Conservancy nears goal to create access to Chester swimming hole

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

A view of the Rainbow Rock swimming hole on a recent morning. Photos by Shawn Cunningham. Cover photo courtesy Vermont River Conservancy

Less than a year ago, then-Chester Select Board chair John DeBenedetti asked Lydia Menendez how the Vermont River Conservancy would raise the money needed to buy 1.84 acres and a create public access  to the Rainbow Rock swimming hole and give it to the town.

“Magic,” quipped Menendez who, in an interview on Sunday, said that the group is getting close to the $50,000 goal and just needs a few thousand dollars in small donations to make the public match for the grants her group has secured. A portion of the money raised goes to purchasing the land while the rest will be used to landscape and install stone steps that will make the river more easily accessible.

Menendez said that Pat and Paul Dexter, who own a home and land on Green Mountain Turnpike that includes access to the Williams River across the street,  contacted her three years ago as they looked for a way to ensure future public access to the swimming hole. Among the River Conservancy’s mission is preserving public access to established swimming holes that are often posted by new owners when property changes hands.

The Rainbow Rock.

The Conservancy has secured $41,000 through grants from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Jane B. Cook Foundation and the Fieldstone Foundation.

Another grant is pending and the group needs about $2,000 in public donations to finish fundraising. Menendez told The Telegraph that the sales agreement with the Dexters requires a September closing, so filling that financial gap sooner than later would be good.

“We have never posted the land,” said Paul Dexter on Sunday. “We’ve only asked people not to litter or dive since there are some large rocks in there.”

Dexter noted that the swimming hole has been tested regularly for bacteria and, except for periods after heavy rains, it has always been safe to swim. “It has even been swimmable in dry seasons,” said Dexter.

To donate, go to the Conservancy’s donation page and select the Rainbow Rock option. According to Chester Conservation Committee member Arne Jonynas, the committee will also be taking donations on behalf of the Conservancy. To donate through the CCC, call Jonynas at 875-1700, Gary King at 875-5153 , Mary Beth Adler at 875-2418 , or David Nanfeldt at 875-4309.

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About the Author: Shawn Cunningham has written a number of subjects -- from food and wine to film, history, politics, zoning and development -- for the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, Museum News, The Westsider, The Chelsea/Clinton News, Menckeniana, Films in Review and the East Village Eye.

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