By: Maria Moore
The Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) will be holding a special meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, July 20 at the West Hartford Town Hall to receive public input on its recreational land use policy. The special meeting follows a Hartford Superior Court ruling in May which awarded Maribeth Blonski of Rocky Hill $2.9 million after she slammed into a gate in 2002 and broke her neck riding down hill on one of the trails at the MDC-owned West Hartford Reservoir. The bicyclist filed the suit because there were no signs warning of the gates.
Following is a July 16 press release from the MDC regarding this special meeting:
The Water Bureau of the Metropolitan District (MDC) will conduct an informational meeting relating to the recreational use of its reservoir land on Tuesday, July 20, 2010, at 5:30 p.m. in the West Hartford Town Hall Auditorium, 50 South Main Street, West Hartford, Connecticut. The purpose of this meeting is to receive public input on the issue. The Water Bureau will not take any formal action on this issue at the meeting.
Under the MDC Charter, the Water Bureau is charged with making periodic recommendations to the District Board regarding the uses permitted on and within MDC reservoir property. Â For example, in 1998, the District Board, upon recommendation of the Water Bureau, adopted ordinances requiring bicyclists, skateboarders and roller skaters using MDC property to wear certain protective equipment.
In response to a recent Superior Court decision in the case of Blonski v. Metropolitan District, the Water Bureau, through its chairman, Commissioner Timothy Curtis of Windsor, has decided to reevaluate the MDCâ€™s policy in this area. â€œAs a public entity funded by rate payer money, we have an obligation to assess our risks, particularly in light of recent events. We intend to proceed in an open and deliberate manner as we review our policies. In the meantime, the public should not assume that the Water Bureau has made, or will recommend, any changes to the Districtâ€™s recreational use policy,â€ said Commissioner Curtis.
On behalf of the District Board, and in response to a good deal of misinformation on the issue, Chairman William DiBella stated, â€œLet me be perfectly clear. No decisions to change our current policies have been made, specifically in regard to closing the reservoir property to the public. Any statements to the contrary should be disregarded. The District Board has yet to take any formal action, and individual statements or conclusions do not reflect Board policy. I commend Chairman Curtis for his leadership on this issue in conducting an open and constructive dialogue.â€
The meeting will include a brief presentation by MDC staff on its recreational facilities with public comments to follow. Those attending the meeting who wish to speak will be asked to sign in for the record, and all speakers will be limited to 3 minutes in duration. Organizations are welcome to choose a representative to speak on their behalf.
West Hartford Community Television will telecast the meeting on Tuesday, July 20th at 5:30 p.m. live on Comcast cable channel 5. The meeting will also stream live on www.whctv.org and be transmitted on the townâ€™s informational radio station 1630 AM. After the event, the program will be available on demand at the stationâ€™s website.
WHC-TVâ€™s wishes to inform its customers that regularly scheduled programming will telecast on Channel 96 if the meeting does not conclude by 7:00 p.m.
Interested viewers should also check the Connecticut Network (CT-N) schedule for air times and dates.
Potential Effects On New Hartford:
The MDC owns extensive acreage in New Hartford where recreational use by the public is now allowed. A decision by the MDC not to allow the public to access its land could potentially impact the following areas in New Hartford:
The Nepaug Reservoir and Forestlands: totalling 3,400 acres, which includes the Nepaug State Forest in New Hartford and the Nepaug Reservoir. This area is currently available to the public for:
Land along the West Branch of the Farmington River: the MDC owns 6,500 acres of such land. Â This includes the land from the end of Greenwoods Road in New Hartford to Barkhamsted. This area is currently available to the public for:
- Some hunting;
Lake McDonough: a 446-acre lake located just 3 miles northeast of New Hartford Center has the following recreational opportunities:
- The Braille Trail;
- Cross country skiing;
- MDC row boats;
- Picnic sites.
Any change in the MDC’s public access policy may impact any or all of the recreational opportunities on MDC-owned land now available in and around New Hartford.
What You Can Do To Help Maintain Public Access To MDC Lands
A group called ‘Save the MDC Trails‘ has been formed and it is collecting signatures for a petitionÂ asking the legislature to amend the state statute to provide exemption from personal injury lawsuits for towns and cities that allow people free access to their land and reasonably maintain it. Â Â So far, the group has collected 3,613 signatures. Â To sign their petition, please go toÂ Fix Connecticut’s Recreational Liability Law.
‘Save the MDC Trails’ also has 8 other ways you can help; please visit theÂ What can I do to help? page of their website and help in any of the ways they suggest that you feel able to.
About the MDC: The MDC is a nonprofit municipal corporation chartered by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1929. The MDC provides water, sewer and household hazardous waste collection services to its member municipalities: Bloomfield, East Hartford, Hartford, Newington, Rocky Hill, West Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor. In addition, under a series of special agreements, the District supplies treated water to Glastonbury, the southern portion of South Windsor, the eastern portion of Farmington, East Granby and Unionville. For more information about the MDC, visit www.themdc.com.