Pond park needs care, not swimming

August 14, 2008
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The following letter was sent to Antonia Pollak, Commissioner of the Boston Parks Department.

The Jamaica Pond Association does not support the introduction of swimming at Jamaica Pond for several reasons. The Jamaica Pond Park is currently utilized as a destination for those seeking pastoral beauty as well as active forms of recreation in terms of walking, running, sailing and fishing. It attracts people of all ages and races throughout the 12-month calendar who share the opportunity to walk dogs; sit on the banks; watch the flocks of geese and ducks wade; and simply enjoy a glorious sunset nightly. Swimming would alter the profile of the pond and put undue hardship on this fragile ecosystem. In addition, swimming presents the potential for accidental deaths by drowning in the highly variable depths of this natural, spring-fed body of water.

The negative consequences of adding such an active use to the park would include: cause further erosion to the shoreline; challenge the limited Parks Department’s resources to provide adequate maintenance and capital repairs to the park; and seriously diminish the bucolic atmosphere of the overall park system that was envisioned by Frederick Law Olmsted in his design for this park in the Emerald Necklace.

Further, the money that would have to be spent to accommodate the redesign of the park for swimmers and the annual expenses for lifeguards and other safety measures could far better be spent on improving/maintaining the existing natural resources at Jamaica Pond Park. The shoreline needs continued attention to lessen the impact of natural erosion; trees need to be continually pruned, removed and replaced in order to keep the natural features of this tree-lined habitat in perpetuity; and the walking/running paths continue to need repair/replacement as they are worn out through the effects of continued usage and weather-related impacts. Funding a new program would come at the expense of the existing needs that already strain the Parks Department’s resources.

Unlike most current users of the Jamaica Pond Park, swimmers would likely arrive with paraphernalia that would require accommodations for parking and drop-off/pickup areas, as they would bring in chairs, blankets, picnic coolers and other personal beach gear. Traffic in and around Jamaica Pond is already difficult. Pedestrian access is now directed to the Pond Street intersection at the Boat House entrance. Limited parking is available on the Brookline edge of the pond on Perkins Street. If swimming were allowed, the side streets in the immediate area would experience increased transient parking. In addition, there is a great likelihood that pedestrian injuries would result from people trying to cross the Jamaicaway from non-signalized areas. Clearly, these situations are unacceptable.

For the reasons mentioned above, the Jamaica Pond Association strongly objects to the introduction of swimming at Jamaica Pond Park. The association specifically requests that the Boston Parks Department continue to address the ongoing maintenance issues that need attention. We look forward to working with your staff to develop a comprehensive management plan for this natural oasis in our city.

John P. Iappini
Chair, Parks/Open Space Committee
Jamaica Pond Association

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