River access point remains closed

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Temporary fences block access to the parking area at the Platts Mill Naugatuck River access point in Naugatuck. The decision to put up the fences was made in the wake of a large party in July that trashed the riverfront. -HARRISON CONNERY/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said Friday he expects the Platt Mills Naugatuck River access point to remain closed for another two weeks.

The roadway shoulder listed at 198 Platt Mills Road, where residents can park their cars and walk down to a picnic area along the river, has been closed since early July after loud, confrontational party-goers trashed the riverfront.

“We restricted the area so that there’s no place to pull in and park a large number of cars, we added some patrols and for one weekend we had an officer there redirecting people to other locations where we do accommodate parties like that,” Hess said.

Kevin Zak, president of the Naugatuck River Revival Group and leader of the Naugatuck River Brigade, a group formed last year to clean the river after sewage spills, said “bags and bags” of trash were left at the park after a large group that arrived in about two dozen cars had a large party consisting of alcohol, loud music and open fires.

“It got out of hand,” Zak said. “There was an extreme amount of trash and some of the people told residents, ‘If you don’t like it, move.’”

Shards of broken glass and charred sticks could be seen Friday at the site. Zak said the River Brigade cleaned the area before it was trashed.

“We had it so clean every cigarette butt was gone,” he said.

C. Colin McAllister, deputy chief of the Naugatuck Police Department, said the department was made aware of the situation at a July 16 police commission meeting and by several concerned citizens on social media. The department erected permanent barriers to keep cars away and increased their patrols in the area.

“This is an environmentally sensitive area,” McAllister said. “It’s in recovery from years of pollution and neglect and it’s intended use is light use. This isn’t an area that’s intended for swimming, fire pits, heavy picnicking, beach goers, that type of thing. That has a negative impact on the environment.”

The borough is also planning to install signs at the access point listing prohibited activities, such as fires and drinking alcohol.

Hess and McAllister both said policing and protecting the access point is a high priority and thanked neighborhood groups for their cooperation and efforts to clean the riverfront.

“We are aware of the public concern over the river and we are actively taking steps to address that,” McAllister said. “It’s a priority for us and will continue to be a priority.”