The pond is not for swimming

November 30, 2007
By

People visit Jamaica Pond for exercise, spiritual renewal, dog- walking, solitude, socializing and views of the water, which changes in aspect with the wind, light and seasons. The pond’s present recreational opportunities seem best for area residents, wildlife, the local ecology and the aesthetic value of the pond.

Boston is blessed with public beaches accessible by public transportation. The swimming issue in Boston is not Jamaica Pond, but cleanliness of the beaches. Construction of the McCormack Bathhouse at Carson Beach some years ago is an indication of the state’s commitment to serving our swimming needs. The beaches are not ponds, but the sheltered harbor waters offer safe swimming for those who don’t always want the ocean.

Ponds have ecological value. Typically warmer than lakes and not navigable except by very small craft, ponds have beds that are loaded with plant life. The present agreeable ecological balance of the water, plant life and animals would be disturbed by human invasion of the water.

Geologically, Jamaica Pond is a kettle hole and 50 feet deep in places. We can see from the shore that the visibility of the bottom extends only a very short distance. To make the pond safe for swimming, it would be necessary to alter the depth and somehow keep it that way. In addition, the thick plant life under the pond would have to be destroyed and replaced with the even, sandy surface swimmers and bathers require.

The pond’s water quality could not possibly benefit from the presence of human bodies, especially those that would freely answer nature’s call with impunity in the water. Recently placed signs around the pond discourage the practice of feeding wildlife, one of the reasons being water quality. If it is bad to feed the wildlife, then surely water quality would suffer by the vandalizing of the pond to make it swimmer-friendly.

Certainly the appearance of the pond would suffer by the presence of bathing suits, coolers, food packages and soda cans. Trees would likely be cut down and rocks displaced to make room for the “beach.” The smell of the pond environment would change, and not for the better. Nor is a public bathing area conducive to the quiet we now enjoy at the pond. It goes hand-in-hand with the shouts of children and others gathered on the shore.

Finally, the waters of Jamaica Pond are not completely off limits to us. In the warmer months we are free to rent boats and enjoy ourselves in a way that does not disturb wildlife, dirty the water or compromise the ecology of the pond. Jamaica Pond offers so much: the sun and shade; the walking path; visits by the mysteriously appearing swans; the stone stairways and benches; sledding hills and a playing field; the boathouse; refreshments; bathrooms; and boat rentals. Isn’t that enough? Let’s help the pond remain Boston’s best natural retreat.

Julie Sherman
Jamaica Plain

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