CATSKILL — Residents of Palenville asked the Catskill Town Board on Tuesday to reconsider fencing that would block public access to the swimming hole at Tannery Bridge.
The board decided in July 2020 to temporarily close and fence off public access to the swimming hole after it became overcrowded and overrun with trash due to the closing of public swimming pools amid the pandemic. But residents told the board this summer is different, asking the board to remove the fence and to pause plans for a permament barrier.
In July 2020, following public comments and concern due to parked cars blocking Route 23A, a lack of social distancing, excessive litter and people jumping into the water from the bridge, the board decided to temporarily shut down public access to the swimming hole. With the closure, the only access to the hole is from private property.
The board passed a resolution in May to get a quote for the price of permanent fencing after some Palenville residents advocated for its complete closure at the meeting.
Catskill Town Supervisor Dale Finch said at the meeting that residents had been emailing the board with photos showing the swimming hole’s current state.
Palenville resident Chris Burns submitted a petition containing 35 signatures he began circulating Tuesday morning asking the board to keep the hole open. He said the signatories did not know the board was considering a permanent closure.
Kevin Burns, a resident who helped start the petition, said he has been swimming in the hole for 50 years and he takes his grandchildren when they come to visit. He said he hasn’t seen the overcrowding or trash issues become as bad this summer.
“I’m asking the board for a moratorium on putting up the fence and closing down the hole until we can obtain more signatures in favor of people swimming in the hole,” he said.
Advocates for the permanent closure of the swimming hole, including resident in attendance Tuesday, Crane Davis, have not submitted a petition of support for its closure but said they are gathering signatures.
Town Councilman Jared Giordiano said the biggest concern is safety and liability. Greene County, which owns the bridge, is planning to install an 8-foot fence on the bridge by mid-August to prevent jumping into the water, Councilman Paul Vosburgh said.
Councilwoman Dawn Scannapieco said she supports keeping the swimming hole open and is interested in looking for solutions to keeping it clean, including assembling a group of volunteers to regularly pick up litter.
Finch said the board was not prepared to make a decision on removing the fence Tuesday evening, but decided to hold the next meeting in Palenville and to make the swimming hole an agenda item. He said the request to halt efforts to put up a permanent fence before getting further public comment was a “fair request.”
“It’s refreshing to hear both sides of the fence, so to speak,” Finch said. “Everybody’s got a different slant on it. And I think everybody has some valid concerns that the town board will have to take into consideration.”