'Walktober' highlights Diana's Pool

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Chaplin - posted Tue., Oct. 11, 2011
Connecticut DEEP Watershed Manager Eric Thomas (right) addresses a group of visitors to Diana's Pool during an Oct. 9 Walktober event. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Connecticut DEEP Watershed Manager Eric Thomas (right) addresses a group of visitors to Diana's Pool during an Oct. 9 Walktober event. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Ever wondered about the dirty foam that sometimes collects at rapid spots in a river? According to Eric Thomas, a watershed manager with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the foam is a natural and normal occurrence. “That tells you there are a lot of nutrients in the water,” said Thomas, addressing a group of “Walktober” hikers at Diana’s Pool along the Natchaug River. Thomas accompanied Rusty Lanzit, former Chaplin first selectman, and Steve Broderick, a forester and program director at the Goodwin State Forest Conservation Center, for the Oct. 9 event.

Lanzit, a Last Green Valley board member, has led the Diana’s Pool walk for a number of years. This year, a major topic of his talk was the connection between Diana’s Pool and James L. Goodwin, one of the nation’s first professional foresters, who was educated at Yale.

“In the 1950s, this land came up for sale,” said Lanzit, standing at the head of the trail leading to the pool. A Mr. Parsons, having grown up swimming at the pool, attempted to get the state interested in the property. Rebuffed by the state, Parsons approached Goodwin. Goodwin and Parsons formed a committee dedicated to the preservation of Diana’s Pool, with the Seymour Trust Fund providing $11,000 for the purchase of the land. By 1952, the site was a protected location. “Reluctantly, the state ended up taking it over,” said Lanzit. “That’s a lesson for us to remember. This beautiful location would not have been protected without the intervention of private individuals.”

The origin of the pool’s name is a matter of debate. The story holding the most credence, according to Lanzit, is that the pool shares the name of a family that ran a concession stand selling towels and other recreational essentials at the location in the 1930s. Another story says that local youth named the pool after Diana, the goddess of love. Some claim that a lovelorn young woman named Diana leapt to her death from a cliff overlooking the river.

Regardless of the origins of its name, Diana’s Pool and the river that feeds it have remained essential to the surrounding towns for centuries. Once providing power and transportation for factories and other local businesses, the Natchaug River today draws visitors eager to partake of its recreational offerings. The Natchaug is a popular destination for canoeists and kayakers, and is one of the most heavily-stocked trout-fishing locations in the state.

The Natchaug is considered a benchmark stream, with healthy water supporting a diverse ecosystem. Last spring, the nine towns surrounding the river signed a compact pledging to preserve it. “This is considered a pilot area for a healthy water initiative,” said Thomas. The state will work with local municipalities to preserve the quality of the Natchaug River. For the most part, this will be a proactive endeavor, because the quality and quantity of the river’s water are still high. But after 25 years of monitoring, biologists are noting some changes that are cause for concern. “We’re noting that conditions are changing, and not for the better,” said Thomas, adding that water temperatures are creeping increasingly higher. For species like trout, which require high oxygen levels and lower temperatures, this could be a problem. “Biologists feel that the trout could be at a tipping point,” said Thomas.

This trend is the type of issue that the Natchaug River compact is designed to address. “All of our activities, in all of the surrounding towns, are contributing to what you see here,” said Thomas, with a gesture toward the river. “Activities that you do in your backyard are contributing to this water.”

Sponsored by The Last Green Valley, Walktober was developed as a means to promote the beauty, history and attractions of the Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers National Heritage Corridor. Walktober continues through the month of October. For a list of events, go to www.tlgv.org.


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