Wednesday evening the Board of Selectmen will host a public hearing on a proposed town ordinance that would prohibit "motorized vessels" on the Farmington River.
As drafted the proposal would eliminate non-emergency use of motorized craft. At a previous meeting said the proposed ordinance was largely a response to concerns raised during a recent study of recreational opportunities in and near the river in Collinsville, especially the "upper Mill Pond" portion above the dam under Route 179 to Town Bridge Road. While current depths and state regulations limit much of any motorized activity, some selectmen previously said the large number of canoeists, kayaks or Stand Up Paddle Board users raises concerns about the potential use of jet skis or other motorized craft.
On Monday, however, first selectmen Richard Barlow said he has received some feedback from those who use small trolling motors, in some cases electric, for activities like fishing.
Barlow said while he still feels craft such as jet skis would not fit in the current usage patterns, he at least, would consider some changes to allow for some non-intrusive activities.
"I think there's some potential we might want to modify it," Barlow said.
Barlow said he is interested to hear more input at the hearing, which is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday July 25 at the community center.
While there is the potential selectmen will vote on the measure Wednesday, Barlow said the town will also consult with its attorney to see if any potential changes, should the entire board move in that direction, would warrant another hearing or if minor ones could be made that night.
Barlow said he will also discuss at least two other river issues Wednesday. One is public access.
Monday, Jon Warner, owner of , confirmed the business is now prohibiting private access to the Collinsville boat ramp, from which parking and access are from property owned and/or leased by its landlord, Waterfront Preservation and Management Corporation.
While the canoe business had been allowing those with their own boats to sign a waiver, Warner said there's been too many problems. One has been vandalism, such as a recent case in which someone cut the ropes on a floating dock that was nearly lost over the dam. In addition, some boaters have refused to wear life jackets and/or have brought alcohol on to the river, Warner said.
"At this point it's not a public ramp," Warner said. "A few bad fish are ruining it for everyone."
Barlow said the issue does make the town's efforts to provide public access more urgent.
Town officials hope to provide a launch at the Town Garage site but have said the permitting process and related professional services for that and the ramp itself could result in costs upwards of $75,000.
Barlow has said there may be grant opportunities and service clubs willing to help with the effort.
"In my mind this necessitates that we have to move sooner than later," he said.
Warner said he feels town-provided access and restrooms are what's needed on the river.
Barlow also plans to raise the concern about youth jumping into the river. While the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection recently cut some railroad spikes and a makeshift ladder from the old bridge abutments in the "mill pond," making it harder for kids to climb and jump off them, many have been jumping from Town Bridge and the Farmington River Trail Bridge near the Burlington Town Line, raising concerns of safety and liability.
The activity is nothing new but Barlow said there does seem to be an increase.
"It seems like this summer it's elevated to a new level," he said.
While the access and safety issues are not on the board's agenda for Wednesday Barlow said he plans to bring them up during the selectmen's remarks portion of the meeting.