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Stanclift Cove - August 2000

Town Diary - August 2000

Wrapping Up a Rainy Summer at Stanclift Cove

On June 18, 2000, Stanclift Cove opened its 34th season as the shared recreational area for the residents of New Hartford and Barkhamsted.  Little could anyone know that it would be perhaps the coolest, rainiest season in the park's history.  The photograph here shows a much-too-common August day.  In fact, it rained 16 days in August, and the average temperature was only 71 degrees.  Nor was the rest of the summer much better.  The average temperature in July was only 69 degrees, and it rained 11 of 31 days.  June had an average temperature of only 67 degrees, with rain on 18 of 30 days.  Due to the unusual weather, the Cove had fewer visitors and less money was spent on wages than expected.

But when the weather cooperated, Stanclift Cove offered a great family atmosphere, swimming, boating, and picnicking to the residents of Barkhamsted and New Hartford who had been to their Town Hall to show their auto registration and purchase a pass.  Passes this year cost $37 for the resident's first car, and an additional $10 for a second car.  Senior citizens paid just $15.

On any given (non-rainy) day, children could be seen building sand castles, while mothers and fathers caught up with their neighbors on the beach or in the shallow water.  The more adventurous launched canoes and kayaks in pursuit of exercise or exploration, while the less adventurous grilled hot dogs and marshmallows.  Teens sunned and socialized on the rafts, while solitary adults swam laps alongside the ropes.  Lifeguards teased one another about sighting snapping turtles, while quieter folks read timeless classics or the latest romance novel.  On more than one occasion, guests were overheard to remark that they wished their town had a place as nice as this.  One fellow loudly proclaimed "I'd move to Barkhamsted JUST for this place!"

While Barkhamsted is indeed lucky to have such a beautiful recreation area, it wasn't always so.  Stanclift Cove came about as the result of years of negotiation between the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) and the Allied Towns of Barkhamsted, New Hartford, Colebrook, and Hartland.  These four towns joined together to seek compensation for the vast tracts of land the MDC had purchased from 1913 through 1945 for the creation of several dams and reservoirs, including the Compensating Reservoir (now known as Lake McDonough) and the Barkhamsted Reservoir, Connecticut's largest water supply reservoir.  

The Barkhamsted Reservoir, which lies in both Barkhamsted and Hartland, covers a surface area of 2,323 acres (3.63 square miles).  Lake McDonough, which lies in both Barkhamsted and New Hartford, covers a surface area of 446 acres (0.7 square miles).  The creation of these two lakes cost the town of Barkhamsted approximately 115 properties.  Hundreds of residents had to find new homes, some of them leaving behind farms that they, and their parents and grandparents before them, had invested lifetimes into developing.  For the new lakes, the MDC also displaced cemeteries, schoolhouses, churches, taverns, and mills.  All in all, by the modern era, the MDC had acquired 6,632 acres (10.4 square miles) of Barkhamsted land, more than one quarter of the entire area of the town.  Hartland, Colebrook, and New Hartford suffered large losses as well.  In exchange for these losses, the towns grouped together and negotiated with the MDC as the Allied Towns.  Negotiations continued for years, and one by one, the towns settled individual deals for recreation areas as a means of compensation. 

Barkhamsted and New Hartford were the last to settle with the MDC.  Several potential solutions were considered and rejected for different reasons.  For example, one idea was to rebuild the old Greenwoods Dam and re-create Greenwoods Pond for Barkhamsted and New Hartford residents.  But the MDC eventually rejected that idea due to cost and potential liability issues.  Eventually, the MDC approached Barkhamsted with the idea of a recreational area on the Goose Green section of the Compensating Reservoir.  After consideration and debate at town meetings, the idea was eventually voted on and accepted.  On June 23, 1966' 26 years after the Saville Dam was completed, an agreement was signed granting an easement to the towns of Barkhamsted and New Hartford on the territory now known as Stanclift Cove, for the consideration of One Dollar ($1.00) and other good and valuable considerations.  The key condition of the easement was that the towns would take the "said premises" for recreational use of the residents of said Towns, and shall operate and maintain the same at their own cost and expense.

The recreational area was named after the Stanclift family.  The family appears to have been in Barkhamsted since at least the beginning of the 19th century and is known to have owned land in the Goose Green area.  The map the MDC displays on the outside wall of the lower gate house at Saville Dam shows the property that forms the current Stanclift Cove was bought from an N. Stanclift.

The Cove is administered jointly by the two towns.  Its governing body is the Stanclift Authority.  The Stanclift Authority is made up of six representatives: three from Barkhamsted and three from New Hartford.  Current board members are Daria Hart (Chairperson), Wendy Jezyk and Nancy Brooks from New Hartford and Molly Read Fritch, Lisa Valentine and Gail Emmerson from Barkhamsted.  The Authority oversees the budget, hires the staff, plans the season, determines and publishes the rules and regulations, surveys the area, sets long-term and short-term goals, interacts with the governments of the two towns, mediates and resolves any problems that arise, and addresses any rules violations, revoking permits if necessary.  Although Authority representatives need to work together many times throughout the year, they also hold an annual meeting in July on the beach, which is open to all staff members and permit-holders.  This meeting allows Cove visitors to get to know the Authority representatives and allows the representatives to get input from staff members and the public.

All in all, this joint administration arrangement has worked well throughout the years.  Occasionally, representatives of the two towns would disagree, but in the end, disagreements were always settled by referring back to the original "50/50" agreement.

Over the 34 years of operation, the Authority has overcome each challenge that has arisen.  One of the more notable challenges they faced occurred one year in the early 1980s.  The MDC had been lowering the level of the Compensating Reservoir each September after the Cove closed for the year.  The precise amount of water release was a matter of some trial and error, one might surmise.  One year, the MDC lowered the water level down to the original bed of the East Branch of the Farmington River.  The entire area that had been flooded by the building of the Richards Corner Dam (in 1920) was once again exposed.  However, a terrible storm came along and nearly washed away the primary feeder pipe that carried water from the reservoir.

In 1982, the MDC decided not to lower the water level quite as much, but they did lower it enough to leave the entire Cove area dry.  The weather that year, however, took an opposite course.  Instead of terrible storms, there was a drought.  When the following spring arrived, there was still no water in the Cove.  Daria Hart had just begun her term as Chairperson of the Standclift Cove Authority and found her first challenge to be like "getting thrown into the deep end, only there was no water!"  The Authority scrambled to make other arrangements.  They approached the owners of a camp on West Hill Pond about leasing their beach area for the town residents to use that year.  After some hard work, the beach was cleaned up, rafts were floated, a swimming area was roped off, and the residents of Barkhamsted and New Hartford had a new recreation area for the summer.  

The following year, the Town of New Hartford approached the camp's owners about purchasing the site, which became Brodie Park, New Hartford's second town swimming area.  Their purchase came at an opportune time for Stanclift Cove, which had been suffering some overcrowding as the two towns grew.  The addition of a second recreation area for New Hartford residents eased the crowding and alleviated the Authority's concerns about how they could add beach area and parking spaces to Stanclift Cove.

The drought of 1983 not only resulted in the establishment of Brodie Park, but it also helped to bring about a better working relationship between the MDC and the Standclift Cove Authority.  That relationship brought about boating privileges for the Cove in 1986.  In the 1990s, the two worked together to overcome another great challenge, in the form of some significant storms that knocked down trees.  Over the winter, storms knocked down many large trees on the Standclift Cove property.  Yet MDC brought in its own logging crew and cleared all the trees, without charge to Barkhamsted and New Hartford, to help prepare the Cove for operation that year.  Later that same year, a large storm came up one summer afternoon, knocking down as many more trees.  In fact, the road out of the Cove was blocked, stranding visitors inside.  The Pleasant Valley Fire Department came in and cleared the road so those trapped could get home.  The next day, the MDC again saved the two towns great expense and effort with its logging crew.  Though its crew was working in a distant part of the state, the MDC called them back to Barkhamsted the very next day and cleared the Cove again for operation.  In all, the MDC logging crews dedicated about two weeks of their hard work  and removed between 75 and 100 trees that year, clearing away those that had fallen and eliminating those that looked likely to fall soon.

Today, the MDC and the Standclift Cove Authority continue to gladly work together, and in the year 2000, there was certainly no shortage of water for swimming and boating at Stanclift Cove.


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Published Aug 18 2000, 04:05 PM by Paul
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