Police Harass Citizens of Shelburne Falls

Several residents of Shelburne Falls, Mass., near Greenfield, told the Post on July 18 they had been harassed by police while swimming at a popular swimming area on the river near downtown Shelburne Falls. They asked to not be identified for fear of retribution.

Shelburne select board chair John Payne told the Post on July 22, "The police are not harassing people, they are enforcing town rules."

The swim area is known as the Potholes. It is located just downstream from the dam in downtown Shelburne Falls.

Residents who wish to change the rules and/or ask the town to provide a lifeguard at the Potholes can contact www.masspirg.org for help.

These photos of the Potholes swim area, and the entrance to it, were taken on July 18. To enlarge the photos, please click on them.

photos by Eesha Williams

Comments

lawsuit validity

I feel like I was just sucker punched. Many years ago a friend of mine took my to these beautiful potholes that left a lifelong impression.

I moved from NY to MA almost 4 years ago and have been thinking about going back ever since. Today I decided to look into the site in order to plan a trip next weekend with my family only to discover that we can't wander around and explore this 7th wonder of the world.

What's even more upsetting is the actual reason. Lawsuits and an inability to pay for a lifeguard. WHAT? How is it that lawsuits had any kind of momentum. I Hike, Snowboard, Mountain Bike, Swim in the Ocean, Road Bike, Pontoon/swim in a lake, Kyack, etc. If I brake a limb snowboarding I cant sue the mountain. If my 2 year old child falls off the side of the mountain I decide to have him climb, I can't sue the town. If I go mountain biking and fly over my handlebars and bash my face on a rock, I can't sue the mountain. All of the families that lost family members on Mt Everest aren't filing lawsuits against Tibet. How are these lawsuits going anywhere, and why isn't the town recouping their law fees?

I've had 46 years of pushing limits and taking risks. I've paid the price of those risks, broken bones, insane bruises, and crazy cuts. NO ONE BUT ME is to blame for those injuries.

I'm also unclear as to why the town should have to pay for a lifeguard. This truly is one of the most spectacular places I've ever been, and I certainly would pay a few dollars to be able to go. I don't think locals should pay, but out of towners should certainly pay. Let the out of towners pay for lifeguards and perhaps security. Security that enforces no pollution or acting dangerously.

This is a real shame. Shame on the people that participated in this happening. I've had this place on my mind for decades out of all of the amazing places I've been. I was really looking forward to taking my son here next weekend and I'm completely deflated by reading this news.

Re. Bob Rottenberg's comment

Re. Bob Rottenberg's comment of 7/26/2009:

According to this Northampton group www.nationalpriorities.org if taxpayers took about .0000000001 percent of the money they now spend on bombs and jails for non-violent people, they could buy the land that Bob writes about and hire lifeguards for this swim spot.

Bombs and the Potholes

And therein lies the rub! Sure, that miniscule amount of money now spent on bombs and jails certainly could buy the Potholes (and perhaps the whole town!)...but unfortunately, local voters have no control over this federal money -- unless they become war-tax refusers. It still comes down to a question -- not of "guns vs. butter" but "schools and highways vs. lifeguards." I think we've squeezed this issue as much as we can...thanks for listening!
Bob R.

One of the problems here has

One of the problems here has been the inability to clarify ownership issues: who actually owns which parts of the land surrounding the water (not to mention who "owns" that portion of the river). I agree that the town "should" provide programs to help reduce a variety of public health problems, including obesity. But even if the town had sufficient available funds, the ownership issues would still stand in the way of a clear and satisfactory resolution.
I served for many years as chair of the Finance Committee in neighboring Colrain MA. The fiscal problems these towns face are very real -- just keeping the schools open and the roads plowed uses up virtually all of a town's available funds. People consistently vote against tax increases to fund "public good" items such as lifeguards. In Massachusetts, towns cannot simply raise taxes any time they want -- they are limited to a 2 1/2% increase every year, and this is usually more than swallowed up by inflation. Any additional increase must be approved by the voters.

This is a big problem without a simple solution!

Bob Rottenberg

One of the problems here has

One of the problems here has been the inability to clarify ownership issues: who actually owns which parts of the land surrounding the water (not to mention who "owns" that portion of the river). I agree that the town "should" provide programs to help reduce a variety of public health problems, including obesity. But even if the town had sufficient available funds, the ownership issues would still stand in the way of a clear and satisfactory resolution.
I served for many years as chair of the Finance Committee in neighboring Colrain MA. The fiscal problems these towns face are very real -- just keeping the schools open and the roads plowed uses up virtually all of a town's available funds. People consistently vote against tax increases to fund "public good" items such as lifeguards. In Massachusetts, towns cannot simply raise taxes any time they want -- they are limited to a 2 1/2% increase every year, and this is usually more than swallowed up by inflation. Any additional increase must be approved by the voters.

This is a big problem without a simple solution!

Bob Rottenberg

Shelburne Falls Police Harassment

I'm surprised to see this article posted as if this comes out of the blue. It doesn't. The potholes, a beautiful natural area, is also a dangerous area, as periodic water releases from the dam have many times caught swimmers by surprise. Also, people have been seriously injured by diving or falling from the rocks that surround the water. People have gone swimming there for many many years. But because of liability issues (the town has been sued several times by people who got hurt swimming there) the town closed the area to the public close to ten years ago, setting up fences and gates as well as clear posting of signs. Yet people continue to congregate and swim there as if it were a public bathing area. It isn't. The town cannot afford lifeguards, nor can it afford the risk of more lawsuits from people who, disregarding all the fences and posted signs, persist in what amounts to trespassing. It's a shame, but is yet another example of the financial pressure all small towns are under these days. I doubt that MassPirg can be of help here.
Bob Rottenberg
Brattleboro

Thank you, Bob Rottenberg,

Thank you, Bob Rottenberg, for your comment.

I wonder why the people who own and operate the dam can't come up with a way to warn swimmers before they release water. This is how it's done on the West River in Brattleboro.

There were no fences or gates when I took these photos.

You wrote, "The town cannot afford lifeguards." But the towns of Brattleboro and Vernon, Vermont both have public swimming pools with lifeguards. Isn't the cost of providing healthy, outdoor recreation options a good investment at a time when obesity is the nation's biggest cause of preventable death? How much do taxpayers spend on treating obesity-related health problems?

Thanks again.

Re: Obesity issues,

Re: Obesity issues, inactivity & poor diet cause health problems regardless of weight.

Re: the Potholes, a few years ago I took a friend to Shelburne Falls to see the Potholes (for geological sightseeing, not swimming) & was startled to see the closed-off "No trespassing" business. I'm pretty sure the dam had a siren back when swimming was allowed. I can certainly see how it would be an injury-prone area, but it's still kind of sad that it's closed off.

-Colin Tedford

Thanks, Colin! Here's another

Thanks, Colin!

Here's another web page with obesity info:

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/obesity.html

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