With general support for improved access at Hammond Pond, the environmental health of the local park was what drew the most questions and concerns at last night's Hammond Pond public meeting.
Around 35 residents and local officials gathered at last night for a public presentation from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) that detailed environmental information on Hammond Pond and concepts for improved access to the recreation area. This is the second public meeting on the project,
"[Hammond Pond] is a hidden gem that sits in plain sight," said Joe Orfant, chief of DCR's Bureau of Planning & Resource Protection. "We probably don’t think too much about the pond...but when we get in there and take a look at it we see what a great spot it is."
With the help of a local family, the DCR is looking at potential improvements for the recreation, starting with a floating walkway..
The 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 Rudyak family donated $22,500 to the project and the DCR agreed to match that amount, totaling $45,000.
The project is broken up into three phases, with the first phase including a boardwalk along the western side of the pond. The area would include launches for canoes and kayaks as well as a wooded walking trail behind the boardwalk, according to DCR Director of Recreational Facilities Planning Dan Driscoll.
Phases two and three would include similar structural enhancements on the south and north side of the pond, respectively. Those phases, though, are a long way off, Driscoll said.
Health of Pond Draws Concerns
After a presentation on the current environmental state of the pond, residents and officials questioned what measures the DCR would take to help the health of the water.
According to Kathy Bradford, a landscape architect working with the DCR, the pond is suffering from eutrophication, or an overgrowth of plant material in the pond that can strangle the pond's ecosystem. Some eutrophication is natural, however, it can also be sped up by pollutants in the water that come from storm water runoff.
Much of that runoff comes from the nearby shopping areas and Route 9, DCR offiicals said, as there is a lot of "impervious surface" -- or places where rain is not absorbed -- in building rooftops, roads and parking lots.
The excess plant material combined with increased sediment has thrown off the pond's ecological balance and decreased the overall depth. In some places, nearly four feet of sediment piles up, Bradford said, and the average depth of the pond is 8.8 feet.
Since 1954, Bradford said, the pond has lost one million gallons of water. The entire pond currently makes up around 35 million gallons of water.
Alderman Ruthanne Fuller commented that while the DCR had concepts for a boardwalk on the pond, it did not have plans yet on how to resolve some of the environmental health and water quality of the pond.
Other residents agreed, arguing that the walkway plans were a bit "premature" considering the work that may need to be done to help the environmental health of the pond.
Driscoll explained, though, that more analysis needs to be done on the health of the pond before plans are put in place. "Raw data" just came through this week, Driscoll said, and the water quality tests still need to be looked at.
"The bigger piece of this and overall ecological health will move on an independent track," Driscoll said, citing examples of enhancements along the Charles River and the Alewife Brook Reservation where the recreation enhancements have been separate from the overall work to improve water quality.
Orfant added that the ecological improvements involve partnerships between those who own land surrounding the pond, including the DCR, city of Newton and owners of the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center.
Moorfield Road resident Rose Jick expressed concern about increased littering from those who use the pond, making her point by dumping a large bag of cans and bottles on the floor of the auditorium that she had picked up around her property.
Orfant assured Jink that littering tends to decrease when public access enhancements are made as there are "more eyes on the property."
Family offers assistance
As the meeting began to close, Ernest Rudyak, the son of the late Michael Rudyak, stood up to speak to the group about the importance of the pond enhancements for his family, and how they are willing to help with the environmental mitigation if it means there will be more public access.
"We understand there are environmental concerns. We are very willing to help and to finance some of the cleaning process," Ernest Ruyak said. "This is definitely something we have been open to from the very beginning."
Ernest shared stories of fishing on the pond with this father and emphasized the benefits of adding a floating walkway.
He noted that he had flown in from Russia -- where his father was originally from -- just to make the public meeting. He assured the group that the project would not harm the health of the wildlife or pond and that a model showing the project concept will be available in the near future.
"This would really be something that would revive the pond," he said.
Public comments welcome
As the DCR works through the details of the project, Driscoll said there will be a third public meeting sometime in September where community members will be able to comment on a design for the pond improvements.
Design development will likely come in August, Driscoll said, followed by the public meeting and a lengthy permitting process.
Public comment on specifics to last night's meeting are due in by July 21. Comments can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org 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