Rock Blocking Park Entrance Keeps Out Unruly Visitors
By Hoa Nguyen
May 05, 2006
We live in Greenwich, it's in Stamford and it belongs to the state
The parking lot was supposed to invite hikers to use the state-owned Blake-Colman property, but instead it attracted paint-ball players, beer guzzlers and other rowdy types.
'There's a lot of unsavory stuff I have found there,' said Rod Christie, executive director of the Mianus River Gorge Preserve in Banksville, N.Y., who voluntarily monitors the site as part of his work with the Mianus River Watershed Council.
no one knows who or is willing to admit to it -- rolled a large rock into the entrance to the parking lot, blocking it to everything but bikes. But the larger problem of who should monitor the area, who has the resources to do the job and whose responsibility it is remains unresolved.
'This has been a thorn in the side of the residents as well as the Mianus River Watershed Council,' said Jack Stoecker, president of the council, which keeps tabs on parcels of land that have a direct effect on the Mianus River.
A partnership of government and private groups purchased the 80-plus acres of the Blake-Colman property in 1998 for $2.3 million and transferred ownership to the state. The purchase was primarily to protect the land from development because it encircles the Samuel J. Bargh Reservoir and is sensitive to environmental changes.
About five years later, the council led the charge to put a parking lot on a state-owned parcel on Howard Road, about a quarter-mile from the Blake-Colman property and flat enough for vehicles to park.
At the time, council members had misgivings about building the lot, predicting that it might attract more than just hikers and horse riders who use Blake-Colman. But members relented, they said, because of a municipal agreement to encourage public access. There also was money left over from the purchase to construct the gravel lot.
'We knew there was a potential that it would be a nuisance attraction,' said David Medd, the Greenwich operations manager for Aquarion Water Co. who was a member of the council at the time the lot was constructed.
It didn't take long for their predictions to come true.
'About six months after all that was done and we had another meeting in Stamford, all the complaints started rolling in,' said Tobey Buff, a state Department of Environmental Protection parks supervisor with authority over Connecticut-owned land in Greenwich and Stamford.
At the time, Buff's primary responsibility was to manage Sherwood Island State Park in Westport. With so many properties under his purview, Buff said the department doesn't have the staff to monitor the parking lot and remote parcels such as Blake-Colman.
'There's no way we could patrol it and have garbage picked up on a regular basis,' Buff said. 'It wasn't like we could run down there and clean.'
Residents felt helpless, said Sally Thebauld, of Greenwich, who lives on Howard Road and complained to various authorities about the parking lot for months 'We live in Greenwich, it's in Stamford and it belongs to the state,' Thebauld said, putting her in the strange position of calling officials from the town next door for help. Stamford authorities said there was little they could do, though.
The watershed council offered to install a gate that could easily be closed at dusk and opened at dawn, but even that simple solution was fraught with jurisdiction complications.
'We don't have the authority to open and close the gate,' said Erin McKenna, a planner for Stamford city.
Stamford police also said they didn't want the job.
'We're not going to send cops up there every night to open and close it,' said Stamford Capt. Susan Bretthauer.
She said Stamford police didn't receive enough complaints about the lot to warrant regular patrols there.
'Part of the issue is it is so far and remote,' Bretthauer said. 'If you go up there to patrol, you're taking yourself a long way away getting to any part of Stamford.'
So for now, the large rock blocking the entrance to the lot seems to be the best solution.
Authorities said they have received no complaints about the rock, and thus far there haven't been any jurisdictional battles over who owns it.
'Whoever it was, I owe them big time,' Thebauld said.