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Naked truth: Uproar over nude swimming, bathing in Pa. creek reaches township and county attention

Waste, including the human kind, also a problem at Rolling Green Park

Springfield Township officials responded to the issue of people bathing naked in Darby Creek at Rolling Green Park by banning the activity and having signs installed. (KATHLEEN E. CAREY – DAILY TIMES)
Springfield Township officials responded to the issue of people bathing naked in Darby Creek at Rolling Green Park by banning the activity and having signs installed. (KATHLEEN E. CAREY – DAILY TIMES)
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With reports of naked bathers and swimmers in Darby Creek and trash, including human waste, at Rolling Green Park, Springfield Township commissioners installed “No Swimming or Bathing” signs in the area as some community members took their concerns to Delaware County Council.

At Rolling Green Park on Wednesday afternoon, there was no one swimming or bathing in the creek and the grounds looked clear and clean, although an attendant at county council later that evening said someone was sending them pictures of naked swimmers at that moment.

On Wednesday afternoon, a nearby neighbor who’s been a daily visitor to the park since 1999, spoke of some of nuisances he’s seen firsthand.

“It’s not so much that they swim there but they’re bathing naked … head and shoulders showering,” Mike Vizzarri said. “The trash was another — a lot of trash being left around, a lot of human waste.”

“Sometimes, it’s 100 people down here and they were coming with their chairs and fires,” he continued. “They’d cook. So it has gotten out of hand.”

Vizzarri said the groups arrive as early as 6:30 a.m. and at other times not until late in the afternoon or evening and stay until 9 or 10 p.m.

“Some of the men would stay and drink,” he said. “There’s no drinking in here and they were drinking and they were leaving bottles, a lot of chicken bones. The whole street was crowded with cars. You couldn’t park in here. I come every day for an hour, hour and a half and I couldn’t even park here. They were starting to park all over the place.”

“They would come, park, bring their chairs, put them out, go home. Like you know how people do it on the beach?” Vizzarri described. “They would do the same thing … And they’d be here till 10 o’clock at night.”

Nude swimming and bathing and large amounts of trash have become a nuisance at Rolling Green Park so Springfield Township commissioners have banned swimming and bathing in the Darby Creek there. (KATHLEEN E. CAREY - DAILY TIMES)
Nude swimming and bathing and large amounts of trash have become a nuisance at Rolling Green Park so Springfield Township commissioners have banned swimming and bathing in the Darby Creek there. (KATHLEEN E. CAREY – DAILY TIMES)

He first saw the “No Swimming or Bathing” signs about two weeks ago.

“It was just getting out of hand,” Vizzarri said. “I felt bad for them in a way but you abused it … when you start literally coming here for 12 hours a day. The trash was piled up. Dirty diapers laying around.”

He added, “I don’t want to say they were all like that. Some were more respectful, putting trash in trash bags. But, it almost came to the point like this was like a vacation spot, especially on the weekends.”

He also noted that they mostly spoke Spanish. He added he did not know if they were illegal immigrants or not.

“People were afraid literally to let their kids come down,” Vizzarri said. “They weren’t hurting anybody … There were no threats. There were no problems physically. I guess you just get tired of it after a while.”

Springfield police confirmed there has been an issue at Rolling Green Park with people swimming in the creek.

James J. Byrne Jr., Springfield township solicitor, noted the challenges the township has been facing at the park.

“There are people swimming in the creek and damming off portions of the creek,” he said. “We’ve actually had reports of people bathing in the creek. We’re very concerned about that. There’s no lifeguards there. There’s a lot of trash left around.”

Rolling Green Park off Rolling Road in Springfield has been the site of large groups of people swimming, bathing naked, drinking alcohol and leaving trash. At least one person said they've also seen human waste after their visits. (KATHLEEN E. CAREY - DAILY TIMES)
Rolling Green Park off Rolling Road in Springfield has been the site of large groups of people swimming, bathing naked, drinking alcohol and leaving trash. At least one person said they’ve also seen human waste after their visits. (KATHLEEN E. CAREY – DAILY TIMES)

He said the township commissioners moved at the beginning of summer to install the three “No Swimming or Bathing” signs at the park.

“I don’t think violence was a big deal, more like people with no clothes on taking a bath and trash left over,” Byrne said.

“Above and beyond that, it’s a creek, it’s not a filtered pool,” the solicitor continued. “Who knows what the water is like? Hopefully, it’s safe but we don’t have lifeguards there.”

Byrne said the activities reported there are not something officials want.

“Surrounding neighbors shouldn’t be subject to people taking a bath,” he said. “We don’t want anyone — illegal immigrant or a Springfield resident for 100 years — taking a bath there.”

Delaware County Council has heard about all these issues involving Darby Creek and Rolling Green Park. (KATHLEEN E. CAREY - DAILY TIMES)
Delaware County Council has heard about all these issues involving Darby Creek and Rolling Green Park. (KATHLEEN E. CAREY – DAILY TIMES)

Several community members brought these concerns to Delaware County Council on Wednesday evening.

A woman who lives up the street from Rolling Green Park expressed her concern about the situation at the park. Referring to a Ronald Reagan reference earlier in the meeting, she said Reagan supported legal immigration.

“Not the people that are bathing down the street from where my daughter sleeps, OK?” she said. “Take them to your home, sir. Take them to your neighborhood, sir.”

Springfield resident James Small said he had pictures texted to him from Rolling Green Park while he was at the county council meeting.

“They’re in … Rolling Green again,” he read his text. “Maybe you can let them know as we speak. There’s people in the creek. They’re coming out … Some are without clothes. It looks like five or six adults and five kids … They’re walking right past the ‘No Swimming’ signs.”

“Get these people out of our county,” Gary Ryder of Marple said to county council. “They’re swimming in our creeks naked. Children are there, they’re littering, they’re drinking.”

Others voiced support for immigrants in the county.

At Delaware County Council on Wednesday night, the idea that illegal immigrants are involved in the swimming and bathing naked and the litter at Rolling Glen Park came up but there were those who challenged that idea, and empathized with the plight of illegals. (KATHLEEN E. CAREY - DAILY TIMES)
At Delaware County Council on Wednesday night, the idea that illegal immigrants are involved in the swimming and bathing naked and the litter at Rolling Glen Park came up, but there were those who challenged that idea, and empathized with the plight of illegals. (KATHLEEN E. CAREY – DAILY TIMES)

“Yes, there’s trash everywhere. It’s an issue,” Alyssa Plotnick of Media said. “There was a family in the swimming hole but they were wearing bathing suits. I don’t know how you can tell it’s illegal immigrants.”

“Undocumented immigrants come to the United States risking their very lives for a chance to improve their condition,” fourth-generation Delaware County resident Keith McDonald said. “It is a testament to the greatness of our country that so many do so much to get here. Knowing firsthand the privilege of American citizenship, I believe that every person in this room would do the same thing as them if they were confronted with their challenges.”

McDonald continued, “But instead of compassion for their plight, I have heard here a great deal of demonization against the weakest and the poorest people in this country. Instead of coming from a place of empathy, many here stereotype undocumented immigrants as dangerous criminals and not human beings deserving of respect.”

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