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Beach serving Deerfield, Whately and Sunderland set to open for 46th season

  • Audra Dziuba of South Deerfield tosses her daughter, Emma Dziuba, 10, into the air at the Tri-Town Beach in Whately last summer. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz

    Audra Dziuba of South Deerfield tosses her daughter, Emma Dziuba, 10, into the air at the Tri-Town Beach in Whately last summer. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • A lifeguard keeps an eye on things at the Tri-Town Beach last summer.<br/>Recorder file photo/Paul Franz

    A lifeguard keeps an eye on things at the Tri-Town Beach last summer.
    Recorder file photo/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Audra Dziuba of South Deerfield tosses her daughter, Emma Dziuba, 10, into the air at the Tri-Town Beach in Whately last summer. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz
  • A lifeguard keeps an eye on things at the Tri-Town Beach last summer.<br/>Recorder file photo/Paul Franz

WHATELY — Beside busy Interstate 91 with cars noisily speeding by, a swimming hole, out of sight of local travelers, has provided families from southern Franklin County a place to cool down in the summer, kayak or swim.

Under the large pavilion with the summer sun setting over the water beyond them, the six-member Tri-Town Beach Commission gathered to prepare for the 2014 season on a recent evening, by interviewing this year’s prospective lifeguards.

Saturday, the Tri-Town Beach will open for its 46th summer season.

The season runs to Aug. 24, seven days a week.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and noon to 7 p.m. on weekends.

Since its inception, the man-made beach off Sunderland Road has been a volunteer-led recreational spot. Six volunteers from Whately and Deerfield make up the Tri-Town Beach Commission, an independent district separate from the Deerfield and Whately town governments. The name is a bit of a misnomer because Sunderland, the “third” town envisioned when the area was created, ultimately never joined.

“It’s a great asset to the community,” said Sue Monahan of Whately, a commission member of seven years. “It’s our way of giving back. It’s a nice resource to have.”

The swimming hole was originally discovered during the construction of Interstate 91. As the state carved up the land for the highway, it found the pool of water tucked away from the road. At first, the pool was unsupervised, but after a couple of tragedies happened there, the towns moved to take control of the beach and make it safer for children by erecting fences and guardrails and hiring life guards.

The beach commission was created in 1968 by town meeting vote in Deerfield and Whately. At the time, Sunderland was to be a member, but a move to join failed at town meeting, but the name never changed.

The commission is made up of three Deerfield residents and three Whately residents. Deerfield bears the brunt of the cost, contributing 78 percent while Whately kicks in 22 percent.

The Tri-Town Beach has become a community swimming hole, where triathlon athletes train, families hold special events and friends spend warm summer days. Often, summers at the beach transcends generations with children of yesteryear returning with their families as adults.

Many commission members have also become familiar faces, volunteering for years.

“Having your kids be here, you appreciate what you have,” said Dana Lavigne of Deerfield, a commission member for nine years. “You want to make sure it gets taken care of.”

Sharyn Paciorek of Deerfield had brought her children to the beach 34 years ago when Blake Gilmore, a former Deerfield police officer and swimming director, suggested she’d make a good commission member.

“I tried it out and I’m still here,” Paciorek said.

The beach also offers swimming lessons for roughly 200 youths each year. The program is offered to children from Deerfield, Whately, Sunderland, Conway and Hatfield for $25. Deerfield youth don’t have to pay a fee for the lessons or to use the beach because they contribute so much to the annual budget.

Over the years, names of former teenage Tri-Town Beach staff and lifeguards have been inscribed in colored chalk, their summer recorded in history, on the pavilion roof.

The beach is designed to be accessible to everyone in the community. Each year, the commission members get five season passes and many members give the passes away to families in need.

“Some families that come here don’t have money to travel. We open our doors to them. We’re here to provide a service for Deerfield and Whately,” said Sharyn Paciorek.

Trialthlon athletes that use the beach to train can get a $20 season pass.

To thank residents, the commission is hosting a free Appreciation Day on July 18. The barbecue-style party is an open invitation.

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

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