Deerfield River restrictions in Charlemont

  • A group of people with tubes wait for the water release at Zoar Picnic Area on the Deerfield River in Charlemont. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 7/27/2020 3:18:23 PM

The decision by local officials to restrict parking to so-called “live parking” at Shunpike Rest Area is a Draconian measure designed to prevent people from enjoying the recreational opportunities provided by the Deerfield River.

Live parking means people can’t drop off a vehicle where they plan to get out of the river, so they can drive back up to where they got into the river.With this restrictive action, local officials are effectively limiting enjoyment of the recreational opportunities of the river to those who profit from it. That is wrong.

In The Recorder’s July 24 article about the restriction, Charlemont select-board member Marguerite Willis noted that she observed the cars driving in with their own tubes. Big deal. People shouldn’t have to pay an expensive fee to enjoy a natural resource on a brutally hot day.

The sign next to Shunpike Rest Area reads, “To the Thrifty Travelers of the Mohawk Trail who in 1797 here forded the Deerfield River rather than pay toll at the Turnpike Bridge and who in 1810 won the battle for free travel on all Massachusetts Roads.”

So it’s ironic that local officials are proactively making it virtually impossible for people of modest means to enjoy the river for free.

Indeed, more must be done to promote the stewardship of the river and social distancing. When I was on the river on Sunday, I also noticed and was appalled by the littering.I was grateful for a few good Samaritans on kayaks cross-crossing the river picking up trash left behind by a few bad apples. Fines should issued to those who use and litter bugs.

Police should be used to enforce the rules in a manner that promote inclusion, not exclusion. Instead of enforcing absurd parking policies, they should enforce social distancing. Instead of installing no parking signs, install signs promoting stewardship and social distancing. Create more parking areas, not less. The “complexities” of COVID-19 cited as the reason for the restrictions requires adaptation, just as thrifty travelers adapted in 1810. Otherwise those shunned at the Shunpike Rest Area will adapt in a less-than-desirable manner creating a much more dangerous situation.

More creative solutions are required than Draconian restrictions.That is authoritarianism.We live in a free society. Local officials will do well to remember that, and pursue policies that reinforce it.

Michael Seward is a resident of Shelburne.

Greenfield Recorder

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Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


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