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Swinging into summer

The covered bridge at Eagleville near Shushan has been a popular swimming hole along the Batten Kill but has also been the scene of rowdy behavior resulting in arrests recently.

Complaints about rowdy behavior, drunken driving and partying at Eagleville Covered Bridge over the Batten Kill have resulted in more of a police presence and numerous arrests there during recent weekends.

State Police made four arrests there last weekend, for driving while intoxicated and drug possession, and issued numerous traffic tickets as well. Those arrested came from Schenectady, Rensselaer and Washington counties, and there were arrests the weekend before as officers frequently patrol through the area.

Troopers, Washington County sheriff’s officers and state Department of Environmental Conservation personnel also took part in a coordinated effort on the July 4 weekend that led to an unspecified number of arrests and tickets.

The river at the bridge has long been a gathering spot, but Washington County Undersheriff John Winchell said issues on the Batten Kill near Eagleville “seem a little worse this year.”

“This has kind of become our new Log Bay Day,” Winchell said, referring to an all-day party on Lake George that was shut down three summers ago after a fatal boat crash and other problems.

Fights, public intoxication and disorderly conduct are among the typical weekend complaints.

Winchell pointed out there was also a series of kayaker and tuber rescues that occurred downstream of Eagleville earlier this spring and summer during high-water conditions. The tubers and kayakers were unprepared for the conditions.

The Eagleville Covered Bridge, built in 1858, spans the river between Salem and Jackson.

The river has a deep pool there that is popular with swimmers, and adjacent state forest land provides access points to the water.

The bridge is also a well-known spot for tubers to get in or take out.

But there is limited parking there, and the bridge is one lane so those who park close to it obstruct traffic in spots.

Littering is a problem, and one officer said the change in river color between the morning of July 4, when it was clear, and the turbidity seen after a day where hundreds of tubers passed by was distinct.

Some come down the river from Vermont, and police in New York have been working with their counterparts in Vermont to educate users about enforcement being done.

“I think our presence there has deterred some of the problems,” sheriff’s Capt. Tony LeClaire said.

A spokesman for the DEC said the agency “has received complaints from landowners along the river and anglers regarding the number of tubers and paddlers on Batten Kill and their behavior.”

On July 4 to 6, three DEC forest rangers and two DEC environmental conservation police officers, in partnership with State Police and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, patrolled the Batten Kill between the Vermont border and the county Route 64 bridge. DEC forest rangers focused on patrolling state lands, including the portions of the Batten Kill State Forest along the river. The focus of the detail was to ensure the steady flow of tubers and others down the river to the takeout area, the agency said in a statement.

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reporter - crimes & courts, public safety and Warren County government

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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