Canajoharie Police Chief Leonard Price doesn’t have a secret device that tells him people will be trespassing at the dangerous waterfalls in the village’s Wintergreen Park — he simply uses the weather report and a thermometer.
When it’s going to be a hot weekend, he dispatches foot patrols to the park and they often result in arrests.
Over the past three weeks, the department has caught and arrested 56 people launching themselves over the 40-foot waterfall down to the whitewater below, a refreshing but illegal plunge that periodically leaves a daredevil swimmer seriously injured or dead.
“If we see it’s going to be a warm and humid day, we bring in an extra patrol,” Price said Monday.
The department in early June ticketed 14 people during a warm weekend and announced plans to continue patrols, but the warnings were unheeded, he said. “It’s not to harass, it’s not to turn people off to coming to the park. But at the same time, we have to protect ourselves,” Price said.
The Canajoharie Creek and its waterfall has claimed several lives in the past. Three died after jumping into the falls between 2001 and 2004: Christine Biamonte, 16, Andrew Howe, 35, and Alexander Lee, 19.
Price said he can only suspect the struggling economy coupled with gasoline prices is making it more difficult for people to find somewhere legal to cool off.
“It’s tough with the economy. There’s probably less public pools or beaches,” Price said.
There simply are not many public places to go swimming in the Mohawk Valley. Aside from a handful of municipal pools, some of which have residency restrictions, there are state parks with admission fees and pools run by YMCAs or other organizations for dues-paying members.
The only option for some is the local creek or pond, with no designated swimming area or lifeguard.
But Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery said it’s not a matter of finding people a place to cool off — people are going over the falls at Wintergreen Park looking for a thrill.
He said none of those charged over the past several weeks, who range from 16 to 56 years old, are from Canajoharie — they’re from someplace else.
Avery said the falls is one attraction listed online for thrill-seekers, and so far, there have been more than 70 trespassing arrests at the park this summer.
“Somebody put it on the Internet that this is a challenging falls to dive from. Our people know better because it’s dangerous, very dangerous,” the mayor said.
Price said the typical outcome of a guilty plea for trespassing in Wintergreen Park is a $125 fine.
Categories: Schenectady County