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Police agencies break up 200-person gathering in Canajoharie amid COVID-19

Police agencies break up 200-person gathering in Canajoharie amid COVID-19

Crowd, not practicing social distancing, disperses peacefully
Police agencies break up 200-person gathering in Canajoharie amid COVID-19
Photographer: File photo

CANAJOHARIE — A popular swimming spot on the Canajoharie Creek and the surrounding area have been closed to the public indefinitely after three police agencies broke up an approximately 200-person gathering there Tuesday afternoon.

The incident happened after village police noticed numerous vehicles parked on both sides of Floral Avenue, where the entrance to the "Boiling Pot" -- a popular swimming area -- is located.

The Canajoharie Police Department at that point requested backup from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department and the New York State Police. “You never know what to expect with a large crowd like that,” especially with people who potentially have been drinking, Canajoharie Police Chief Bryan MacFadden said about the necessity for backup.

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Before breaking up the gathering, MacFadden also consulted with Montgomery County Public Health Director Sara Boerenko, who confirmed that a mass assembly such as Tuesday’s is unsafe at the current time.

Upon arrival, police found approximately 200 people clustered in the Canajoharie Creek, “like a beach scene,” according to MacFadden, who said that he only saw one person in the large crowd wearing a protective face mask.

A significant portion of those gathered were not local, having traveled to Canajoharie from the Amsterdam and Schenectady areas, according to MacFadden, who noted that the party-goers were all young.

“Everybody was fast to leave,” said MacFadden, commenting that the gathering broke up peacefully with no tickets being issued. The Boiling Pot was technically open to the public at the time. Wintergreen Park — located a distance upstream from the Boiling Pot — remains closed.

Sheriff Jeff Smith commented of Tuesday’s gathering, “The concern was obviously social distancing, but that combined with the [Canajoharie] Creek and problems we’ve had in the past.” Those problems include people being killed by leaping off Wintergreen Falls and people becoming trapped and requiring rescue along various portions of the creek.

“We’re trying to educate people as much as possible and encourage them to abide by social distancing rules” in an attempt to keep positive COVID-19 cases down locally, Smith said.

“We’ve made a lot of progress [locally] in the past two weeks,” said Smith. 

“We want to stay on track to open for Phase 2 Friday so we can all get back to having some sense of normalcy.”

Added MacFadden, “We just need to follow current COVID-19 rules so we don’t have to revert back to Phase 1 again. We want to open this area, so we have to follow the rules.”

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