River swim docks close indefinitely
By Conrad Scoville, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, June 25, 2010
The College has indefinitely closed the Connecticut River swim docks following a safety review by the administration that raised concerns about dangers posed by the river, according to Associate Dean for Campus Life April Thompson. Students were informed of the decision in an e-mail sent by Thompson to campus Wednesday afternoon but were not consulted beforehand, she said.
The decision was made following “a pretty routine safety review” performed by multiple administrative departments, Thompson said, and was not prompted by a specific incident or change in river conditions.
“Safety is an ongoing conversation,” she said. “I don’t think we can point to a specific incident, and I don’t think we want to wait to point to a specific incident.”
The administrative departments were not motivated by liability issues and were only concerned about students’ safety, Thompson said.
Questions were raised regarding the depth of the river — which drops rapidly from 18 feet at the dock to 25 feet further in — as well as the river’s poor visibility and unpredictable current, according to the e-mail.
Additional safety measures such as an increased lifeguard presence would not improve student safety because of the nature of the river’s dangers, Thompson said.
The decision will not affect sections of the river beyond the College’s docks, Thompson said, and Hanover officials were not involved in the decision-making process.
“There certainly may be places on the Connecticut River that are safer to swim — I don’t know that,” she said. “There’s no safe place right here.”
Students should have been consulted during the decision-making process, 2012 Class Council president John Rutan ’12 said. Rutan said he believes the decision was made “too hastily” and also pointed out communication issues between students and campus administration.
“[The administration] handled it poorly,” Rutan said. “Not only is it a bummer that it’s sophomore Summer, but it also stings that the administration was so quick with it.”
Closing the docks may also prove counterproductive because students will likely continue to swim in the river despite the absence of lifeguards, Rutan said.
“We’re not contesting that the river is unsafe,” he said.
The College previously employed lifeguards to patrol the area during limited hours, Thompson said.
Safety and Security will enforce the new restrictions by regularly patrolling the area, Thompson said.
Officers will attempt to safely remove students swimming in the river, who will receive a warning from the College and additional penalties for subsequent offenses, she said.
The administration will work with student leaders to help provide alternative recreational activities, including free access to the Storrs Pond Recreational Area, a Hanover Improvement Society-operated space located near the College, Thompson said.
However, Rutan said he believes the pond’s relative inaccessibility may make students less likely to use the area.
The area will be accessible by the Advanced Transit bus service, Thompson said.
According to Rutan, no other transportation options will be offered, although it is possible that money previously used to employ lifeguards will be used to help fund student transportation in the future.
Members of Class Council will work with administrators to attempt to reopen the docks, Rutan said.
“Storrs Pond is not the river,” he said. “None of [the current alternative recreational options] are at the point where I’d be comfortable.”
Reopening the docks will be “an uphill battle,” Rutan said. “We need students to be proactive.”
Class Council will promote Storrs Pond as a recreational area if it remains the best option, he said.