Slack Reservoir Association: Stay out

Slack Reservoir Association: Stay out

Swimming prohibited at town beaches

SMITHFIELD – Slack Reservoir is not open to the public for recreational purposes, says Kathleen Gustavsen of the Slack Reservoir Association, who is expressing safety concerns this week regarding the increased use of restricted areas at the facility by non-members.

With quarantine giving people more free time than ever, Gustavsen said she’s witnessed an increase in boating and kayaking on the pond. Many, she said, are not using a life jacket or taking proper safety precautions.

“It’s a safety concern for us on the lake,” Gustavsen said.

Gustavsen said the association recognizes members and people in the neighborhood who frequent the lake, and also recognize newcomers who do not belong there.

“It’s absolutely not open to the public,” Gustavsen said. “We have restrictions on the pond for use. People do not respect the pond or area rules and cause safety issues.”

Gustavsen emphasized that the reservoir is private property owned by the Slack Reservoir Association, and may only be used by members and abutters to the Slack Reservoir.

Boats authorized by the Slack Reservoir Association are issued registration stickers, and owners understand rules for boat use. Unregistered boats belonging to people entering from the beach do not, she said.

She said members pay dues to pay for the upkeep and use of the lake, including water level maintenance and weed maintenance. She said boats coming from different water sources might transfer invasive weeds into the reservoir.

“We’re just trying to protect our interests,” she said.

The Valley Breeze & Observer reported in late June that all Smithfield beaches had been closed for swimming for the summer to conform to social distancing guidelines.

Gustavsen said closure and signs stating the pond is private property do not stop people from swimming in the pond or dropping in boats.

“It’s trespassing,” Gustavsen said of using the water outside of the swimming area.

The swimming area at Slacks Pond does not currently have lifeguards on duty.

Parks and Recreation Director Bob Caine said while the town owns the sand on the beach and the small, roped-off swimming area, the Slack Reservoir Association owns the water rights on the pond.

He confirmed that association members pay dues for pond maintenance. Caine said he is pushing to make sure no one uses the beach as a boat ramp.

“The association is very passionate about it,” he said.

Caine added that Smithfield police are enforcing no-swimming laws, and are responding to calls on the Georgiaville and Slacks Ponds regarding swimming, particularly at night. “They’re being called down all the time,” Caine said.

From June 15 through July 8, Smithfield police responded to calls to beaches, mostly Georgiaville, removing 300 to 400 people from the water and beaches, according to Chief Richard St. Sauveur.

“In the current environment, unless someone is being uncooperative with orders to leave the water/beach, charging people is not the best course of action,” he said.

Right now, beaches are good for watching the sunset from the picnic tables, Caine said.

Georgiaville closed on July 8 for recreational use due to a bloom of toxic blue-green algae. Prohibited recreational uses includes fishing, boating, kayaking, and contact with the water should be avoided.

Pets can also be affected by exposure to algae toxins, and owners should not let pets drink or swim in the water.