Safety concerns prompt adjustment

WILTON – For the duration of the summer swimming season, in an attempt to ease traffic and parking problems at the New Reservoir, Sand Hill Road will be one-way from Isaac Frye Highway. There is no parking on Isaac Frye and parking is limited along the reservoir.

At their regular meeting on Monday, June 8, the Select Board said safety issues were the main concern. There has to be access for emergency equipment.

Board Chair Kellie-Sue Boissonnault began the discussion with a plea: “I encourage residents to get their facts from the town website. Don’t take Facebook as gospel.”

Posts on public media have caused numerous parking problems. Do not enter signs have been posted on Isaac Frye “and ignored.” Those signs will be made more visible.

Selectman Matt Fish outlined the use of the reservoir since about 1985 when the town switched from surface water to the current wells. Several committees have studied the area over the years.

“It became an abandoned reservoir,” he said, “and then the state reclassified the dam as a high risk.” The town had to decided whether to keep the dam, and the reservoir, or lower the dam and essentially drain the pond. It became a popular site for boating, fishing, and later swimming., all with little problem until the near-by Garwin Falls was popularized on social media a couple of years ago, and then increased by last year’s pandemic.

“We were unprepared for the 40 to 50 cars a day due to COVID,” Fish said.

In response, the town has made a few “common sense regulations” while the situation is studied and parking is increased at the reservoir.

“There is no beach, no life guard, the dry hydrant has been moved, and we want to keep people off the dam,” Fish said. “We want to manage access and life-safety issues, but no further improvements have been authorized. It is open for passive recreation and no porta-potties.”

He added, “The board will come up with common-sense rules,” but right now, no major changes will be made.

The public access to Garwin Falls, which has parking for about five cars, has been blocked by Jersey barriers during the COVID shut down. Removing them was discussed.

Selectman Kermit Williams said, “It is the only access we have control over,” since the falls are on private property.

Police Chief Eric Oleson said there has been increased activity “but it’s just getting into summer.”

Fire Chief Don Nourse said, “Keeping them gives us emergency access (for our ATV rescue vehicle.) Several medical evacuations were made last year, he said.

His department has also gone in for illegal fires and have removed several unauthorized fire circles. “Fires are not allowed on town property,” a rule frequently ignored by out-of-town visitors.

Boissonnault suggested leaving the barriers in place for a month “and monitoring the activity. We can return them if there is a problem. The five spaces would be allowed.”

She reminded that “the fine for parking along the road is $100 and we expect you to pay it.”

Police will continue to monitor both sites.