Schenectady County

Storm-stirred sediment shuts Collins Lake beach for summer

Village officials have closed the Collins Lake beach because the water is not clear enough to meet D

Taking a dip in the lake would be a nice way to cool off on a hot day like today.

However, nobody will be taking any dips in Collins Lake in Scotia this summer. Village officials have closed the beach because the water is not clear enough to meet Department of Health requirements for swimming.

Tropical storms Irene and Lee flooded the lake with river water and stirred up debris and sediment. Parks and Recreation Superintendent Jim Marx said the flood waters contained a lot of very fine clay silt.

Village officials had treated the lake with a chemical called alum, which clumps the sediment particles together and causes them to fall to the bottom.

However, Marx said, the particles kept getting resuspended and the clarity was not good enough.

“In order to open, we need 4 feet of clarity and we only have around 2,” he said.

The village plans to open the dam to drain the water level as low as it can go and flush out the suspended particles. It will keep repeating the process until the particles are removed, according to Marx.

“We have no idea how long that will take,” he said.

About 130 people use the beach on an average summer day, according to Marx. The village also had to cancel its swimming lessons.

“It is unfortunate. We did everything we could,” he said.

Scotia is also working with the Fresh Water Institute, a group of scientists and professors at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, to do a comprehensive study of the lake to determine what it needs to continue being a recreational resource.

The village had to do a lot of work to get Collins Park back to an acceptable condition following the storm. The entire park was covered with a layer of sediment and silt anywhere from 2 to 4 inches thick. Village officials had to rebuild the baseball field with help from the Babe Ruth League, as well as the concessions stand and maintenance building. Also, 25 trees had fallen down and park officials had to redo the entire meadows area, strip the parking lot of sediment, and put down new stone. Beach Road had to be rebuilt because the flooding had washed away the subbase.

Scotia Mayor Kris Kastberg said the village cannot allow people on the beach but keep them out of the water, so the entire beach is closed. He stressed that there is no problem with contaminants in the lake.

“It’s not a health issue. It’s purely a clarity issue, so if a kid is swimming and goes under we want to make sure our lifeguards can see the kid,” he said.

The news of the closure disappointed would-be beachgoers.

“Last year, I was swimming here every day. It’s just cool. You can jump in,” said 9-year-old Hunter Wilcox of Scotia.

“It’s going to ruin her life — not having that beach open,” added her grandmother Bonnie VanAuken, also of Scotia.

Dave Limbrunner of Colonie, who was enjoying a break from work in Collins Park, said he used to swim at the beach all the time when he lived in Scotia. “It was clean. It was small. It was across the street from my apartment,” he said.

Alex Naddell of Schenectady said it was a “bummer.” “This is the nicest beach around,” he said.

Naddell said his father brought him to Collins Beach when he was younger. He brought his stepson and nieces and nephews for a little cookout and swimming, only to find the sign “Beach Closed for Season.”

However, he understands that the beach was a casualty of Mother Nature.

“Nothing you can do about it,” he said.

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