A popular Waterbury beach is back open after high bacteria levels kept it off-limits to swimmers for over a week. However, some say it’s just a matter of time before it happens again.
During last week’s heat wave and even on the Fourth of July, the only ones enjoying the swimming area at Waterbury’s Lakewood Park were the geese.
“Other towns have problems with their parks but you never hear of a park being closed for a long lengthy period of time so kids can’t get in. In Lakewood you hear that every single year,” said Alderman Vernon Matthews (R - District 2).
First in June and then again in July, Waterbury’s Lakewood Park has been closed to swimmers twice, most recently for eight days straight. From the feathers in the grass, to the droppings in the sand, the geese make their presence known, hanging out near or even inside the swimming area.
“You can actually smell the turds as the wind blows,” Matthews pointed out.
We found a few people undeterred by the calling cards the geese left behind.
“It doesn’t bother me as long as it doesn’t touch me,” said Tyrone Del Gado of Waterbury.
“If you go to every lake you’re going to see birds poop or garbage all over the place so it really doesn’t matter,” added Waterbury resident Diannellie Beard.
“I’m glad that they’re out here enjoying themselves, but I’m also thinking alright, what’s really going on in the water,” said Matthews as he looked on.
Matthews, who serves on the parks board and represents the lake’s district says he wouldn’t bring his own children to swim here.
“What steps were actually taken to make sure that it’s safe? Is it safe now,” he asked.
Waterbury’s Public Works Director David Simpson said the water is tested twice a week, and the sand raked several times a day. You don’t have to look far to see that’s not solving the problem. Some geese droppings blend in with the rocks in the sand while others are more obvious.
“You can still see fresh mounds and you can also see residue of old mounds there,” Matthews said.
Coyote decoys, bitter grass planted next to the beach, noise-makers, and strobe lights haven’t been a successful deterrent, said Simpson.
While leaders continue to explore other options, Matthews said many of the park’s users who lack transportation need an alternative to cool off that’s close by. He said leaders approved a splash pad at the park in May, but construction has yet to begin.
“I want them to have some place where it’s safe for them to go and swim,” he explained.
Public works employees who maintain Lakewood Park add that part of the problem is that people are not heeding an important warning sign posted near the beach: Don’t feed the geese. They say that is attracting more birds and compounding the issue.