North Pond residents vocal on personal watercraft use

SOUTHWICK, Mass. (The Westfield News) – During the public comment portion of the Select Board meeting on Monday night, residents addressed the issue regarding the personal watercraft policy for the North Pond section of Congamond Lake.

Paul Murphy, who lives on North Pond, discussed the petition that he had started to keep personal watercraft off North Pond. Murphy said that he has over 50 signatures thus far from people who have lakefront property on Congamond Lake.

Murphy also said that he will be starting a second petition that will include anyone that lives in Southwick that doesn’t want to see personal watercraft on North Pond.

First reported by the Westfield News on May 26, Southwick Police Chief David Ricardi announced on the department’s Facebook Page on May 18 that there had been a change in the enforcement policy for personal watercraft and jet skis on North Pond.

Being the harbormaster for Congamond Lake, Ricardi was informed by the Massachusetts Environmental Police, who control the bodies of water across the state, told the Chief that since North Pond is considered a “great pond” consisting of three basins connected by channels, North Pond would be an exception to the law. The Environmental Police told Ricardi that the law for personal watercraft was that under Ch. 90 law, the specific part of the lake has to be a minimum of 75 acres.

When addressing the situation under public comment, Murphy didn’t agree with the policy that Ricardi decided to use.

“Nowhere in the law does it say anything has to be connected,” said Murphy.

At the Lake Management Committee meeting on May 25, in which a number of residents living on North Pond voiced their opinion on the policy, the committee announced that they are required by Mass DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) to report on the three bodies of water (North, Middle, South) on Congamond Lake separately. That is the opposite of what Ricardi was told, as the Environmental Police would take the aggregate amount of the acres for all three bodies of water on the lake rather than separately.

Standing by what the Lake Management Committee believes to be the law, Murphy backs up that policy.

“We don’t need a local bylaw, we have a state law in place,” said Murphy.

Following Murphy’s public comment, several other concerned residents of North Pond spoke out. Judy Snyder said she and her family use North Pond rather frequently. If the policy were to allow personal watercraft on North Pond, Snyder feels that there would be a major safety issue.

“I would be very fearful for people getting hurt,” said Snyder. She added that too many swimmers in the water and boats in the middle of North Pond or anchored on the shoreline would make it too crowded and dangerous to have personal watercraft on that particular body of water.

Joan Perkins-Smith also mentioned that the tunnel that brings people from North Pond to other bodies of water on Congamond Lake is still not wide enough to have the possibility of personal watercraft going through when boats are passing through as well.

“I think the intent of the law was to improve the safety features of the lake,” said Perkins-Smith.

Due to the fact that the discussion on personal watercraft on Monday night was during the public comment section of the Select Board meeting, there was no dialogue from the Select Board members.

However, at the Lake Management Committee meeting on May 25, the committee noted that they will be doing extensive research about what the actual policy is.

The Westfield News will be updating this story when further updates are revealed.