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Castlewood Park closed until further notice

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The public safety committee meeting drew the largest crowd during yesterday’s meetings.

The Public Safety portion of the July 30, 2009 committee meetings drew a large crowd of residents waiting to hear what the Colonial Beach Town Council planned to do in response to complaints of overcrowding in Castlewood Park and the surrounding area at the end of the Point in Colonial Beach.  

As the summer has progressed the problem in Castlewood Park has grown to epic proportions. Residents have witnessed large groups of people monopolizing the Park and surrounding areas at the end of the Point, pitching tents overnight, cooking meals and fishing.

The problem according to Council member Stephen Kennedy is that even though these are families using the park, it is not big enough to support so large a group of people. The bathroom facilities are not sufficient to support the groups and the trash receptacles are filling up too fast.

Video of the public safety committee meeting


According to residents living close to the park unsanitary garbage has been left lying around, people have been witnessed defecating and urinating on the beach and on the rocks. Food is being left everywhere and rats have been seen collecting the left-over food. Vultures have even been witnessed in Castlewood Park; a scene residents are not used to seeing.

During this week the park area was reduced by one third to allow for more parking, grills have been removed and a small building has been placed on the property and will be manned by one of the town’s employees at $6.00 an hour to sell parking permits.

 Starting Saturday August 1st parking by non-residents will require a permit and will cost $10.00 for the day on weekends and Holidays. Signs have already been posted in the Park and all around the end of the point. Residents with town stickers will be allowed to park for free.

In an open forum discussion with residents the Council decided to close the park portion of Castlewood temporarily starting this weekend till further notice. Council members concluded that the park problems have become a health risk. The amount and type of garbage left behind has raised concerns and Town officials wish to sweep the park for hazardous materials before re-opening.

Chief Hawkins advised the Council that until signs are posted and ordinances are passed new restrictions cannot be legally enforced. Closing the park is the only way to avoid further damage.

“Although this may cause residents some inconvenience it is necessary to get a handle on the situation,” said Councilman Kennedy.

The Council will seek legal advice from Town Attorney Andrea Erard to see how many restrictions the town can impose to help control the problem of overcrowding.

On the list of solutions are restricting the beach from dusk till dawn, limiting fishermen to two poles per person on the pier and segregating fishing from swimming areas.

The Town is seeking to close the beach from dusk until dawn which coincides with the hours that public restrooms are locked.

Officials would also like to restrict the area of the Point on the River and Bay side to disallow fishing. Competition between swimmers and fisherman has become a concern.

Last week a child was hooked in the cheek with a fisherman’s hook. “That child was lucky not to have lost their sight.” said Chief Hawkins. “It’s getting dangerous”

Limiting the fishing to the town pier will compound the competition between fishermen which already exists so the Town is considering a limit of two poles per fisherman on the municipal pier.

Until these limitations have been worked out and legally implemented by ordinances the Police and Public Works are doing everything they can to eliminate the problems and educate residents and guests on the negative impact overcrowding causes on the point.

Linda Farneth

 

 

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