Issues at Queen Lake raised at Phillipston Selectboard meeting

  • John Buzzell, caretaker of Phillipston’s Queen Lake, holds a bag of trash collected at the lake’s public beach Wednesday morning. Contributed photo

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 6/29/2020 5:23:28 PM
Modified: 6/29/2020 5:23:24 PM

PHILLIPSTON — A complaint about the lack of sanitary facilities at the public beach at Queen Lake led to a lengthy discussion on how to deal with visitors to the lake.

Sally Suomala, secretary of the board of directors of the Queen Lake Association, told the Selectboard and Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Flynn Wednesday night that the board last weekend discussed problems caused bysome beach-goers.

“One of the items that was quite a concern for many of the campers around the lake,” she said, “was the lack of a Porta-potty on the public beach. Property owners have witnessed people using the beach using the wooded area on either side of the beach — and the lake — as a bathroom. We find this quite disturbing.

“We’re wondering why there is no Sani-can there, and what can we do to get one?”

First, Flynn explained, that state Department of Health regulations don’t require restrooms at beaches. But the reason for no facilities at the beach goes beyond state health guidelines.

“Under the governor’s COVID-19 orders,” he said, “if we provide a Porta-potty down there, it has to be disinfected by hand twice a day. We checked with six firms that service our area and none of the regular firms will do it.

“There was only one firm we were able to track down, United Site Services, who would do it. The quote they gave us was $2,034.32 for six weeks for one unit, plus a one-time delivery set-up of $86.16. That’s for an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant unit, which we have to have. So, to have it for the summer — for 12 weeks — would be nearly $5,000.”

He also said the town would have to provide one at each of the lake’s two beaches, thus doubling the cost.

Suomala said she would talk to the board about possible splitting the cost of the unit. Association president John Colby said only one unit should be needed because the north beach is a private beach, which is not open to the public.

“We understand that the beach is for Phillipston resident,” said Suomala, “but there are a lot of people coming from out of town to use that beach, because it’s a free beach. With the increased use it’s getting, we’re concerned that the bacteria count is going to go up once we get some rain and the stuff that’s around the area is washed into the lake.”

Board of Health member responded by noting the water is tested every Wednesday and that, thus far, bacteria counts have been low.

Colby suggested the beach, in addition to a porta-potty, needs a trash receptacle. He said he had been to the beach on Monday of last week, a day after a busy Sunday at the site.

“There was so much trash,” he said, “and hygiene products and toilet paper and stuff in the woods and on the beach. On both sides are private property. Across the street in the parking lot, there were beer cans, wine bottles, you name it. There was a lot of stuff there from the weekend. There should at least be a trash container there.”

“It’s not just out-of-towners that are going there and abusing the beach,” Selectboard Chair John Telepciak interjected.

Flynn pointed out that trash receptacles at public parks and beaches are discouraged under the state’s COVID-19 guidelines. The state instead, he said, is encouraging people to take their trash home: “Carry in, carry out,” he said.

Despite Telepciak’s contention that some townspeople are among those causing problems at the beach, several residents participating in Wednesday’s video meeting suggested that permits be given at no cost to Phillipston residents, and that they be sold to folks from out of town wanting to use the popular beach. Others said if there are problems at the beach, the solution is simple: close it.

It was decided that an ad hoc committee of town officials and residents would be put together to brainstorm solutions to the ongoing problems at Queen Lake.

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