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Deerfield River tubers may face parking woes

Photo by Kathleen McKiernan
Guardrails are moved to the edge of the road, eliminating informal parking.

Photo by Kathleen McKiernan Guardrails are moved to the edge of the road, eliminating informal parking. Purchase photo reprints »

DEERFIELD — Before grabbing their black inner tubes and fishing rods and heading out to the Deerfield River this summer for a traditional Franklin County pastime, tubers, anglers and swimmers better come up with a parking plan.

The guardrails along the edge of the river bank at Stillwater in West Deerfield have been moved up to the road’s edge, leaving no parking spaces at the increasing popular swimming hole and tuber pull-out spot.

In April, TransCanada Corp., the hydro-electric company that owns part of Deerfield River bank along Stillwater Road, announced plans to move the guardrails to protect its property from overuse and environmental degradation of the river bank.

This will be the first season tubers, swimmers and Deerfield Police will test the new arrangement. It is also the start of the one-year trial of Deerfield River Portage, a park-and-ride business based on Hoosac Road in Conway, to use a new business model approved by Deerfield town officials.

For some years, the town and police have battled parking problems, littering, drunkenness and nuisance issues in the Stillwater area from people using the river. Police are strengthening efforts to curb the problems and make the area safer.

The tubing season starts in June and already some people have had trouble adjusting to the newly positioned guardrails.

“Several residents have expressed concern that the area is being cut off for their recreational use,” said Police Chief John Paciorek Jr.

“This is certainly not the intent of our agency, nor is it the town’s intent. Our only goal is to act in the best interest of public safety. This includes cars parking where they are deemed a traffic hazard, pedestrians in the roadway, public alcohol consumption, intoxicated and disorderly individuals, littering, and swearing.”

The lock to the gate on the west end where the guardrails have been moved has been cut once already, said Paciorek.

Paciorek said officers will be posted on Stillwater Road as deemed necessary and ticketing and towing vehicles that are parked illegally.

The police are also working with Deerfield River Portage.

It will be the first year Deerfield River Portage tries out its new parking plan.

“The town have given us one year to figure this out,” said co-owner Kate Clayton-Jones. “We’re working really closely with them. It will be a challenging year for everyone.”

The portage company, owned by Clayton-Jones and Danielle Canedy of Conway, is essentially a park-and-ride service for people wishing to tube to Bardwells Ferry Bridge to Stillwater.

Deerfield River Portage came under scrutiny last year for operating since 2008 without a permit and using public parking at Stillwater for their customers.

There will be two parking spots for customers at 617 Hoosac Road in Conway and at White Birch Camp Grounds in Whately, where the portage company is renting 120 spots.

The business has already had some bookings in early June compared to last year’s early May start to the season.

According to the town-approved business plan, customers of the tubing company will be picked up at White Birch Camp Grounds in Whately, brought to Conway and dropped off at the Bardwells Ferry Bridge. They will then be picked up at Stillwater Bridge and transported back to the campground.

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.

The price to use the service has changed to $50 per person including rental tubes. In the past, the company charged $55 for a lift and a rental tube. At the end of the trip, the company would give back $25.

Clayton-Jones said the prices have changed so the company could pay employees a competitive wage.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com Or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 On Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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