Warmer weather has brought swimmers out to Seymour’s Great Hill Reservoir Dam for a cool dip … the problem is it’s illegal to swim there. And those who are breaking the rules have caused more than $5,000 in damage to the chain link fence and signs posted there prohibiting swimming.
That’s according to Conservation Commission Chairman Peter Jezierny, who brought his frustration and concerns to the June 18 meeting of the Seymour Board of Selectmen.
Jezierny presented a report of what’s been happening at the dam, located on Squantuck Road, off Route 188. Vandals have all but destroyed the chain link fence installed there last August, using bolt cutters to force their way through to the valve house, to jump off the dam. The fence has been vandalized three times, and the warning signs saying “no swimming allowed” have been ripped right off the trees, Jezierny said.
The latest round of vandalism occurred two weeks ago.
“The arrival of our first heat wave the first week of June brought the swimmers and vandals back,” Jezierny said. “Not content to climb out onto the dam through the hole (already) cut in the chain link fence, they completely tore the door out of the fence, pulled fence posts out of the concrete, bent the fence out of alignment and left several towels and articles of clothing on the fence and on the top of the dam.”
Empty beer cases have also been found scattered around the property, Jezierny said.
Jezierny has notified police, but aside from having 24-hour surveillance there, or constant police patrols, he doesn’t know what else can be done to stop the senseless acts.
Jezierny said the town purchased the property back in the late 1990s, and has invested some $2 million into it. He’d like to see the town develop the natural asset into a prime recreation area, where swimming, picnicking, hiking and other activities can be enjoyed.
For now, however, people are illegally accessing the dam, and Jezierny fears somebody is going to get hurt. He said the commission has debated some options to fix the problem, including closing the open space area to public access altogether and draining the reservoir; removing the valve house or its roof to prohibit access to the dam or even installing barbed wire fencing.
First Selectman Kurt Miller said the selectmen at their meeting in July will “digest” Jezierny’s report and discuss possible solutions to thwart future vandalism. Jezierny said the commission only has about $5,000 left in its budget. Miller expressed concerns that throwing more money at repairs that careless individuals continue to destroy won’t solve the problem.
Town Attorney Brian Lema said the town has done its part to secure the area, posting warning signs and a fence, “and I don’t think we’re obligated to go beyond that,” he said.
Miller said the selectmen will take action “that’s in the best interest of the town and the residents, and I’m confident we will come up with a solution.”
Resident Alex Danka, chairman of the Seymour Land Trust, experienced similar problems with vandalism about 18 months ago. He caught two individuals spray painting in the Legion Pool area, and instead of involving police, Danka put the two culprits to work as junior wardens, making them regularly patrol the park, ensuring the grounds are secure.
There has been no vandalism there ever since.
“The police can’t be everywhere, and it’s frustrating when vandalism occurs, but maybe it’s time that residents step up to help out,” Danka said, suggesting volunteers monitor the grounds.