Amherst residents concerned about overcrowding at Baboosic Lake

AMHERST – Town officials are beginning to talk about possibly capping attendance at the Baboosic Lake beach after residents complained to selectmen that it sometimes gets too crowded.

“I was just amazed” at how many people were there over Fourth of July weekend, one woman said at the July 10 board meeting. “Parking was terrible.”

Sue McCarthy, who lives near the lake, said the town needs to look at how cars fit into the parking lot and whether emergency vehicles have access when it’s crowded.

“I’m not suggesting it be closed to outsiders,” she said, but the town should be aware of the number of parking spots and to close the lot when necessary.

Season passes for out-of-town families are $145, compared with $105 for Amherst residents, so the Recreation Department makes more money on them, helping the beach to be self-funded.

The beach has become more attractive in recent years because of its many improvements, including new docks, grills, picnic tables, improved restrooms and more things to do, including kayaks and paddleboards available to rent.

“It sounds like we are quickly approaching the point” where the town needs to cap beach attendance to make sure Amherst residents can use it, board Chairman Dwight Brew said. “It’s a great moneymaker,” but the plan was never to exclude Amherst people.

Another woman in the audience said signs saying the beach is closed between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m are ignored and people party there. And there should be a no-wake zone, because of the number of kayaks and paddleboards that now use the lake, she said.

Brew noted the town has no jurisdiction over the lake itself. Because it is more than 10 acres, it’s under the jurisdiction of the state Marine Patrol.

Selectmen asked Town Administrator Jim O’Mara and Craig Fraley, the recreation director, to talk about whether attendance should be controlled on days the beach is crowded.

That night, the board also held the second of two public hearings on lowering the speed limit from 30 to 25 mph on Broadway, the road that leads to the town beach.

The Amherst Safety Committee, chaired by Police Chief Mark Reams, had asked for the reduction. At the ordinance’s first hearing, beach area residents supported the change, saying heavy seasonal traffic makes residential neighborhoods unsafe.

At the July 10 hearing, a Clark Avenue resident asked for a modified ordinance that only lowers the speed limit for a segment of Broadway nearest the beach.

Selectmen plan to vote at their next meeting, on Monday, July 24.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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