Despite local concerns, MassWildlife has no plans to close Green River in Colrain to swimmers

  • Swimmers beat the heat in the Green River in Colrain. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Some of the swimming holes on South Green River Road in Colrain that are on private property have been closed due to overuse and abuse. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Some of the swimming holes on South Green River Road in Colrain that are on private property have been closed due to overuse and abuse. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Handmade signs posted by the Friends of the Pukcommeagon/Green River encourage public swimming hole visitors to pick up their trash and keep the area clean. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/MARTY DRIGGS

  • Handmade signs posted by the Friends of the Pukcommeagon/Green River encourage public swimming hole visitors to pick up their trash and keep the area clean. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/MARTY DRIGGS

For the Recorder
Published: 7/4/2021 4:53:05 PM

COLRAIN — When resident Marty Driggs handed out flyers at Annual Town Meeting on June 16, calling to “save our swimming holes,” he was publicly proclaiming his concern for closures he’s seen occurring along the Green River.

Driggs’ fliers stated that the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (MassWildlife) is considering a policy change to prohibit swimming on its properties — including one of the last publicly accessible swimming holes on the Green River, which Driggs said is popular among young families in the community.

His fliers called for Colrain residents to “speak up” by calling the Selectboard and Connecticut Valley District Office of MassWildlife. While admittedly a precautionary action, Driggs said his concern stemmed from private landowners in and around Colrain closing swimming areas on their land to the public due to littering and vandalism.

Upon calling MassWildlife to determine its properties’ swimming policies, Driggs said he spoke to a wildlife biologist who suggested that if the department’s property continued to see extreme mishandling, it could head in the direction of closure to the public.

According to Joseph Rogers, however, there was a misunderstanding. Rogers, district supervisor of MassWildlife’s Connecticut Valley District Office in Belchertown, said there have not been official plans to change swimming policies on the Green River.

In fact, Rogers continued, the department has no swimming policies because it doesn’t promote swimming on its properties. Therefore, it’s not something it publicly addresses in any of its policies.

“We’re currently not reviewing any kind of swimming regulation or policy change or anything like that,” he said. “I’m not exactly sure where the rumors are coming from.”

Properties like the one on the Green River, Rogers said, are bought by hunting and fishing funds and purchased to be open to the public. The property in Colrain in particular was also purchased due to the rare and endangered species that inhabit that area, as protection is an element that MassWildlife focuses on.

“It’s not a policy that we would close areas off to the public,” he said. “Within our district we have never seen that happen.”

Rogers confirmed that if any MassWildlife property were to be reviewed for policy changes, it would have to go to the MassWildlife Board, which would discuss it at one or several of its monthly, public meetings. Depending on the change in question, public review might be required, too.

He believes there might have been confusion because of the recent land closures along the Green River. Unlike MassWildlife property, he explained, it’s up to the discretion of private property owners to decide whether they choose to keep their land open.

MassWildlife cannot make the same, private decision, however. “An official policy change would take a lot of effort and a lot of public input,” Rogers said.

Joe Kurland, Selectboard chair, said that the board has not taken any actions regarding the Green River swimming hole, either. Kurland confirmed that the Selectboard has not received any official word that MassWildlife wants to close these areas to swimming. The only enforcement its members have seen has been by police to keep the area safe and clean.

Officer James Hunkler of the Colrain Police Department commented that by spreading the word about a “take out what you take in” mentality, the department has seen improvements in trash pickup along this spot.

That cleanliness has become much better in part, Hunkler said, thanks to the river cleanup group, Friends of the Pukcommeagon/Green River.

Colrain resident Anna Lavaredda, who frequently visits the swimming hole with her family, said she has witnessed the beneficial effects of the Friends. They’ve “been working on community agreements and expectations, and really fostering that stewardship of the land,” she said, leading to less disruption to the natural environment.

According to Lavaredda, Driggs has started organizing, especially among local families, an effort to bring trash bags and to model how to take care of the environment. She now witnesses most people, she said, carry their trash out with them.

The Friends of the Pukcommeagon/Green River also posted anti-littering signs along the Green River and continues to seek volunteers to help with cleanups.




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