On television this morning, either CNN or Fox News (must
have been Fox, CNN seems to avoid much cool stuff) were
these two guys. Two guys were dressed in their
fly fishing garb, with the addition of slouch hats, dark
glasses - you know, the "Blue's Brothers" look.
Seems they have been fighting a lengthy
battle with the Mayor and powers that be in Holyoke, MA.
They even have a old convertible with a sign on the side,
"The Fishing Buddies." And they drive around town (when
they aren't fishing) with a song playing loudly, something
about "catch me if you can!"
They talk to kids, and encourage them to
fish. But they are breaking the law! That's what the
battle with the Mayor is all about. There is this
reservoir right there convenient to the whole town, in fact
it has a jogging trail around it. But it is closed to fishing.
Mayor Szostkiewicz, says it has to be closed because of an agreement
made with the EPA. The EPA says nope, not the way it is at all.
The Fishing Buddies took out a couple of
advertisements in the local paper, said they were going to fish
in the reservoir - and challenged the Mayor to have them
arrested. It didn't happen. So they ran another ad, and did
it again. Nothing.
According to the Fishing Buddies, the closure
was done to prevent minorities from fishing there. According to
the tv report, the Mayor claims there might be a 'trash' problem.
But the reservoir was stocked at one time,
presumably so the fish could be caught. Some of them are really
That was the gist of the tv piece.
Well, a couple of phone calls provided some
interesting information. The spokesperson for Mayor Szostkiewicz,
(who was not available to comment) Elaine Pluta told me the police
had been present for a couple of the news conferences the Fishing
Buddies held, no they had not been arrested, and if they were the
only charge against them would be for trespassing.
Locals, Elaine said, really didn't put much stock
in what the Fishing Buddies were doing since they are in the
advertising business and just doing this to get publicity for
Turns out neither the EPA nor the MA state
Department of Enviromental Protection are the ones to close the
reservoir to fishing. The largest reservoir in the state is the
Quabbin Reservoir, (about 39 sq. miles,) which supplies drinking
water for the city of Boston. And it is open to fishing
- and hunting.
James Palmer, the Business Manager for the
Water Department in Holyoke, who emphasised he was not the
Spokesman for the Water Department, did tell me a group of
local fisherman came to the Water Commissioners with a proposal
to open the Reservoir to fishing for one Saturday this June.
A Kid's Fish-In; for Holyoke residents only, kids under 14,
and accompanied by an adult. Somewhere around 500 people
showed up, 300 or so of those being kids. Porta Potties
were in place, and the sponsoring group obtained liability
insurance for the event. They even had medical care available.
It was a huge success.
The plot thickens! There is not just this
one reservoir in Holyoke - there are a total of three in the
city, and an even larger one just outside town. All are open
to jogging and other non-fishing activites.
But James Palmer said, there are no 'facilities'
at any of the reservoirs. I questioned 'facilites' and he means
there are no toilets. Gee, I asked, what do the joggers and
other users do? No answer.
I asked if there were any other fishable
waters close to town, especially where kids could fish. That's
when Mr. Palmer volunteered the info about Quabbin Reservoir, about
25 miles from Holyoke. Frankly a little far for the local kids
to ride on their bikes, if they have one.
Let's face it, this is not just a local
disgrace in Massachusetts. It is a problem that is getting
worse everywhere. It is called public access! And in this
case, access to property (and the right to fish it) owned
by the public! The reservoirs are a public utility, bought
and paid for with tax dollars.
So who holds the power in Holyoke? Who
is it that decrees "No Fishing!" The appointed members
of The Water Commission. Appointed by the City Council.
This is not a village, this is a medium-sized city of 43,000. One
where fishing is obviously not considered either proper nor important
recreation. And how is their crime rate?
Maybe this is about priorities. Translated
that means money. It does cost money to build toilets, or
rent portable ones. If the City Attorney shakes in his
boots at the thought of 'liability' on the cities end,
perhaps a group could step in and provide the money
for liability insurance. Aren't there some major
insurance companies in MA. Is there a Holyoke Parks
Department? What are they doing in this situation?
Or a fund-raiser or auction could function
as a means to provide the necessary funds, if the city doesn't
have the means to provide them.
Where is Trout Unlimited? Where is Fish
America? Where is the Federation of Fly Fishers? Where are
all the other groups who "say" they are for promoting fishing
and getting kids involved in fishing?
Anyone out there with connections in
Holyoke? Get on the phone, call Dave Conti, the
spokesman for the Water Department/Commissioners. Phone number is:
413-536-0442 (He was unavailable when I called, but
I was given a Fax number so I could send my questions
to him) Fax number is: 413-538-6244. If you are a
member of a local organization in the surrounding region,
get them involved. Do something!
I can't believe that two guys, the
Fishing Buddies/Blues Brothers are out there, carrying on a battle
with no help. Don't let this one go by - next time it
may be your favorite water!