After , the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) last night presented its final proposed plan for trail improvements and a floating walkway around part of .
During a public meeting held at , DCR officials presented a plan that would include a 1,410-foot floating walkway along parts of the west and south side of the pond. The plan also includes enhancements to the wooded trails as well as ecological improvements for the pond.
"We've been working with all of you to try to come to some kind of balanced approach to protecting and enhancing the pond that makes sense for the community and the region," said DCR Director of Recreational Facilities Planning Dan Driscoll.
The Hammond Pond project got its start after the family of Michael Rudyak decided to commemorate their beloved father/son with enhancements to his favorite place to spend time in Newton.
The family initially pledged $22,500 toward a feasibility study of the pond, with the DCR matching that amount for a total of $45,000. Overall, the family has committed up to $1 million to plan and build the proposed access enhancements.
Last night, the family also announced it will contribute up to $10,000 a year for maintenance of the walkway.
The floating walkway, which Driscoll said has been reduced in size, would extend from the beach/parking lot area (next to the Macy's) and up roughly 600 feet along the wooded trail next to the pond.
The floating walkway would also run from the beach/parking lot area along the south side of the pond, next to the shopping center parking lot. The walkway would be completed in one phase of construction, instead of the previously proposed two phases.
Concerns about pond's health remain
Despite the project's pledge to include some ecological improvements, several residents continued to share concerns that the project will not properly address the pond's health.
"The priority isn’t for the health of the pond," said . "The priority is to build the walkway and, as an aside, do the other [health improvements]."
According to DCR officials and Kathy Bradford, a landscape architect working with the DCR, Hammond Pond is suffering from eutrophication, or an overgrowth of plant material in the pond that can strangle the pond's ecosystem.
The excess plant material combined with increased sediment has thrown off the pond's ecological balance and decreased the overall depth, which can be as low as six inches in some spots, Bradford said.
Last night, Bradford outlined some of the short- and long-term solutions to restoring the pond's health, including removing water lilies and fixing rain gardens (short-term) as well as dredging the pond and removing the Hammond Brook dam to help with water flow (long-term).
According to Driscoll, the Rudyak family has agreed to use some of the project money to address short-term solutions such as harvesting lily pads and other plants that are shrinking the pond and causing sediment build up. In addition, native plants will be put in as a result of the project and some of the nearby rain gardens will be improved.
But those short-term solutions, residents say, are not enough. Instead, they say the DCR should be looking at the long-term health of the pond and making that a priority.
"I'm concerned that the science and the health of the pond is not what’s driving [the project]," said resident Beth Wilkinson, who is a member of the both the Crystal Lake Conservancy Board of Directors and Newton Conservators Board of Directors.
Ward 7 Alderman-at-Large Ruthanne Fuller echoed many of the comments made by her constituents, arguing that the DCR should "step up."
"I'm not actually hearing willingness from the DCR to put any money into the health of the pond...I'm wondering how we can move those long-term [solutions] that were listed to become short-term items funded by DCR," Fuller said.
Raising awareness about the pond
In addition to using some of the project money toward short-term ecological improvements, Driscoll said the project itself will help bring more attention to the pond and potentially, more money for the pond's health.
"I think these public access improvements are the most important thing we could do for the long-term health of the pond," Driscoll said.
Many of the state's urban waterways, including the Neponset River and Alewife Brook, have improved significantly because of the increased access and awareness of the waterway, Driscoll said; the more people who see the water, the more people want to help improve it's health.
"If we said we're not going to improve public access until we address ecological health, we pretty much wouldn't have any pathways near our local parks," Driscoll said.
Increased access could also mean more money from nearby businesses, such as the adjacent shopping center .
In addition, the Rudyak family has committed to underwrite the costs associated with any fundraising activities for the pond.
Driscoll encouraged residents to continue submitting public comments to the DCR on the proposed plan. Comments will be accepted until April 24 and can be submitted by email to email@example.com or by phone at 617-626-4974. Comments can also be mailed to:
Department of Conservation and Recreation
Office of Public Outreach
251 Causeway St., Suite 600
Boston, MA 02114
Note: Newton Patch will post copies of the presentation and designs once they are available on the DCR website.