Deep Hole question resolved, for now - BlueStone Press
December 10, 2018

Deep Hole question resolved, for now

...will surely come up again next summer

Posted

At Rochester’s Town Board meeting in August, a public hearing was held on the possibility of a total parking ban on Towpath Road, cutting off access to the very popular swimming area known as Deep Hole. In response to the issues raised then, a group of local citizens formed what they call the Deep Hole Working Group. As the Sept. 6 board meeting commenced, a member of the DHWG handed out a booklet to those present titled “Report on Deep Hole,” a summation of the group’s efforts to “explore alternatives to a complete parking ban at the Deep Hole swimming area.” The group had consulted with the Rochester Highway Department as well as the Vermont River Conservancy, which has dealt with similar situations in that state. They had also created an exhaustively detailed spreadsheet noting the number of cars parked along the road, obstructions on the road, garbage, parking in the fire department spots, et cetera, for over a month, all day, every day. They offered a number of recommendations and also pledged to help keep the area clean and safe for all.

One principal recommendation was to post “No Parking” signs on the side of the road opposite the swimming hole, and to strictly enforce this. Mike Baden, town supervisor, had already decided to propose this solution, after the many comments at last month’s public hearing.

“We would post the opposite side of the creek with no parking, and the four spaces that are supposed to be kept open at all times for fire department access. So that’s my proposal,” Baden told the board. After a unanimous yes vote from the board, the floor was opened for public comment, of which there was no shortage.

The first commenter was from the DHWG, reporting on her conversations with the Vermont River Conservancy. “Banning parking is a very effective tool, but it has to be followed up by enforcement,” she said. She had also talked to a forest ranger about the situation at another very well-known swimming spot, Blue Hole in the Town of Denning. “He said if you don’t enforce it, it’s only going to get worse.” She also noted the lack of clear signage pertaining to the fire department parking spots. “It’s been a great experience to go down there and meet all these wonderful people who use the stream,” she added. Supervisor Baden said, “I’d like to thank you for taking the time to do all that work.”

Next up was a man who asked if the town was incurring any legal liability from the swimming area. The answer is no, Baden told him, and furthermore, “unless we are asked by the owner to enforce ‘No Trespassing’ signs, we have no authority” to keep people from swimming there.

Another man got up and offered, “There’s a place where everybody turns around … if you make it clear that no one’s alowed to park there, it would make the road a little bit safer.” He brought up the idea of a possible speed zone, and also commented, “I’ve been at the hole pretty much every day possible since the last meeting, talking to everybody, and it’s been lovely. Everybody wants to do the right thing.” He described the locals talking to out-of-towners, asking them not to leave trash or to “throw sticks and rocks for your dog when you’ve got children in there.” The DHWG spokeswoman again: “Heat waves, holiday weekends – every weekend, if somebody could patrol it between noon and 6 p.m., I don’t think we’re going to have a problem. I think citizen stewardship is very important. A lot of people in this town are willing to do it, and it’s a beautiful thing.”

There was a lot of discussion about how far off the pavement a car has to be to park legally. “It will be up the the constables’ judgment,” said Baden. He confirmed that Rochester constables do have the power to ticket vehicles whose tires are on the pavement. In conclusion, he said, “After our last meeting, I noticed a difference – people were really trying. I did a lot of watching in the last month, and I agree that we can at least give this a try.”

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