Woodstock officials are considering closing town-owned swimming holes amid concerns over the spread of Covid 19 as temperatures rise and out-of-towners seek an escape. The town board at its regular meeting May 12 discussed restricting access to parking for Big Deep off Route 212 and Little Deep off Zena Road.
“Do we want to have those open?” councilman Reggie Earls asked of the popular swimming holes. “We will have a lot of people. It’s natural to want to get out of there [the city] and come up here. I think it’s going to be hard to have them safely open.”
The areas also have trails frequented by hikers. Perhaps those could stay open while the water remained off limits, councilwoman Laura Ricci suggested. “I think what a watering hole is, is that it’s a congre-gating activity.” She said Jersey Shore communities, for example, allow visitors to walk on the beach but they are not allowed to sit.
“It’s not going to be possible to social distance at Big Deep,” Earls said.
Supervisor Bill McKenna suggested the town could keep the areas open on weekdays and closed on weekends.
Big Deep and Little Deep have been problematic for the town in recent years. The popular locations appeared on lists of the best swimming holes shared widely on social media. The town board had ap-proved a plan for access by permit only after trash left by visitors became unmanageable for town maintenance employees. Officials were forced to scrap the permit system after state and county health officials told the town it would assume liability and be forced to hire a lifeguard if it regulated access. The town posted photos of the garbage on social media, with threats of closure if people didn’t behave responsibly.
Swimming holes aren’t the only thing facing closure. The town will not hold its summer recreation program for the first time in about 60 years. Town clerk Jackie Earley said there simply wasn’t enough time to start interviewing and hiring counselors and staff and reworking activities to allow for social distancing.
Despite the lack of a summer program, Andy Lee Field and Rick Volz Park are still open. “This is the time when kids need outdoor activity the most,” McKenna said. The only thing off-limits is the basket-ball courts because the game is a contact sport, he said.