Stillwater Bridge losing parking

Utility moving its guardrails to edge of road

  • Parking lot just up stream from the Stillwater Bridge in Deerfield.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Parking lot just up stream from the Stillwater Bridge in Deerfield. Recorder/Paul Franz

  • Parking lot just downstream from the Stillwater Bridge in Deerfield.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Parking lot just downstream from the Stillwater Bridge in Deerfield. Recorder/Paul Franz

  • Parking lot just up stream from the Stillwater Bridge in Deerfield.  Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Parking lot just downstream from the Stillwater Bridge in Deerfield.  Recorder/Paul Franz

DEERFIELD — Parking near Stillwater Bridge for people wishing to go tubing, boating or fishing on the Deerfield River will be more challenging this summer.

TransCanada Corp., the hydro-electric company that owns part of Deerfield River bank along Stillwater Road, is moving its guardrails out to the edge of the road, effectively eliminating much of the convenient, informal riverside parking used by summer revelers there.

Davis Sheremata, a spokesman with the Calgary-based company, said the utility is determining the exact location of where the guardrails will be placed in the parking lot but they will eliminate parking on TransCanada property.

The changes are due to overuse and resultant environmental degradation of the river bank, such as erosion and trash at the site, he said. The changes will be made within two weeks.

Public access for river recreation, including parking, will remain available on the eastern side of the Stillwater Bridge, which is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game.

TransCanada has owned the property along the Deerfield River since 2005.

The move comes days after the Board of Selectmen agreed to a one-year trial for Deerfield River Portage, a local tubing and transportation company, to deliver tubers from its Conway base to the Stillwater Bridge area like a taxi service. The 5-year-old portage company apparently has accounted for some of the increase of river use and traffic in that area in recent years.

On Tuesday morning, several town representatives met with TransCanada to discuss the company’s plans to move the guardrails. They included police Chief John Paciorek Jr., South County EMS Director Zachary Smith, Deerfield Fire Chief Chet Yazwinski Jr. and Highway Director Shawn Patterson.

In the long term, Selectman Carolyn Shores Ness said, the change will result in less policing for the town. However, at first, she expects the police department will be challenged in trying to prevent illegal parking on the road.

“It’s a mixed set of cards,” said Paciorek. “It can lead to cars parking along the guardrails, pushing the pedestrian traffic into the roadway.”

For many years, the Deerfield police have contended with parking problems, littering, drunkenness and nuisance issues in the Stillwater area from people using the river. The most popular pastime on the river is tubing.

Last summer, complaints to the town spiked. Police issued 93 parking tickets and received 92 calls for service. The cost to police the area amounted to $9,000 to $10,000.

The town tried to stem some of the inflow to the area brought by Deerfield River Portage last summer, although many people drive themselves to Stillwater and swim, party or fish in the shadow of the bridge.

The company has provided transportation to tubers along the river from Bardwells Ferry Bridge to Stillwater Bridge since 2008 without a permit. It went unnoticed by the town until last year, when it requested a food permit.

The company, owned by Kate Clayton-Jones and Danielle Canedy of Conway, has since changed its business operations. The relocation of the guardrails isn’t expected to hurt their business as customers now meet the tubing company at 617 Hoosac Road in Conway at a scheduled time and park their cars there.

In a van, the company gives rides to a “put-in” point and brings them back to their cars after collecting them at Stillwater.

The company no longer conducts its business transactions in Deerfield and operates more like a taxi service, Clayton-Jones said.

In the past, the company met tubers by the Stillwater Bridge and the company’s customers parked their vehicles along the road, which is not a public parking area.

Although the selectmen agreed to allow the portage company to operate in town, there is still a question whether it is a violation of town zoning bylaws. With the company acting as a taxi service based in Conway, Shores Ness said it is a gray area.

Paciorek said he believed it was a violation of the zoning bylaws.

Town lawyers also advised that it was against the town’s bylaws. In a March 13 letter, Town Counsels Lisa Mead and Michael Kennefick advised that the company is prohibited from using the Stillwater Bridge area as a “meet-up” point to pick up customers and drive them back to Conway. They said the operation of a business in the town’s residential/agricultural district absent a special permit is not allowed.

Mead and Kennefick did not return calls for comment.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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