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New Fairfield Officials Worry About Cutbacks, Crowding At Squantz Pond

Squantz Pond State Park in New Fairfield is a great place to go fishing, boating, hiking and swimming. But the size of the crowds it draws, combined with state budget cuts, is making local officials uneasy about safety issues.
Squantz Pond State Park in New Fairfield is a great place to go fishing, boating, hiking and swimming. But the size of the crowds it draws, combined with state budget cuts, is making local officials uneasy about safety issues. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman

NEW FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- It’s summertime, but the living’s not easy at Squantz Pond State Park – not for some fretful New Fairfield officials anyway.

The number of folks who come from miles around to swim, fish and boat at the popular recreation spot has risen along with anxieties about safety and costs, according to a recent report by the Danbury News- Times.

Such are the fears about overcrowding, an overburdened staff and possible drownings that one local pol, First Selectman Susan Chapman, is lobbying for changes, including the prohibition of “walk-ins” when the 250-space parking lot is full, the Danbury News-Times story said.

The park is located about 10 miles north of Danbury. Established in 1926, it was named after Chief Squantz, a leader of the Schaghticoke tribe.

According to statistics from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, more than a dozen people drowned at the 172-acre park between 1996 and 2011.

While New Fairfield officials told the Danbury News-Times that the July 4th weekend will be fully staffed, deep state budget cuts will mean that lifeguarding hours at Squantz Pond and other state beaches will be reduced this summer.

Close to $2 million in operating expenses had to be carved out of the state's parks budget.

In Fairfield County, the affected facilities were Squantz, Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, and Indian Well State Park in Shelton.

The DEEP said the cost-cutting moves were achieved by using resources more efficiently and by focusing on the days and times public camps, parks, beaches and nature centers are most likely to be used.

At Indian Well and Squantz Pond, lifeguard staffing will be cut to three to five days a week from the previous seven days.

To read the Daily Voice story about the budget cuts, click here.

To read the Danbury News-Times story, click here .

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