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Water Sports

It’s easier to stay cooped up when it is cold and snowy outside. But summer has inevitably rolled around and people are itching to enjoy—something, anything. Fortunately, outdoors activities allow easier social distancing than being indoors and some summer sites are opening.

Water sports are favored pastimes during warmer weather and, just in time, beaches and lakes are opening. The tri-state region has a number of options for those seeking public access for swimming or boating.

Massachusetts is allowing public access to state park ponds and lakes with standard restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Groups are restricted to 10 or fewer persons and groups must be separated by 12 feet when sitting on shore. Masks must be worn when social distancing is not possible. They are not needed when in the water.

Ball games of all kinds—baseball, kicking soccer balls and beach volleyball—are prohibited and beach-goers must bring an empty trash bag to carry out all trash.

Among the lovely local sites is York Lake in Sandisfield State Forest. Located on Route 183 and East Hill Road in New Marlboro, York Lake is stocked with trout and is open to non-motorized boats. Activities include canoeing and kayaking, fishing, hiking and sailing. There is a parking fee.

You can add swimming to the list of activities at the 12,000-acre Beartown State Forest, located at 69 Blue Hill Road, Monterey MA. Benedict Pond provides swimming, boating and fishing. Visitors should be warned, however, that the picnic facilities, restrooms and camping areas are closed to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

A little north, overheated summer residents can find surcease at the sprawling 11,000-acre Pittsfield State Forest, 1041 Cascade Street, Pittsfield.

The forest offers plenty of opportunities for passive recreation before taking a splash in Berry Pond. Like the other state parks, it is open sunrise to sunset and has parking fees.

South of the Massachusetts border, beat the summer heat with a visit to Burr Pond or Black Rock State Parks. Both offer excellent swimming, hiking and scenic views.

Burr Pond State Park, located on Burr Mountain Road in Torrington, covers 438 acres surrounding the pond, an 85-acre, man-made body. It is adjacent to Paugnut State Forest.

The 439-acre Black Rock State Park is located on Route 6 in Watertown, Tucked into the scenic rolling hills of the Western Highlands, Black Rock offers a variety of outdoor activities. Steep, wooded ledges covered with pine, hemlock and oak provide the setting for Black Rock Pond.

For a century, visitors have enjoyed splashing in the pool at the bottom of Kent Falls in Kent Falls State Park but, alas, problems with social distancing at the site has prompted DEEP to close the popular site for the duration of the health crisis.

In Salisbury, only town residents can enjoy The Grove on Lake Wononscopomuc at 42 Ethan Allen Street this year. The Grove has opened its beach area but closed its play areas, picnic tables and basketball court. Patrons are asked to maintain 15 feet of space from other beach-goers (blanket-to-blanket) and to stay no more than three hours.

A Grove permit costs $50 with one sticker per household permitted.

A popular gathering place for July 4th celebrations, The Grove will not host the festivities this year because of the need for social distancing. It will be closed both July 4th and 5th. There will be no boat launching those days.

At the nearby Twin Lakes, a state “car-top, carry-in” boat ramp allows public access for boating, kayaking and canoeing. The launch is found on East Twin Lake, about 0.4 miles north of the marina.

In Barkhamsted Stanclift Cove is a lovely, secluded public swim area on Route 318 jointly operated by Barkhamsted and New Hartford. Access is by seasonal permit for both residents and non-residents, with no day passes available. Permits can be purchased at the superintendent’s station.

Capacity at the beach will be limited due to safe distancing requirements. A beach access sticker does not guarantee entry to the beach as there may be times when the beach is at capacity.