"Deep Hole is precious private land," is the heading on the new sign at the beloved swimming hole on Towpath Road. "All who enter here agree to these stewardship agreements." A list of Nos (no fires, no dumping, etc.) and Yeses (Be kind to others and the land, carry out what you bring in, etc.) follows, ending with an emphatic “Leave No Trace” and signed, “The Deep Hole Stewards.”
The sign is there with the permission of Accord resident Dan Getman, who bought the property, he said, in April 2022. Previously, he related, “It was owned by a woman in Australia. I think she inherited it, I never got the full story. She apparently did not know she owned Deep Hole. I think the town had tried to reach her many times to talk about coordinating management and parking, and they never could find her.”
Why did he buy it? “That’s a mystery I still ask myself,” he said wryly. “I kind of think it felt like a calling, an opportunity to engage in preservation. So many people from so many different places come together there, and most of the time it’s fairly harmonious, and then there are some places where it gets a little dodgy. I don’t know what the answer to that is … hopefully we’ll evolve a culture of collaboration and conversation."
Once upon a time, you had to live around here to know about Deep Hole. No longer, thanks to the internet. "It appears on numerous sites that are dedicated to calling out swimming holes and things like that and making them public," Getman said. "The information on them is often false. One of the main sites claims it’s state-owned land and that there are rangers … People come up and they think their tax dollars are at work and they can leave their trash behind and somebody’s paid to clean it up and why are there such lousy services here? Well, it’s private land, and there is no budget except what I put into it to try to keep it open and accessible to people. Those funds are not inexhaustible."
Deep Hole denizens will be happily surprised to find that Getman has had a parking lot constructed across the street from the stream. "It’s our hope to take things one at a time, first making the parking and traffic situation safer," he said. "That’s the first thing in bringing order to the chaos. It lets traffic go through there undisturbed, it keeps kids from running out from between parked cars. Hopefully it will also keep people from dumping trash along there, which is a quite serious problem.”
One wonders at the psychology of people who appreciate beauty enough to make a trip to Deep Hole and then leave ugliness behind them, but there always seem to be a few, creating an issue for Deep Hole's owner and for those who love the place.
Melissa Hewitt, speaking for the Deep Hole Stewards, a band of community volunteers, said that they were ready to deal with each situation as it arises. "Depending on what comes up, like, how do we deal with people leaving poop on the path, or leaving their garbage? It’s an ongoing conversation." While the stewards will be monitoring from time to time, what they hope is for everyone to be a steward. "You’re agreeing, if you want to come on that land, to follow those rules, and you’re also agreeing to remind people kindly that this is what this land is about.”
This will be the first season the sign is up, so nobody knows yet how well it will work to improve people's behavior. “Optimally, everyone who comes there will respect the space, respect each other," said Hewitt. "Understand what 'Leave No Trace' means … It’s going to be a learning curve, because so many people that come don’t know the basics of how you act in nature. It’s about education, and it’s a day-to-day process. Now there’s the parking lot, but there’ll have to be open and close times because, since the lot has been there, people just go and leave their garbage there. It’s like, 'Oh great, a place to dump our garbage!' How is this even possible?" she said. "So that means someone has to open the gate and close the gate. What happens if someone gets locked in? These issues, how can we fix them in the most holistic way? It’s not easy!" She laughed ruefully. "It’s really about respect, you know. How do we respect the land and how do we respect each other? A lot of the things on that list of yeses and nos, it’s just really basic respect ... It’s going to take time,” she concluded.
Dogs as well as people frequent Deep Hole, and their owners may be surprised by the "No Dogs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m." rule on the new sign. Hewitt's answer to the obvious question was, “Because there were so many dog fights that were happening. People are going to be bothered by [the new rule], but it was a real problem. That had to be handled, because it can be dangerous."
To facilitate communication with the community, she said, "we’re working on a website, we’re going to have a Facebook page so that people can have an outlet, where people can say, 'I saw this today'… stuff like that." Information will be posted at Deep Hole when those sites are up and running.
Getman said, “People have a lot of deep feelings about Deep Hole. I welcome people getting involved with us, helping to figure out how we as a community keep a place like this open, clean, safe and beautiful forever. It’s a form of collective stewardship that we need to create from the ground up."
“There are so many beautiful stories I’ve learned," he said. "People get married there, older people who as kids used to come there, now their kids and grandkids come. That kind of stuff is just so amazing. You know, I drive by it every day, and I see people meditating in the stream … people create artwork and fairy houses … It’s beautiful.”
To contact the Deep Hole Stewards, go to DeepHoleKeepers@gmail.com