Saturday, September 6, 2014

Cleaning up the Far Mill Swimming Hole - Again

L to R: Terry Gallagher, Ian Boath, John Boath, Joseph Cayes, Sandra Lundin, Jonathan Dean, and Emma Gallagher. Not shown: Ron Pilkowicz, Gil Pastore, Kelly Hanna, and Teresa Gallagher
[Follow-up Nov. 2014: A joint letter from the Shelton Conservation Commission and Anti-Litter Committee was sent to the Stratford Parks & Recreation Commission requesting that Stratford supply and service trash containers for users of this park. See letter here.]

Residents responded to the challenge and hauled a mountain of trash from Far Mill River Park. The humidity was about 150%. We picked up ~20 large bags of trash, a big plastic piece of lattice, a couple of coolers, tarps, big plastic toys, a child's swing, grill parts, a swimming noodle, tires, four heavy duty metal supports, a chair, and more. We also hauled a plastic garbage can out of the river. The Far Mill River Association said they had installed a can at the entryway and it had gone missing, so that would probably be it. We also spent a lot of time repairing the trail that some bikers were messing with.  

Keep in mind that just two weeks ago, 13 large bags of trash were hauled out of there, as well as a lot of other large items.  
They looked for a garbage can and couldn't find one. 
We need official, heavy-duty garbage cans there, routinely serviced by paid staff, and chained to something so they don't get thrown in the river. There should a garbage can at the entryway, and a garbage can down by the swimming hole during peak summer months. Yes, people should be mature enough to haul the trash back to their cars, but they don't. Many people who are littering are willing to use a garbage can if one would be supplied. So let's do that. The Town of Stratford owns the park but isn't really impacted -- out of sight, out of mind. Stratford residents don't care about it and neither do Stratford's leaders (apparently). Leaders for the City of Shelton don't want to use Shelton tax dollars to maintain a Stratford Park, which is a legitimate argument, but does nothing to help resolve a situation that is primarily impacting Shelton residents and which is occurring in Shelton. Note that the trailhead is located directly across the street from the Shelton Transfer Station (behind #865 River Road - formerly ASO Sports).  

This bag was so overfull it required a net to haul it out
Park users, some of them at least, do try to put their garbage where they think it belongs. A lot of people coming here are from urban areas (New York, New Haven and Bridgeport). They are accustomed to urban parks with park staff and garbage cans. They are apparently not familiar with the concept of "unimproved" conservation lands and carry in-carry out ethics. So they look for a trash can. If one isn't around, they figure the park staff made a mistake or something, and start filling up any bag they happen to have with them. Other people add to the bags, stuffing them so full the bag cannot be carried. In the photo above, the very heavy bag being hauled out by a volunteer required a heavy-duty net to keep it from falling apart. It was overfull because park users were trying to dispose of their trash properly. 

Ian and John Boath haul bags from the Swimming Hole to the parking lot
In addition to picking up litter, one of the trails needed serious repair after some kids dug it up to build jumps. That took several hours of heavy, dirty work. But the trail was completely repaired.
Terry after a several hours of earthwork on the trail

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Far Mill River "Swimming Hole"

UPDATE July 2020: This park as been essentially closed to the public due to extreme problems with littering and noise at all hours. 

Far Mill River Park is owned by Stratford, but public access and much of the park is located within Shelton. The place is very, very scenic and every summer it is mobbed by people who drive from as far away as New York to cool down.  Sadly, mountains of litter are left behind, and Shelton residents get stuck picking it up.  Many hands make light work, however.  Now that the summer hoards are gone, it is time to clean up the area for the enjoyment of all.

The "Swimming Hole" is part of Shelton's heritage, starting with the earliest Shelton mills, the ruins of which are scattered across the park.  About 100 years ago, a trolley line was constructed from Bridgeport to an amusement park called Pine Rock Park that was built above the river.  The amusement park was short-lived and was soon developed into summer cottages that took advantage of the nearby falls. Summer homes were converted to year-round dwellings over time.  Through it all, the Swimming Hole has been a major scenic attraction. Let's keep it that way.  Here's a video of a cleanup in August. We had a lot of hot weather after that, so we can all assume the park needs a good clean-up once again.
Trolley Line bridge abutment near Rt 110 in Far Mill River Park