MOUNT WASHINGTON — About 1,000 people flocked to Bash Bish Falls State Park on Sunday, causing alarm and forcing multiple police agencies to close the park for the day.
A photo posted to Facebook on Sunday showed crowds in the pool beneath the falls, sending ripples of alarm for lack of social distancing. Also, it is illegal to swim near the falls.
Details from Massachusetts State Police had been hired by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation for Saturday and Sunday, according to a statement from state police spokesman David Procopio.
It was Sunday that the crowds arrived, and while police tried to limit attendance, they had to call local police departments and the Columbia County Sheriff's Office in New York for help closing the park.
The park is connected to Taconic State Park in New York state, giving it multiple points of entry for crowds beaten by months of isolation. It features the highest single-drop waterfall in Massachusetts, amid gorges and a ravine forest with trails. It also is home to some of the remaining rattlesnakes in the Northeast.
Brian Tobin, chairman of the Select Board in Mount Washington, said this has been going on every weekend since the start of summer, after the park was reopened since the coronavirus-related lockdowns. He has been getting calls and messages from people complaining of crowds and litter.
He worries about people getting too cavalier around the falls, or jumping off the cliffs — a popular pastime there. "People do stupid things, they do dangerous things, and every year or two someone pays the ultimate price for it."
A man died there in 2017.
Yet, this isn't what worried people on Facebook — it was the coronavirus.
To keep the park safe, the DCR has deployed additional park rangers and police, according to the agency. In May, as the lockdowns began to ease, the agency reported that people were using its parks in higher numbers.
But, there is more recklessness with a virus to worry about, Tobin said.
"If people are drinking and smoking and being careless with open flame," he said. "It's a dry summer. That would put lives at risk in our town."
The DCR website's interactive park map shows other nearby parks as alternatives.
Heather Bellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.