Woodstock cracks down on use of closed swimming holes

Parking at Little Deep in Woodstock. (Photo by Dion Ogust)

Those entering the recently closed Big Deep and Little Deep in Woodstock now face a trespassing charge due to recent enforcement efforts by the town. Crowding and piles of garbage forced the Town of Woodstock to close popular Big Deep swimming hole.

Now that closing includes Little Deep. The town-owned property has now posted No Trespassing. If caught by police patrolling the area, violators will be issued a warning the first time, then a court summons if seen again.

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“The Town of Woodstock has not come to this decision lightly,” the town posted on its Facebook page. “We tried to keep Big Deep and Little Deep open to the public, but time and time again have found littering and messes left behind by visitors. Add to this the need to maintain safety during the pandemic, and the present situation is unworkable. We truly wish that it did not come down to this.”

The posting has prompted 633 comments and has been shared more than 1000 times. Most of the commenters are understanding and have suggested volunteer cleanups. Supervisor Bill McKenna said the June 26 post has reached 150,000 people.

McKenna said groups of sometimes 20 to 30 people were entering the property and some were using it as a restroom. “Garbage was one part of it,” McKenna said by phone.“The second part was having to send the employees to pick it up. It’s not likely you can get the virus off garbage, but I didn’t want to chance it.”

McKenna explained resources are already stretched thin. Maintenance staff is already trying to spend its time keeping town offices clean and safe for employees.

“It’s the most miserable thing I had to do as supervisor,” McKenna said of the closing.

McKenna noted a number of people have offered to do a cleanup. He is hopeful the town can assemble a volunteer corps so that the popular sites can reopen.

Last year, Woodstock approved a permit system so officials could keep track of people using the property and hold them accountable for trash left behind or other violations of rules. The board had to scrap the plan when state and county officials told them the town would be assume liability if it issued permits, requiring the expense of hiring a lifeguard.

McKenna said his door is always open to suggestions of workable solutions to keep the swimming holes open to the public.

There are 4 comments

  1. roger kasunic

    I would like to believe that Woodstock wants to keep swimming holes open long term. However, the actions taken last year–prior to the health risk–were significant. Without proper consideration the town closed the Millstream and eliminated parking at a swimming hole farther downstream. Not much credibility left after those actions!

    What does it take to regulate traffic at a swimming hole? If you have sufficient police to issue summonses, you have enough police to regulate the amount of visitors. Put a limit on the number of people entering. Seriously look for ways to clean things up–don’t just say it. Provide receptacles. Charge for parking passes–maybe that won’t require a lifeguard per the state’s regulations. Request that the state open up swimming at Wilson State Park. Something. ANYTHING! The town has been suspiciously passive about keeping our swimming options open, and yet a jump in the water on a hot summer day is one of the nicest things about Woodstock. Without it we’re a collection of stores and the namesake for a rock festival.

    I can understand not wanting a spreader event at the Big Deep. But McKenna’s history suggests he wants to close things altogether, forever. Once they’re gone, his apologizing will do us no good. Let Supervisor McKenna be known as the one who saved swimming in Woodstock, or the one who ended it forever.

  2. roger kasunic

    Just a point to clarify, the flowing stream itself is not private property–it belongs to the state, and if you do not cross private property to get to it you are totally within rights to swim there, my understanding.

    The access to the stream on one one side is private property. The town closed off the other side when they built a huge retaining wall. Again, my understanding.

    But yes, I agree, the property owners were the driving force for making it difficult for Woodstock residents to use the Millstream.

    I repeat my request to our town officials: PLEASE DO SOMETHING to ensure that we’ll have a place to swim, if not during the pandemic, then forever afterward!

    1. Bill H

      I agree, Roger, that the town leadership ought to be working hard on how to make public lands available for people and creating solutions to problems. Yes, the pandemic may delay our enjoyment of popular natural resources, but hopefully the meantime is being used to solve the litter and parking problems. By the way, the parking problems will be solved the moment the town is able to safely open the parking areas and let people in.

      In my view, Woodstock has been trapped between the desire and disgust of tourism. The town cannot survive without tourists and weekenders, and may of us LOVE making all that money, but we seem to not want those “others” to play in our streams. Well, why else do we think folks visit here? Surely it’s not only the tie-died Hendrix posters and the replica lava lamps (both of which are great). It’s the clean air and cold water streams.

      Now, what can the town do to encourage folks to better clean up after themselves…

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