Social-media driven crowds, garbage, broken glass force Woodstock’s Millstream to close for swimming

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

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.

Woodstock officials are grappling with similar problems at the town-owned Big Deep and Little Deep swimming holes off Route 212 and Zena Road.

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.”

There are 8 comments

  1. Lea Cullen Boyer

    Simple parking regulations can make a huge dent in misuse of resources. Setting Jerset Barriers and bolders and creating well enforced “No Parking” zones will end this issue without need for costly change.

    It works in L9ng Island, Westchester, Rickland, and Orange Counties.

    Happy to help design the plan.

    1. Robert Moses

      “Jersey Barriers” are from New Jersey origin because of the cost of car insurance, public safety and are filled with water.

    2. flaart bllooger

      “Setting Jerset Barriers and bolders and creating well enforced “No Parking” zones will end this issue without need for costly change.”

      sounds kinda “costly”

  2. Mark H

    It is a shame that such beautiful places are treated as trash. Too often, some consider free as cheap, and treat it as such. I used to hike the Zena trail often with my dog and enjoy a quiet day of tranquility. I only walked the trail once last summer. Besides the 2 bags of trash that I hauled out of there, i was threatened by a guy who had thrown his cigarette butt on the ground. He didn’t like the disgusted look on my face and told me if I didn’t like it, to pick it up myself. The crowds, trash, blaring music has ruined another gift of nature.

  3. DJ

    Very upsetting. These type of people don’t deserve a nice place since they mistreat it.
    If the town could somehow issue larger fines $300 and permits and limit amount of people (not locals) I wonder if that would have change things.

  4. Infrequent Bather

    Why any landowner would welcome trespassers for 25 years and pay liability insurance premiums at a higher rate for welcoming them in is beyond me? Shut it down, shut it down, waaaay down.

  5. Roadshow Magic.

    Tom Bullard is a good guy who has been thoughtful and welcoming to the community. For his generosity he got it right over the head.

    As Oscar Wilde once opined: “Good acts rarely go unpunished.”

Comments are closed.