Pond island eyed for erosion fix

July 6, 2012
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PONDSIDE—The island in Jamaica Pond may be shrinking, and the Boston Parks and Recreation Department is evaluating it while working on a plan to fix other erosion elsewhere in the park.

Park advocates, including members of the Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) and Friends of Jamaica Pond, met with a Parks Department official at the pond in April to discuss the fate of Shea’s Island.

“Unless you restore it, it’s going to disappear,” said the JPA’s John Iappini. He said that every time the pond’s water level changes, “it takes a little bit of the island with it. It washes away.”

“I think it might look worse than it actually is,” said Parks Department spokesperson Lauren Patrick. She said that Margaret Dyson, the department’s director of historic parks, met with advocate and is evaluating the island. Jamaica Pond Park has protected historic status, so any changes would need various official approvals.

Iappini and Gerry Wright, head of the Friends organization, said they would like to see erosion control work on the island, including planting a willow tree to replace one that recently blew down in a storm.

In fact, one of the two willows there now was planted by Wright and others about 20 years ago, Wright said. He said he performed other guerrilla erosion control on the island in the 1980s, including placing boulders and an old piece of a boat dock on the shore.

“If we hadn’t gone out there and replaced the willows over the past 30 years, the island probably would be gone,” said Wright, noting that the tree roots stabilize the island.

Created around 1915, Shea’s Island is an artificial addition to the natural pond. It was not part of Emerald Necklace park designer Frederick Law Olmsted’s original plans. But both Iappini and Wright said it is significant as part of the landscape and for wildlife habitat.

“It’s an important piece of Jamaica Pond,” Iappini said.

Meanwhile, the Parks Department is aiming to begin erosion fixes this fall on Pinebank, the high embankment on the north end of the pond, as the Gazette previously reported.

The work would involve cleaning drains, regrading some paths and planting vegetation on three gullies created by runoff and hikers. The plan is in collaboration with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy (ENC), the JPA and the Friends organization. Iappini said that funding is coming from $25,000 donated to the Parks Department several years ago at the JPA’s request by the developer of the Willowbank condo complex on the Jamaicaway.

The JPA wants to see other Pinebank fixes as well, including replacing an asphalt parking area with some material that lets rainwater through, and installing a sign welcoming visitors on the Jamaicaway entrance to the Pinebank area.

Iappini said the goal is to get all of those fixes made by next spring, when the ENC’s Party in the Park fund-raiser will be held on the Pinebank “promenade,” a large flat area where a historic mansion once stood.

Patrick said the Parks Department is aware of the “wish list” of fixes.