesome for the Inn, but it was also sweet. Sadly, it is no longer sweet. Over the past ten years it has become less and less of a small town place where local kids come to splash around. It is more and more a destination published on social media.”
When the county built a retaining wall last year as part of the Ohayo Mountain Road reconstruction, Bullard seized the opportunity and had a fence constructed past the wall with a locked gate.
“It is often overrun by tourists and day travelers,” said Bullard. People leave behind garbage, broken glass, soiled diapers and even human feces in the woods near the inn.
He recalled someone hosting a large event a few years ago that provided a shuttle van with constant trips to the stream. People frequently cooked, played loud music and on occasion, fights broke out.
“I’d like to say the stream is being loved to death but more accurately it’s being used to death,” Bullard said.
In addition to the trash and disruptions, Bullard is worried about property liability.
Hotel guests can access the stream, but he may reconsider. Few access the stream now.
Conditions got bad enough the town attempted to shame people by posting pictures of trash on social media and warning the spots may be closed if people don’t clean up after themselves.
The Town Board attempted to implement a permitting system to hold users accountable, only to be told by the Health Department it can’t impose such a requirement unless it assumes all liability and hires a lifeguard.
The Department of Environmental Conservation implemented a day-use permit at the Blue Hole in Peekamoose after trash was out of control. The permits were allowed because the state agency is not subject to the same regulations.
As crowds ballooned at popular swimming holes including the one across from the hotel and others on Millstream Road, illegally parked cars on the road created a safety hazard. To alleviate the problem, the town increased the fine for parking violations on Millstream and Ohayo Mountain Roads in 2016 from $25 to $150.
“It’s just gotten to be too much,” Bullard said. “We are the one’s that have to deal with inevitable problems the crowds bring.”
Many places are getting overrun with people, including Bullard’s beloved spot at the bottom of Platte Clove.
“Now this spot on the Millstream is also overwhelmed and so are we at The Woodstock Inn.”