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River shuttle starts in Charlemont

  • Sean Radowicz, Tyson Stempel and Amanda Abramson, rear, keep cool on a hot Wednesday drifting down the Deerfield River in Deerfield with friends. 07/07/11 Franz

    Sean Radowicz, Tyson Stempel and Amanda Abramson, rear, keep cool on a hot Wednesday drifting down the Deerfield River in Deerfield with friends. 07/07/11 Franz

  • Sean Radowicz, Tyson Stempel and Amanda Abramson, rear, keep cool on a hot Wednesday drifting down the Deerfield River in Deerfield with friends. 07/07/11 Franz

CHARLEMONT — After years of discussing how to make the Deerfield River a safer place for boaters, fishermen, kayakers, and river-tubing, several initiatives have been put into place to reduce vehicular traffic, promote river safety and civility among river-users.

On Friday, The Great Outdoors sporting goods shop will start a new parking, shuttle and river-access service for river-tubers from its shop at 78 Main St.

Also, the Charlemont Police Department has raised money to pay for more river patrols on the weekends.

The Great Outdoors owners Frank, Helen and Chris Carcio obtained a special permit last year to create a river tubers’ parking lot on three of the six riverfront acres they own — behind the town’s post office and next to their shop.

“We’ll be starting the shuttle service this weekend,” said Helen Carcio. “It will be offered Friday through Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Right now, there is parking for up to 30 cars. We expect to have more by the end of summer, when the (hay) field has gotten mowed.”

This weekend the Carcios will install a “flagpole point” to let tubers parked at The Great Outdoors know where to take out their tubes, when they reach the parking lot.

“We have a new shuttle van, which we’re pretty excited about. And we’ve gotten in life preservers we’re going to sell inexpensively, which have been approved by the Coast Guard.

Carcio said the shuttle transportation from 78 Main St. to the Zoar Picnic Area will cost $5 per person. Parking for shuttle service-users will be $5, but $10 for those who just want to use the parking lot and the take-out access to get back to the parking area.

Those who use the Great Outdoors shuttle service will get an extra mile more of river-tubing than they now typically get by tubing to the “Shunpike” waterfront access from the Zoar Picnic Area. And the Carcios hope the town will have lighter traffic, fewer illegally parked cars, and less trespassing on privately owned riverfront property.

“People we have talked to are very excited about this,” she said. “We are confident that it’s going to reduce the amount of traffic — especially ... where it’s so crowded people end up parking on Route 2. I think it’s going to be much safer, and it’s going to be great,” she said.

Carcio said most river-tubers come to Charlemont with two vehicles — one to take the river-users and tubes to the picnic area, and one parked downstream for when they’re finished. A parking area and shuttle would require only one car for the trip.

A new collaborative group, called the Deerfield River Forum, has started a “Wear It! Deerfield River Campaign,” to encourage the use of life jackets and to spread the general message of responsible water safety. Fliers spelling out safety principles on the river have been distributed to local businesses.

After a series of community meetings, the Deerfield River Forum voted to adopt a ‘Wear It! Deerfield River’ slogan, because ‘Wear It’ has national recognition,” said Polly Bartlett, director of the Deerfield River Watershed Association. “Many of the safety messages are similar to what we want to promote in our riverfront community. These are common sense river rules ... that will enable us all to share the rivers safely.”

The national Wear It! program was started by the National Safe Boating Council, and this programs is a local off-shoot.

Besides promoting the use of life jackets to all on the river, the “Wear It!” fliers circulated by local businesses spell out other safety and etiquette recommendations:

∎ No alcohol/no glass.

∎ Lug out what you lug in — no littering.

∎ Stay alert for hidden hazards on land and in water.

∎ Respect all landowners — do not trespass.

∎ Respect all river-users.

Also, Charlemont Police Sgt. Clayton Herbert has been raising money to help pay for river patrols. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but Carcio said Herbert had raised money from Charlemont area businesses to pay for river patrols, with the Brookfield Renewable Energy Group (the parent company for Bear Swamp Pumped Storage hydro-electricity facility) offering matching funds of up to $7,500 for others’ contributions. Also, she said, Paul Fantucchio of the Mohawk Park Pub and Restaurant had donated a recreation trailer for police to use as a mobile office, and will be stationed at one of the picnic areas along the river.

Zoar Outdoor and Crab Apple Whitewater rafting companies are legally permitted to serve up to a combined 320 rafters and kayakers per day; their customers are furnished with life jackets and safety gear.

But hundreds of river-tubers may come to town on a hot day. In an informal survey two years ago, Crab Apple Whitewater employees counted 743 river-users in one day. Only 60 wore life jackets and alcohol was visible in at least 100 cases — not counting coolers, where the contents could not be seen.

Crab Apple manager Frank Mooney told selectmen that, when he first came to Charlemont, only about 100 people a day were using the river. “We are now doubling the population of the town on a good Saturday, on a four-mile stretch of the river,” he said.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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