Summer updates for Stow Rec. and Assabet Refuge

| August 4, 2020

Aug. 5 2020

By Ann Needle

        Summertime brings easy living for some, while others are busy with keeping things humming in the haze. Here are a few of the activities Stow residents have been curious about during this hot summer.

Pine Bluff fee reduced 

        The Recreation Dept. recently reduced the parking fee for the Pine Bluff Recreation area, while stricter management of who is using the area seems to have worked in keeping it clean and uncrowded during the pandemic.

        Recreation Director Laura Greenough explained that the Rec Commission found itself short of funds to open the Lake Boon beach and the rest of the Pine Bluff recreation area this summer, given it canceled Camp Stow and field rentals due to the COVID pandemic. Putting in a parking fee of $10 per vehicle has helped open the Pine Bluff recreation area, thought the beach remains closed.

        Currently, parking is open 10am to 8pm or dusk, whichever comes first. It is open only to residents and their guests. Greenough noted the Recreation Commission recently decided to lower the parking fee from $10 to $5, given “lots of people come multiple times a week, so wanted to make sure it was affordable for them.” One reason the Rec Dept. was able to cut the fee was the extra $24,500 voted at July’s Annual Town Meeting to help replace income from closed programs and to pay the gate attendants, Greenough said.

        Also, entry is now free between 7pm and 8pm, said Greenough. She said most of the few people who use the area at that hour are seniors who do not want to come during the heat of earlier in the day. However, the gate will be locked if there is no attendant, she said.

        Parking fees and ATM funds also helped the Rec Dept. put in a dumpster and Port-a-Potty. Greenough reported visitors are cleaning up after themselves and apparently using the Port-a-Potty only in emergencies. Earlier this summer, she noted that stringent state health guidelines on cleaning and managing recreation facilities safely around COVID made it too tough to re-open the bathrooms. Similarly, social distancing guidelines make it complicated to open the beach back up, so it remains a swim-at-your-own-risk situation, without lifeguards, she said.

        Back in June, people from in and outside of Stow were crowding the beach and Pine Bluff, faced with closed beaches in many nearby towns and triggering trash and bathroom issues. But lately, Greenough observed, “It’s very slow during the week and picks up a little on the weekend. Limiting [access] to residents only helps to keep numbers down.”

        In a related note, there is some good news on a beach issue from last summer; no signs yet of blue-green algae in the water, Greenough said. “Fingers crossed it will stay that way.”

White Pond closed in Assabet Refuge

        While the popular Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge is open to visitors, much of the major White Pond Road trail on the Stow/Maynard border was closed off for maintenance work as of July 28. The ARNWR announced the trail would be closed at the refuge boundary. That leaves the parking lot open past the main entrance — but before the boundary — which allows for valuable visitor parking for both other ARNWR trails and the Assabet River Rail Trail that runs by the front of the main entrance. 

        According to Refuge Manager Linh Phu, for about two weeks there should be a crew on site cutting back vegetation along White Pond Road within the refuge, mowing back the vegetation along the entire length of the trail with heavy equipment to open the trail up again. “This maintenance has been sorely needed for a long time, and we are slowly tackling things one at a time,” she said.

        Even if the work runs longer than the estimated two weeks, most of the Refuge remains open, offering 3.5 sq. miles of trails and outdoor opportunities. Those seeking other entrances and paths within the ARNWR can click on the Refuge brochure and map at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Assabet_River/about.html.

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