Anglers, canoeists, kayakers to get new access to Millers River

  • Athol Town Manager Shaun Suhoski, right, briefs the town's Selectboard on a proposed land management agreement between the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the town for the establishment of a boat ramp to the Millers River on Crescent Street Extension, just north of the Union Twist Drill dam. To Suhoski's left are board Vice Chair Rebecca Bialecki and board member Andy Sujdak. For the Athol Daily News/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 8/12/2022 4:06:03 PM
Modified: 8/12/2022 4:02:48 PM

ATHOL — At its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9, Athol’s Selectboard was presented with a proposed land management agreement with the state Department of Fish and Game that would initiate the “construction, improvement or repair, maintenance and daily operation of the fishing and/or boating access facility” located on Crescent Street Extension. The site will include parking for shore fishing, car-top boat access.

“This is something that’s been kicking around for a couple of years,” Town Manager Shaun Suhoski told the board. “There’s going to be a change in the state administration, and we were contacted about this facility. The state would like to (provide) … access to the Millers River north of the dam at Union Twist Drill — up in that pond — and then northward toward Royalston.

“There’s a land management agreement; essentially, the town would commit to keeping an eye on things, maybe minor responses we need to take. It’s the same agreement we signed when they put in the boat ramp at Lake Ellis, so you have a sense that we’ve done this before.”

Suhoski assured the board that the state would bear the responsibility of paying for any major capital improvements that need to be undertaken at the facility. He also added that, even with a signed agreement, other steps would need to be taken before there was any activity at the site.

“The plans would still need to be further refined and presented for local permitting to the (Conservation Commission), as appropriate, before anything was actually facilitated.

“National Grid … out there is planning some upgrades to their transmission lines; that would all need to be coordinated.”

The town manager added that the state was hoping for a quick endorsement from the board.

“They contacted me,” he said, “and I honestly think because the clock is ticking on the (Baker) administration, we have a commissioner from central Mass. who would really like to see if Athol would like to take advantage of this, lest they move on.”

Referring to the language in the agreement, board Vice Chair Rebecca Bialecki pointed out, “There’s a lot of things that fall to the town as a result of this.” She then asked Public Works Director Dick Kilhart if his department has “the capacity” to meet those responsibilities.

Those responsibilities include installation and maintenance of signage, along with maintenance of the facility — including policing, trash pickup and removal, and “overall preservation of the facility.”

“As far as the embankment that goes down in there,” Kilhart said, “I say embankment; it’s kind of a woods road that National Grid uses to get to their power lines. (The state) suggested that that would be upgraded by them. There would be some banking work or tapering that would happen there that would be at a cost associated with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, not associated with us.

“There’s not going to be a lot of grass to mow in there. There’s going to be a gravel parking lot. You’re not going to be able to unload a bass boat in there, or a high-powered motor. It’s going to be a roof-top kayak or small johnboat, or something like that. You might see a fly fisherman down in there.”

Kilhart said he had spoken with Police Chief Craig Lundgren, who assured him the department could facilitate nighttime closures, as is done with other parks in town.

“We would not plow it in the wintertime,” Kilhart continued. “It would remain locked in the winter. But, if it’s another resource for the town — if they’re willing to set it up and get in there — I think we certainly can maintain it.”

The agreement does give the town the right to establish fees for parking and launching boats at the site. It also permits the town to triple the fee for out-of-state users “for daily or seasonal use,” and to establish a separate fee for commercial haulers. Any fees collected may be used only for the maintenance and operation of the facility.

The Selectboard vote to sign the land management agreement was unanimous.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com


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