BEACON FALLS — Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officials have closed an access road to High Rock State Park in the Naugatuck State Forest due to illegal dumping.
A locked gate now blocks vehicle access to the park at the end of Cold Spring Road. People can still park in front of the gate and walk into the forest.
State park officials found construction debris, including sheet rock and plaster, dumped in the forest around Jan. 17, said Tom Tyler, director of state parks for DEEP. None of the materials dumped were considered hazardous, he said.
Tyler said the debris was removed the following week and officials decided to close and lock the gate to deter people from continuing to dump items in the forest. He added that leaving the gate open could also lead to someone getting their car stuck on the road during inclement weather.
The construction debris wasn’t the only litter dumped in the forest. A full couch set, a flat screen TV, some clothes and other smaller, miscellaneous trash were strewn about off the trail early last week, just a few hundred yards from the gate.
“Unfortunately, illegal dumping happens frequently,” Tyler said. “Weekly occurrences are not unusual when it comes to illegal dumping at the forest.”
Tyler said the gate will remain locked for the winter and early spring, but DEEP officials plan to reopen the access road.
First Selectman Gerard Smith said he doesn’t have a problem with state officials closing the gate to deter illegal dumping. Town officials and emergency responders have the ability to unlock the gate and access the forest if they need to, he said.
Smith said local officials are dealing with illegal dumping in town parks, as well. The town is now closing parks at 6 p.m. each day and reopening them at 7 a.m.
“Unfortunately, we have the same issue with dumping in our parks. We’re closing the parks overnight,” Smith said. “If you see something, say something.”
The road is the only access road to High Rock State Park in Beacon Falls. This isn’t the first time the state locked the gate to the road.
In 2012, the state Department of Transportation blocked the road while repairs were done to the Waterbury branch of Metro-North Railroad. The railroad runs adjacent to the road.
After the DOT finished the work, state officials determined the road to be unsafe and decided to keep it closed. At the time, town officials and local legislators lobbied to reopen the access road, which the state did in 2013.