Nearly 50 volunteers gathered at Babb’s Beach on Saturday morning, May 21, for a well-announced clean-up day. First Selectman Melissa Mack says she wants the beach to open officially by August, and there was much to do. Many workers cleared branches and raked the wide, 500-foot, zig-zag, gently sloping trail that will be an accessible access to the beach (starting a bit north of the big rink). A separate crew worked down at the south end of the field, clearing brush and branches. A number of Town employees and officials participated, including our first selectman, who wielded her rake along with the others.
At the beach, an Ayotte bulldozer prepared a small parking area for perhaps half a dozen cars at the bottom of the access trail and graded the narrow “upper beach” behind the lower retaining wall. The steeper, paved-long-ago ramp and the adjacent stairway south of the rink are in poor condition and weren’t the focus of effort that day. They may not be included in the development of the area as now planned.
Down at the beach, four enthusiastic painters rolled masonry paint on the retaining walls, converting them from dark green to a happier, brighter color.
Volunteer Robert Tatro, a resident of the North Pond area in Southwick and and one of the many members of Citizens Restoring Congamond (CRC) helping that day, commented that he had approval from the Town of Suffield to install a 16-pit horseshoe center in the eastern part of the field, for use by a horseshoe league. There are no plans for floodlights there.
There is also no plan at present for a bath house or changing room down at the beach, but Gerry Crane of CRC advises that the long-range plan is to get water service at the big rink – from an individual well or from Aquarian, the public utility serving the Congamond area – and complete the work on the bathrooms there, along with an adjacent locker room. Portable toilets are now planned for the beach area.
For many years in the early and mid twentieth century, Babb’s Beach was a popular recreation spot, with its picnic grove, playground, a few hotel rooms, and in the 1930s a grand ballroom that hosted the “big bands” of the day. That building became a roller skating rink and has been preserved in sound condition. Its development continues, and, with the official reopening of the beach, Babb’s future is looking great.