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A group of young people converged at Countryside Conservancy’s Little Rocky Glen last week and, despite numerous signs saying swimming is prohibited, took to the water. The Glen which is located off Lithia Valley Road in Clinton Township is where the South Branch of the Tunkhannock Creek flows over several waterfalls and opens up into 20 foot deep pools. In the background, one young person prepares to launch himself from one of the rock cliffs water. The jumping from cliffs is one of the Conservancy’s biggest worries. STAFF PHOTO/VIRGINIA CODY

BY VIRGINIA CODY

Wyoming County Press Examiner

It would seem that in a landscape dotted with hundreds of lakes and ponds, and laced with so many creeks, finding a spot to swim would be easy.

Not so.

Bill Kern, president of the Countryside Conservancy, says he only knows of two places in a natural setting one can legally swim for free in the county.

One of those is in the Tunkhannock Creek at Lazybrook Park.  The other is in Bowman Creek at the roadside rest along State Route 29.

And technically, when it comes to swimming, the word “legal” is a bit of a misnomer.  The fact is, most of the property alongside the swimming holes is privately owned so it’s the getting to the swimming hole that can be illegal.

Owners of the land adjacent to the creeks don’t want people trespassing.

BY VIRGINIA CODY Wyoming County Press Examiner It would seem that in a landscape dotted with hundreds of lakes and ponds, and laced with so many creeks, finding a spot to swim would be easy. Not so. Bill Kern, president of the Countryside Conservancy, says he only knows of two places in a natural setting one can legally swim for free in the county. One of those is in the Tunkhannock Creek at Lazybrook Park. The other is in Bowman Creek at the roadside rest along State Route 29. And technically, when it comes to swimming, the word “legal” is a bit of a misnomer. The fact is, most of the property alongside the swimming holes is privately owned so it’s the getting to the swimming hole that can be illegal. Owners of the land adjacent to the creeks don’t want people trespassing. The clearest example of this is the swimming hole at Potts Falls in Meshoppen. “It’s called criminal trespass,” Meshoppen Police Chief John Krieg said, and noted the fine for violating the law there is up to $300. He should know. In 2006, he and four state troopers issued 42 citations in one day. “We have a zero tolerance about swimming there,” Krieg said. “We’ve weeded them out.” He noted that even though the site is patrolled daily, he hasn’t had to make a single arrest this year. Part of the issue with trying to prevent people from swimming in various locations has a lot to do with insurance. Property owners simply don’t want their insurance rates to skyrocket because of the risk that people will get hurt on their property. Countryside Conservancy, which owns the granddaddy of all swimming holes in the area, the falls at Little Rocky Glen, faces that insurance dilemma trying to prevent swimming in its 20 foot deep pools while at the same time trying to encourage families to use the preserve as a picnic area. “It’s an insurance reason,” said Kern. “As a private non-profit group we have to pay insurance on the preserves. It costs $7,500 a year, and the bulk of that is on the Glen.” But, the ‘No Swimming’ signs rarely keep people away. On any given day during summer months, the sandstone layers of rocks are taken over by young people from far and wide. If you Google “swimming holes” in northeastern Pennsylvania, Little Rocky Glen pops up instantly, so it’s no wonder people from all over the state manage to find the spot. A major problem the Conservancy has with the location is that kids jump off the rocks. One missed step, the consequences could be catastrophic, Kern says, adding that he has four Glen stewards patrolling the site to make sure people stay out of the water. Factoryville resident Whitney Mulqueen, a frequent visitor to the Glen, says she’s frustrated the Conservancy felt a need to put up all the “No Swimming” signs on the property, particularly on the brand new pavilion constructed as a way of drawing more families to the site. “It should be swim at your own risk,” she said. “I can ride my horse at Lackawanna State Park, and if I fall off, it’s my own problem. I can’t sue them.” Kern says he understands that sentiment, but has to acknowledge that the Conservancy simply can’t afford the insurance which would be exponentially more if swimming was allowed. Andrea Maxwell, who was visiting Little Rocky Glen from Clarks Summit, said she was especially glad to have found the place but was disappointed to see the ‘No Swimming’ signs. Having come from Michigan where finding a fresh water swimming area was quite easy, she said she felt somewhat “landlocked” in northeastern Pennsylvania. “There just aren’t enough public swimming areas,” she said. People who’ve lived in the area a long time recall a different way of life, a time when people weren’t so worried about lawsuits, and when “swim at your own risk,” meant precisely that. And they recall a number of other places to swim: below the bridge near the Bridgeview Restaurant in Nicholson and behind the Shadowbrook golf course at a hole called the Brickyard. Lloyd Kingston of Fox Road in Tunkhannock Township remembers that he used to swim at a swimming hole near the Bardwell Bridge on Route 6. Kingston lives across the street from another of the area’s swimming holes. And there don’t seem to be any restrictions on it. According to Kingston, he and his neighbors aren’t even sure who owns the land along the South Branch of the Tunkhannock Creek there. And Bryan McManus of Wilkes-Barre, who was fishing at the Fox Road swimming hole last week, said he was directed there by owners of the campground he was staying at in Tunkhannock. The biggest public swimming hole where there are no rules against swimming is the roadside rest on State Route 29 in Eaton Township. There visitors are treated to water that in places is around eight feet deep and there are small rapids for children to tube on. What’s more, since the site is a PennDOT rest area, there are public restrooms. One of the private swimming holes in the county where swimming is allowed is down in Noxen and is owned by the Noxen United Methodist Church. Pastor Linda Bryan says the site is used primarily by her work camp volunteers. “We let the kids go down there and paddle around,” she said. And even though the land is privately owned, Bryan doesn’t see a problem allowing others to swim there. “We only ask that an adult be there to watch the little ones,” she said. The swimming hole which is right off State Route 29 on Tannery Road doesn’t seem to get a lot of use though, she added. Mulqueen says she thinks swimming in the creeks is probably the cleanest kind of swimming there is. That is particularly true, she said, because the creeks are monitored carefully by area watershed groups. “Even a swimming pool has chemicals in it. But this is running water. You know it’s clean,” she said. “And where else can you swim in such a beautiful natural place?”

The clearest example of this is the swimming hole at Potts Falls in Meshoppen.

“It’s called criminal trespass,” Meshoppen Police Chief John Krieg said, and noted the fine for violating the law there is up to $300.

He should know.

In 2006, he and four state troopers issued 42 citations in one day.

“We have a zero tolerance about swimming there,” Krieg said. “We’ve weeded them out.”

He noted that even though the site is patrolled daily, he hasn’t had to make a single arrest this year.

Part of the issue with trying to prevent people from swimming in various locations has a lot to do with insurance.  Property owners simply don’t want their insurance rates to skyrocket because of the risk that people will get hurt on their property.

Countryside Conservancy, which owns the granddaddy of all swimming holes in the area, the falls at Little Rocky Glen, faces that insurance dilemma trying to prevent swimming in its 20 foot deep pools while at the same time trying to encourage families to use the preserve as a picnic area.

“It’s an insurance reason,” said Kern.  “As a private non-profit group we have to pay insurance on the preserves.  It costs $7,500 a year, and the bulk of that is on the Glen.”

But, the ‘No Swimming’ signs rarely keep people away.

On any given day during summer months, the sandstone layers of rocks are taken over by young people from far and wide.

If you Google “swimming holes” in northeastern Pennsylvania, Little Rocky Glen pops up instantly, so it’s no wonder people from all over the state manage to find the spot.

A major problem the Conservancy has with the location is that kids jump off the rocks.  One missed step, the consequences could be catastrophic, Kern says, adding that he has four Glen stewards patrolling the site to make sure people stay out of the water.

Factoryville resident Whitney Mulqueen, a frequent visitor to the Glen, says she’s frustrated the Conservancy felt a need to put up all the “No Swimming” signs on the property, particularly on the brand new pavilion constructed as a way of drawing more families to the site.

“It should be swim at your own risk,” she said.  “I can ride my horse at Lackawanna State Park, and if I fall off, it’s my own problem.  I can’t sue them.”

Kern says he understands that sentiment, but has to acknowledge that the Conservancy simply can’t afford the insurance which would be exponentially more if swimming was allowed.

Andrea Maxwell, who was visiting Little Rocky Glen from Clarks Summit, said she was especially glad to have found the place but was disappointed to see the ‘No Swimming’ signs.

Having come from Michigan where finding a fresh water swimming area was quite easy, she said she felt somewhat “landlocked” in northeastern Pennsylvania.

“There just aren’t enough public swimming areas,” she said.

People who’ve lived in the area a long time recall a different way of life, a time when people weren’t so worried about lawsuits, and when “swim at your own risk,” meant precisely that.

And they recall a number of other places to swim: below the bridge near the Bridgeview Restaurant in Nicholson and behind the Shadowbrook golf course at a hole called the Brickyard.

Lloyd Kingston of Fox Road in Tunkhannock Township remembers that he used to swim at a swimming hole near the Bardwell Bridge on Route 6.

Kingston lives across the street from another of the area’s swimming holes.  And there don’t seem to be any restrictions on it.  According to Kingston, he and his neighbors aren’t even sure who owns the land along the South Branch of the Tunkhannock Creek there.

And Bryan McManus of Wilkes-Barre, who was fishing at the Fox Road swimming hole last week, said he was directed there by owners of the campground he was staying at in Tunkhannock.

The biggest public swimming hole where there are no rules against swimming is the roadside rest on State Route 29 in Eaton Township.

There visitors are treated to water that in places is around eight feet deep and there are small rapids for children to tube on.

What’s more, since the site is a PennDOT rest area, there are public restrooms.

One of the private swimming holes in the county where swimming is allowed is down in Noxen and is owned by the Noxen United Methodist Church.

Pastor Linda Bryan says the site is used primarily by her work camp volunteers.

“We let the kids go down there and paddle around,” she said.

And even though the land is privately owned, Bryan doesn’t see a problem allowing others to swim there.

“We only ask that an adult be there to watch the little ones,” she said.

The swimming hole which is right off State Route 29 on Tannery Road doesn’t seem to get a lot of use though, she added.

Mulqueen says she thinks swimming in the creeks is probably the cleanest kind of swimming there is.

That is particularly true, she said, because the creeks are monitored carefully by area watershed groups.

“Even a swimming pool has chemicals in it.  But this is running water.  You know it’s clean,” she said.  “And where else can you swim in such a beautiful natural place?”