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Deerfield River Portage gets one-year trial

DEERFIELD — Tubing is a go at least for one more summer.

The Deerfield Board of Selectmen has agreed to allow Deerfield River Portage to continue shuttling tubers, fishermen and boaters to the Stillwater Bridge area where they then enter the Deerfield River for this summer season.

The trial period, suggested by the owner of the portage company, Kate Clayton-Jones will last until Oct. 15. After which, the town and the local business would debrief and discuss whether the portage company can continue to operate in the future.

The conditions of the agreement — most of which the portage company says it has always followed — include litter cleanup and ongoing communication with the town and police chief.

The decision was good news to the Deerfield River Portage, which has changed its business plans since last summer to comply with town rules.

“We’re not perfect. We’re still a developing business,” Clayton-Jones said. “We realize our business has an impact on your town. We worked really hard with the town to come into compliance. We really want to be here, but as a welcome guest.”

Tubers will now park their vehicles at 617 Hoosac Road in Conway and the company gives them a ride to the “put in” point by the Bardwells Ferry Bridge area. Later on, the company picks the tubers up at the take-out point by Stillwater and brings them back to Conway. The company has permission from a private landowner to use the land and financial transactions are all done at the Conway home now. The company has become essentially a taxi-cab service, Clayton-Jones said.

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

With the company now acting as a delivery service, none of the town’s bylaws apply and there is little the town could do to prevent the business from operating.

A town lawyer’s opinion earlier this month said the business was prohibited from operating because town bylaws restrict a commercial business from operating in the residential/agriculture zone. The legal opinion referred to the company’s prior business practices, Clayton-Jones said.

Last summer, complaints from Stillwater residents of congested parking, littering and rowdy tubers increased substantially. When the town learned the company was operating in the residential-agricultural district without a special permit, it issued a cease-and-desist order and asked the company to meet with the Zoning Board.

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