Ordinance sets rules for beach at Bonnifield Lake
The Fairfield City Council passed the third and final reading of an ordinance Monday designed to improve safety and clarify rules pertaining to Bonnifield Lake.
The ordinance allows swimming in Bonnifield Lake while prohibiting swimming in all other city-owned reservoirs. Swimming is only allowed from sunrise to sunset in designated areas at the lake. The swim season will last from April 1 to Oct. 31, but the lake could be closed because of bad weather or other special circumstances.
The beach may be closed for swimming at the discretion of the Park and Recreation director for safety or health reasons. “Beach Closed” signs will be posted in the event of a beach closing. Anyone violating the ban notice will be cited for trespassing.
Swimming is allowed in two designated areas of the lake, the first of which is adjacent to the beach within the area delineated by buoys and ropes. The second designated area is delineated by colored buoys and is for lane swimming or open swimming.
The ordinance states the city will maintain emergency rescue equipment adjacent to or on the beach.
Councilor Michael Halley said the type of emergency rescue equipment was left vague in the ordinance because the city may change the equipment as safety technology develops. For the time being, the rescue equipment the city plans to put at the beach is a ring with a rope attached to it and a long pole.
“If someone is in trouble, you don’t want to swim to them unless you’re a trained lifeguard,” Halley said, adding the ring and pole are useful from the shore. “Let’s say another device proves to be more useful. Our ordinance allows for that flexibility. The pole may not get used much, and we may find more appropriate technology available.”
An earlier version of the ordinance said the beach would be closed immediately if the rescue equipment was stolen and would remain closed until it was returned. Councilor Daryn Hamilton explained during a recent council meeting he voted against the passage of the Beach Ordinance precisely because that line was taken out.
Halley said the Park and Recreation Department could still follow that procedure as a policy without it being included in the ordinance.
“If a person steals it and they don’t care about swimming, why would they return it?” Halley asked. “Hopefully, no one will steal the safety equipment. It’s a pretty shady thing to do. You can’t secure a ring or pole in a way that can’t be stolen yet can still be used in an emergency.”
Halley said he is interested in the issue of the beach because he can see both sides of the argument. He wants a set of rules to govern the beach while at the same time allowing residents to use it. Halley swims in the lake during the summer to train for triathlons.
The beach could be opened as early as Monday, although Halley thinks that’s probably not going to happen given the chilly temperatures. He said the safety equipment should all be in place by the time the weather warms up enough to open the beach.
“Last year, we were in the mid-80s by this time,” he said.
Bob Klauber and his wife Susan have volunteered to keep the beach clean for the past couple of years. Klauber is head of the Beach Volunteer Committee, which helped shape the ordinance the council passed.
In the past year, the city has begun to take on more responsibilities pertaining to cleaning the beach, but there is more work than the park department can handle.
The beach volunteers pick up trash left on the beach and spend a few hours weeding it each week. Klauber said the largest challenge the volunteers have faced is the geese that defecate in the park and especially on the beach.
“The geese are protected by the Department of Natural Resources, and they’re proliferating right now,” he said. “They’re all over the place, and quite a nuisance. They like to spend the night on the beach. When we go there in the morning, it’s like a sewer.”
Klauber said the volunteers have found a way to keep the geese off the beach, and that is by suspending a fishing line just off the ground around the perimeter of the beach. This bothers the geese and makes it difficult for them to go into and out of the water as they want, so they leave the beach and find water elsewhere.
Susan Klauber is making a sign for the beach to educate the public in how to use the rescue devices and a sign full of smart swimming tips, such as never swim alone and things of that sort.
The beach itself is only about 10 years old. Klauber said Frank Wintroub spearheaded the idea for a beach once he learned the city would gather its water from an underground aquifer instead of the lake.