Opinion Reader Contributed

Op-Ed: Barriers an Unwelcoming Addition to Reservoir #6

Progress of construction of turnaround in parking area of MDC Reservoir #6. Courtesy photo (we-ha.com file photo)

The Metropolitan District Commission’s Reservoir #6 has been a place of refuge for many, but recent changes have decreased its accessibility, and made the parking situation more dangerous.

By Sherry Haller

When my mom and dad each passed away, I found solace there. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing my treatments, I went there to get stronger. When my children were little, I went jogging, there with their strollers leading the way. Through indescribable sadnesses, joys and simple gratitudes for being alive, Reservoir 6 on Albany Avenue has been my refuge for over 40 years.

We are immeasurably blessed to have this respite in our midst, particularly during the tumultuous, torturous months of COVID.

Bear, deer, geese, herons, hawks, eagles, and all species of trees, flowers, wildlife along with we humans enjoy its idyllic thousands of acres.

I have made friends, as has my dog Louie (he views the reservoir as his personal property). I have watched puppies and babies grow, met many MDC patrol officers – all of whom are friendly, supportive, and there when you need them, and watched as ducklings are introduced to their home under the watchful eyes of their parents.

There are many reasons to love West Hartford and the Farmington Valley and Reservoir 6 is certainly a shining example. Yet, in recent years, there has been a subtle and growing shift. First, a large gate was erected making it impossible for people to utilize the upper parking lot near the water treatment plant.  Then – a small thing really – a refuse can that was located in the middle of the property was removed. It was used by many who were walking on the pathway closest to the water. This was followed by the reservoir being closed on holidays, a time when many families and friends come together and look forward to spending a portion of their day exploring the reservoir’s beauty only to find it barred from use. 

These unwelcoming shifts in policy have now become dangerous. During the last several months, an additional barrier has been erected – one that I fear poses a danger to drivers entering and exiting the property. The barrier consists of two automatic gates located about 1/3 of the way inside the property from Albany Avenue. When completed, I am told the gate will be down and will only allow cars in when the parking lot is not full. In front of the gate, closer to the entrance of Albany Avenue, there is a very small area for cars to turn around which only magnifies the problem. 

For years, there has been an honor system that works remarkably well at Reservoir 6. If the parking lot is full, cars drive in and wait in line until parked cars leave (usually not very long). Then, one-by-one each driver takes his or her turn and parks in the next available spot. The fact that the cars are able to drive into the parking area ensures that there aren’t cars stacked up close to Albany Avenue. With the new barrier, cars will be forced to somehow turn around while the gate is down and hope that cars approaching the entrance will be able to react in a split second and not hit them.

I understand that the upper parking lot may be available again. I am not quite sure how that will be possible if the gates closest to Albany Avenue won’t allow cars to enter if the lower parking lot is full. As users of our water system and payors for its maintenance through our monthly bills, it would seem we would have been notified of the plan. To my knowledge, there was never a hearing or any other opportunity to provide input to the MDC Board nor have we received any information about what will come next.

While the entrance and parking lot to Reservoir 6 is located in West Hartford, this is a regional issue. These policies impact individuals and families from Avon, Bloomfield, Simsbury, and Hartford, and other surrounding towns.

I am deeply saddened and concerned that the MDC has chosen to erect barriers that are both dangerous and unwelcoming. Access to our reservoirs is a quality of life issue, especially during the time of COVID. It is not too late for the MDC to remember the importance of our open spaces to our mental and physical well-being. 

I sincerely hope that the MDC Board will re-evaluate this needless strategy before any harm occurs.

Sherry Haller is Executive Director of The Justice Education Center and a former candidate for the 20th State House District.

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1 Comment

  • Thank you for writing about a problem that has gotten worse instead of better. I do a regular, 9 mile hike from the parking lot along the metacomet trail to Penwood park and back. I typically hike on a weekday at times when the parking lot is nearly full or full, which lately is every time I go. When it is full, I am forced to park across Albany avenue where the cyclists usually park. In order to begin my hike, I must cross Albany avenue on foot avoiding speeding cars. It’s even worse upon returning as limited sight lines on Albany avenue make it extremely dangerous to cross traffic. I’ve witnessed multiple near accidents at that intersection and it is just a matter of time before a very serious accident occurs. The MDC has cut the parking lot size in half with the security gates allowing less than 50 cars to park, which equates to less than 100 people using the property at any time. That seems to be the real goal of the MDC, which has regularly acted against the best interests of its users unless forced to change.

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