GREENFIELD — If you’re looking to take a dip in the Green River this summer, city officials want you to avoid the area around Eunice Williams Covered Bridge.
The Department of Public Works has installed a fence along the banks of the Green River, near where the bridge and a pumping station are located. Officials hope the fence will prevent vandalism and stop trash from piling up along the banks of the river — incidents that last summer drew ire from residents. Officials also worry about the possibility of contaminating the upstream water that is drawn as drinking water at certain times of the year.
Director of Public Works Don Ouellette said hundreds of visitors flood the location looking for relief from the summer heat, which is the source of the problem. The space has grown in popularity over the past several summers, after the covered bridge re-opened in 2014.
The bridge was severely damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, but site work to restore the bridge abutments also opened the river bank and river bed on both sides of the bridge to informal and unsupervised public access. While the area around and below the dam upstream from the bridge has always served as a local swimming hole, changes to the topography since Irene has opened the area to many more swimmers and picnickers, some of whom have held barbecues, camped and left trash.
“We had a lot of problems there with vandalism, with trash,” Ouellette said. “We had one individual set a campfire under the covered wooden bridge.”
Visitors are blamed for an increase in bacteria in fresh water held behind a dam above the river, despite signs and fencing restricting swimming there. The Green River impoundment is a water source for the city and requires additional treatment during the summer, according to Water Superintendent Mark Holley.
“The higher the (bacteria) level, the more chlorine we would have to use,” he said, which costs the city more money.
This hasn’t affected the quality of water delivered to residents, Holley said. He did not know the exact cost increase for additional water treatment.
Ouellette said the city had taken steps to stop visitors from swimming and leaving refuse behind, including “no parking” signs and increased police patrols last year. People still came in droves though, with as many as 300 people visiting the site in a day, especially on long holiday weekends, according to Ouellette.
With the fence, Ouellette hopes people will instead go to the Green River Swimming and Recreation Area, the city’s official swimming area. That area costs money to use. Adult daily rates are $4 for residents and $8 for nonresidents; children’s rates are $3 for residents and $6 for non-residents. Season passes are also available.
One resident is concerned with how the city decided to control the crowds.
Wanda Williams, whose home has the Green River in her backyard, believes city officials are not considering the overall impact of their decision.
“They’re answering an immediate problem and not looking at all the other problems in advance,” she said.
Williams believes the decision will take away a recreational resource from future generations and could impact Colrain upstream as people look for other places to swim in the Green River.
This could cause the same issues in Colrain, Williams said, but with fewer employees to address the problems.
Colrain Police Chief Christopher Lannon seemed unfazed by Greenfield’s moves.
“It’s the same every year no matter what the bridge status is or if the swimming area is closed officially. We always get the influx of people,” he said.
You can reach Dan Desrochers at:
413-772-0261, ext. 257