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I remember the Quinnipiac River!
I remember it back in the late 1940s when our father would take us there fishing for trout. It was a time when the Quinnipiac River was flooded with trout fishermen.
I remember swimming in the Quinnipiac River as a teenager. We swam and dove off of Red Bridge and had a swing out over the river from one of the tall trees above Red Bridge.
I also remember swimming at what is now the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association. Back then it was known as Dossin Beach.
Back in the 1940s and early ’50s, the Quinnipiac River was stocked with trout by both the state and the Meriden Rod & Gun Club.
During this period, the Quinnipiac River was a fun place to be. We even camped out on Boy Scout Island and, believe it or not, made coffee using the river water (boiling the water made it safe).
But like all good things, we humans forced some drastic changes on the Quinnipiac River as well as Hanover Pond. Even though the swimming had lost its safe rating at Dossin Beach and the infamous B.A.B. and Twin Beach (two smaller beaches used by the younger generation back then), we still swam in the river and Hanover Pond, and even had a swimming hole off East Johnson Avenue just below the bridge. It was simply known as “Millers.”
Since we had no cell phones, video games or other electronic gizmos to take us away from the great outdoors, we relied on the Quinnipiac River to provide us with ways to while away summer hours, and the Quinnipiac River and Hanover Pond even provided us with ice skating during the winter months.
Even as we grew older and some of us got married, we still turned to the Quinnipiac River as a spot to meet with our friends and families and have a fun-filled day. We even began using Hanover Pond as a spot to go water skiing and surf boarding (pulled behind a boat).
Life on the Quinnipiac River was good!
And then changes began to happen, some of them subtle and some more outrageous. While we did know that the water had some contaminates in it, we did not begin to realize it until the mid-50s. Some of us had rashes appear on our bodies. We were told it was from swimming in the waters of the Quinnipiac River.
How could this be? Our beloved Quinnipiac River was becoming more and more contaminated, and it looked like nothing was being done about it!
We reluctantly turned our backs on this once favored recreational source and looked for other means of recreation. It was during this period that the waters of the Quinnipiac River became even fouler, both from domestic abuse and from industrial abuse, as well as construction along its banks.
It became so bad that the DEEP Inland Fisheries even stopped stocking trout into its waters. Fishermen no longer vied for spots on the river, although I do know of a couple who did fish it on a hook-and-release basis for a number of years during these trying times.
I was working at the L. Suzio Companies here in Meriden when I heard about a group of concerned residents headed up by local architect Walter Hylwa, who thought that something had to be done to reclaim the Quinnipiac River. A number of concerned citizens from area towns formed a small band of river vigilantes that became the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association (QRWA).
Those polluting the river were taken to task and slowly, but surely the Quinnipiac River began to show signs of regeneration. Channel 8 even featured the Quinnipiac River and the QRWA in a documentary titled “Troubled Waters.”
This was before I began my R-J column. I was invited to take the Channel 8 commentator and video man on a short trip on the Quinnipiac so they could get a close up and personal look at the river. I even lent the commentator a fishing rod so he could be filmed fishing the river.
CT DEEP Wildlife biologist Peter Picone, who has been a driving force in the QRWA for a number of years, was also featured in the video. For those of us involved with the QRWA at that time, it was a very satisfying experience.
The water in the Quinnipiac River steadily improved and finally got to the point where the DEEP Inland Fisheries deemed it clean enough to resume stocking it with trout. The first reopening day of trout fishing on the Quinnipiac River was a historic happening.
For those involved in the QRWA, the battle was — and still is — in progress.
The group now has a rebuilt headquarters at the former Dossin Beach on Oregon Road thanks to the generous efforts of the Meriden Lions Club and the Cuno Foundation. The Meriden Lions Club rebuilt what is now the Meriden Lions Club Learning Center, as well as the main office in the lobby entrance. The Cuno Foundation took care of redoing the conference room.
As if to enhance the QRWA HQ. the Meriden Lions Club also restored historic Red Bridge and was responsible for the entrance archway on the Q-Gorge Trail. Thank you, Meriden Lions and Cuno Foundation.
For the QRWA, the battle for clean water is a never-ending confrontation. Each year the organization stages a canoe/kayak downriver race run by Dan Pelletier and a pre-season trout stocking headed up by Picone.
The QRWA also holds a twice yearly QRWA River Cleanup and, this year, is looking for volunteers who are comfortable working from boats for a guided paddling cleanup along a portion of the race course. A boating leader and QRWA canoes will be available.
If this sounds like something you might want to do, contact Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-237-2237. The cleanup will take place next Saturday, Sept. 28, from 9 a.m. to noon.
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be. Freedom is not free.