Deerfield River overcrowding solutions ‘on the right track’

  • Town officials and local recreational business owners say that initial actions to control overcrowding on the Deerfield River in Charlemont have been effective, but there is still more work to be done. Contributed Photo/Frank Mooney

Staff Writer
Published: 8/11/2020 12:37:47 PM

CHARLEMONT — Town officials and local recreational business owners say that initial actions to control overcrowding on the Deerfield River have been effective, but there is still more work that needs to be done.

During a Charlemont Selectboard meeting Monday, members discussed the increased presence of local police officers and state troopers at areas that have seen issues with overcrowding, including the Zoar Picnic Area.

While Selectboard member Jay Healy said the progress was “not totally satisfactory,” he is continuing to hold discussions with Brookfield Renewable Power, which owns and operates the property. Frank Mooney, co-owner of Crab Apple Whitewater Inc., said the town will need continued vigilance from police, as well as assistance from Brookfield Renewable Power on busy summer weekends.

“The increased Charlemont and State Police presence has made a significant difference the past few weekends on the river,” Mooney said. “The crowds have diminished and the overall behavior on the river has improved. There is still significant progress to be made, but we are on the right track.”

Healy said Miranda Kessel, stakeholder relations manager with Brookfield Renewable Power, has told him that the need for officers’ presence is a “day by day” need. While they may require police on a busy Saturday, a rainy or cloudy day may not see the same crowds. Other issues arise from scheduling and availability of State Police.

“Last week, State Police said nobody was available,” Healy noted. “On the day where it was sunniest and most precious, they didn’t have anybody.”

While parking enforcement signs have been installed, Healy said he is still wondering about help on the days when State Police are unavailable. Healy said the answer may be to have local police increase their presence.

“It seems to me that maybe the answer is to localize, and maybe have the local police involved so we have more control over it,” Healy said.

Selectboard Chair Marguerite Willis encouraged Healy to push for a form of written commitment from Brookfield Renewable Power. Willis said company representatives have spoken during town meetings, but she wants something in writing .

“We’ve been approaching this piecemeal and I want to see if we can finish a puzzle, but that piece is important,” Willis said Monday night.

Selectboard members also mentioned the possibility of posting a legal notice in the newspaper, notifying residents their vehicles would be at risk of being towed from no-parking areas. Members said the legal notice would “give them teeth” to write parking tickets or tow vehicles.

Additionally, Jon Schaefer, Berkshire East CEO, left an informational packet for the Selectboard, but this was not available in time for members ahead of Monday’s meeting. The information was assembled after Schaefer reached out to other recreational business owners and residents to gather ideas for “fixes that are more long-term.” The Selectboard plans to schedule a “river meeting” for public discussion in the near future, but no date has been set.

“Hopefully we can all work together to keep the Deerfield safe and beautiful for all to enjoy,” Mooney said.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.




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