It’s official: Don’t park at Garwin Falls

  • Select Board member Kermit Williams and Chair Bill Condra approved a tow away zone on the streets surrounding Garwin Falls during a public hearing on Monday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Police Chief Brent Hautanen and Town Administrator Scott Butcher discuss issues at Garwin Falls during a public hearing on Monday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Wilton Select Board officially made the area surrounding Garwin Falls a tow-away zone on Monday, in an attempt to alleviate the traffic clogging the streets.

“It is impacting the town, and the neighborhood,” said Police Chief Brent Hautanen. People have been parking cars on both sides of Putnam Hill Road and Isaac Frye Highway, leaving not enough room for emergency vehicles, which is causing life safety concerns. But the overuse is also leading to a surplus of trash in the area.

Hautanen said that he patrolled the falls about two weeks ago, and in the trails around it found trash, vandalism at the dam, a discarded glass pipe, used paper towels or toilet paper, and what appeared to be a plastic bag of human feces.

“I didn’t open it to check,” Hautanen told the board and crowd of about 25, many of whom live in the area surrounding the falls, who attended Monday night’s public hearing on the issue. “That area is really being trashed, for lack of a better word.”

The property is privately owned, but is in current use, and the owners of the property have allowed people to visit the falls without discrimination. It is not possible, therefore, said Select Board Chair Bill Condra, for the town to restrict people from going to the falls or limit it to Wilton residents. The board has been considering how to slow the stream of visitors, and proposed a tow-away zone be put into place on both sides of Isaac Frye Highway from the Sand Hill Road Intersection to number 910, and on both sides of Putnam Hill Road from the Isaac Frye Highway intersection to number 36. There would still be parking allowed at the gate to the falls, but the pull-in only has space for a handful of vehicles – not nearly enough to support the 20 to 40 cars that have been parked on hot weekends.

No residents raised any objection to making that area a tow zone, but some suggested that it was likely to move the problem, not eliminate it. 

Ralph Buschmann, who lives on the nearby Sand Hill Road, said that his street would be the next likely place for parkers looking to walk to the falls. 

“If that starts to be a conduit for the falls, I can see it becoming a problem quickly,” he said.

Resident Robin Schoen agreed, saying that since the Police Department put up paper “no parking” signs in the area, she’s already seen an increase in activity from people driving up and down the road looking for a place to park. “It’s like someone threw a rock at a beehive,” she said, of the increase in activity.

Harry Dailey, chair of the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District, said he’d seen a similar phenomenon happen when parking near the entrance to the Horseshoe swim area had been similarly restricted, and many people began to park at the high school and walk to the falls. The district has seen an increase of trash in their parking lot, trails and near the disc golf course from people walking through the woods to the swim area.

Condra said the board could not consider parking restrictions for Sand Hill Road during its Monday meeting, as it has not been included in the public notice of the meeting, but could take it up at a future meeting.

It may also be a possibility, said Condra, to create a recreation area at the reservoir on Sand Hill, a prospect that was supported heavily in a non-binding vote when it was discussed at Town Meeting in March. The town owns that land, said Condra, and there may be an opportunity to create parking in that area, which is in the neighborhood of the falls. The board will be putting together a committee in the near future to determine the future of the reservoir and surrounding land, and he encouraged the residents present to join it if they would like to have a say in the process.

With no one offering specific objections to a tow zone being placed around the falls area, the board voted 2-0 to approve the measure.