A group of property owners on the north side of White Pond recently hired a bobcat and operator to work on their unpaved private streets, strategically changing their contour to reduce storm water runoff to the pond. 100% of the residents of Seymour and Tracy Streets were involved and financed this project entirely. Their actions benefit all of us as well as the pond. Thank you to all those residents who worked cooperatively to improve the water quality of White Pond.
Do you know why there are homes around White Pond while there are none around Walden Pond? Both ponds are owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and are considered "great ponds". This week's Concord Journal features a guest editorial by long time White Pond resident, Joseph Rogers, who did some research about residential development around the pond .A real estate developer from Waltham bought 60 acres of land in 1931 from previous owners. He divided up the land into 618 2500 square foot lots offering them for less than $100 each as "bungalow sites". Today an acre of land in Concord is worth between a half a million and one million dollars.
Winter Solstice sunset at White Pond 2013
Let your mind wander back a few hundred years. The winter cold is numbing and the sky is overcast. The fields are frozen; the stored harvest in the root cellar must last until the Spring. The days are short and travel is difficult; few care to venture from the fire of the hearth. People spend their silent nights and quiet days reflecting on the year past and wondering what the new year will bring. Thoughts of winter survival are answered with a bold display of the symbols of life- food fire and festival.
Today, it is so easy to get caught up in a holidaze filled with shopping, parties and family obligations. Let us remember that the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, is a time to affirm life, to surrender to the quietness, to rest in the dark. This still and sacred moment of the year observed by so many through the centuries and in all spiritual traditions serves to connect us with our source and with each other.
May you find balance in your life as the sun stops for a moment as it reaches the lowest point in our northern sky and then begins its ascent once again.
The Director of Land Planning, Marcia Rasmussen, met recently with the Select Board of Concord to review a letter to MassDOT (Department of Transportation) urging that the Powder Mill Road tunnel and environmental improvements south of Powder Mill Road be included in
the Phase 2C construction package of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. She delivered this letter to MassDOT when she met with them. This letter was approved by the Select Board and these improvements will ensure barriers to protect White Pond from further erosion and damage by bike and foot traffic near the pond.
The next White Pond Advisory Committee meeting is on Wed. December 16 at 7:30 pm at the Harvey Wheeler Center. This meeting will feature a presentation by the CCHS Rivers and Revolution students who have been studying White Pond for their stewardship project.
Climate change has come to Concord as we witnessed this year at White Pond. What can we do to ensure that our town is ready to face the challenges of a changing world? This free forum is a good place to gather information and meet other people who care about the most important issue of our times. Please consider attending. This event is free and no advance registration is required.
Do you live in the White Pond watershed? A group of students from the Rivers and Revolutions program at Concord-Carlisle High School are working on a project searching for possible reasons for the toxic algal bloom this summer. They are conducting a brief survey of residents in the White Pond watershed area (the shaded area in the map above and attached). This survey is anonymous, should take only a minute or two, and is a great way to help the community out.If you live in the White Pond Watershed area and are willing to participate, please use the following link to access the online survey. http://goo.gl/forms/HsCqfLONTv
Preserve White Pond's photo.
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This is a crucial time in the life of White Pond, its natural environment and the surrounding neighborhoods. The Pond experienced the most serious toxic algae bloom on record this past summer leading to a swimming ban. Today five major problems are converging to threaten the well-being of the White Pond ecosystem:
1. Global warming has come to White Pond. Like other local ecosystems, White Pond is already experiencing warmer seasonal temperatures that affect the Pond's vegetation and wildlife. Higher water temperatures combined with the nutrients (phosphorous) in storm water run-off from the access road and the erosion sites around the pond, feed the algae which then bloom and release toxins. Global warming also means more droughts which lower the level of water in the pond. Less volume of water combined with higher temperatures means could lead to more frequent toxic algae outbreaks.
Global warming also brings eco-stress and more swimmers. 2015 was the hottest year on record. Global warming means more hot days during the year resulting in more people looking for a place to swim. According to the EPA, the Boston area is projected to experience an increase in the number of days reaching 100°F rising dramatically from a past average of 1 day per year to 24 days per year by 2100.
The primary access to Sachem's Cove is through private streets and conservation land. The Select Board has voted to prohibit swimming during the restoration of the shoreline on town owned land and hired rangers to enforce this ban. Unauthorized swimming causes increased traffic, speeding, parking and safety issues in the surrounding neighborhoods. The net result is a degradation of ecosystem including erosion and water quality issues.
2. Lack of coordination of property owners. The many property owners of White Pond operate independently without any oversight. The EPA recommends the best way to manage lakes and ponds is a lake association. The major stakeholders of the pond include: State of Massachusetts (owner of the pond up to the shoreline), Town of Concord (largest landowner on the pond), White Pond Associates (owner of the Plainfield Rd beach and adjacent fields), Thoreau club, neighborhood beach associations, private homeowners in the watershed, and adjacent neighborhoods (including Stone Root Lane and the Town of Sudbury Frost Farm neighborhood). Town agencies who have an interest in the health of the pond include the Board of Health, the Water Department who maintains the town well located 1,000 feet from Sachem's Cove and the Department of Natural Resources who manages the conservation land.
The White Pond Advisory Committee is a five-member committee appointed by the Select Board to review and analyze the concerns of the White Pond neighborhood. This committee could explore the possibility of a watershed association and sponsor an annual roundtable discussion of all interested stakeholders. This meeting could be based on the recent WPAC vision statement and the ESS report and begin the process of a coordinated effort to preserve the pond.
3. Erosion from storm run-off. Storm run-off from the many erosion sites around the pond feed the algae with nutrients contained in the run-off. The algae which normally exists in water then blooms and releases toxins which can cause health problems for people and dogs.
4.. The Internet Age brings increased visibility and more swimmers. Because of nearby Walden Pond State Park, Concord has long been a destination for out-of-town swimmers. The Internet put an end to White Pond's "cloak of invisibility." Now blogs and "Best Places to Swim" websites direct people to the free swimming available at White Pond. People tweet their friends to join them at the idyllic swimming hole they just discovered. Alcohol frequently accompanies these visitors. They leave behind bottles, cans, take-out containers and other litter and at times make campfires and destroy the posted signs and ropes installed by the town. They use the pond and the nearby woods as a toilet since there are no restrooms. Now GPS reveals the previously hidden Pond to passers-by, making it easy to drive or bike to the Pond. Up until the Select Board vote to close Sachem's Cove to swimming this past summer, for many out-of-town swimmers it was an attractive alternative to the crowded, regulated, fee-based swimming at Walden Pond. When Walden's parking lot was full, dozens of hot, frustrated swimmers found their way to White Pond with its unlimited free parking in nearby neighborhoods.
5.The Rail Trail will soon bring increased visibility and more swimmers. In 2-3 years the Concord section of Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (BFRT) will be built, exposing the Pond to many more swimmers. From the perspective of the Pond, the BFRT is like an asphalt bicycle highway bringing as many as 1,000 additional visitors a day into her already fragile ecosystem (based on BFRT estimates cited in ESS White Pond Watershed Management Plan, p. 47).
At their Oct. 19th meeting, the Select Board of Concord, heard a presentation by Delia Kaye, the Director of the Department of Natural Resources about their efforts to preserve White Pond. She submitted a grant to the EPA to secure funds for permanent erosion control on town land. She had several recommendations for the town to consider as they take additional steps to reach their goal of preserving the eco-system of White Pond.
1. Re-grade the access road from Plainfield Rd. and remediate the areas of erosion along the shoreline where the road meets the water. The state has been contacted and the town will be working with both the state and the White Pond Associates on a new plan expected to cost $250,000.
2. Continue the ranger program for next summer. The rangers educated the public about the issues the pond faces and also erected temporary erosion control measures with DNR. They enforced the no swimming regulations and the dogs on leash guidelines voted on by the Select Board.
3. Educate the abutters and residents in the White Pond watershed about what they can do to preserve the pond and help reduce the possibility of another algae bloom. Delia is currently working on an educational hand-out which will include information about septic system cleaning, storm run-off and the use of fertilizers.
4. Continue the water quality testing with the environmental consulting firm, ESS who has been testing the water this past summer.
The waters of White Pond are beautiful and clear again. With water temperatures down to 75˚ from a high of 86˚ the pond is recovering from the summer's toxic algae bloom (the Board of Health's no-swimming advisory was in effect for over two months from July 8-September 15).
We can enjoy it's waters again without the fear of becoming ill. Many of us have come to realize that the pond is a vital aspect of our healthcare system. She lifts our spirits and washes away our cares.
We appreciate what the Town has been doing to improve erosion control on its shoreline. The rangers the Town hired did a great job informing visitors about the restoration effort and the algae outbreak. Enforcing the no-swimming regulation on Town land undoubtedly reduced the erosion and human/animal waste entering the pond this summer. The chronic summer parking and traffic issues in the Dover St - Anson Rd area virtually disappeared after the rangers arrived. An increased awareness about the runoff-nitrogen-phosphorus-algae-bloom connection has prompted more erosion control efforts around the pond.
So there's been some good news about how we are all responding to the warning signals from the pond.
White Pond was featured on Channel 5's Chronicle news program as a beautiful pond that is experiencing some of challenges of overuse, pollution and lack of management that afflict many of New England's rivers and lakes. It also raised the question of whether the increase in toxic algae outbreaks is related to global warming (according to EPA the two appeared to be closely linked). In his eye-opening 2014 book Walden Warming, Boston University biologist Richard Primack concludes, "The effects of climate change are already here in Concord, right now."
Despite the positive measures being taken and increased awareness, the unprecedented closure of this popular pond remains a disturbing sign of degraded water quality and eutrophication. Many people are wondering whether next year will be a repeat of this year.
Although the pond's waters are clear again, they continue to drop. Recent measurements show that our shrinking pond has dropped 6 vertical feet from its high water mark of 2010. In other words, if you were to stand where the present water line is now, the water would have been over your head 5 years ago. The recent dry spell has surely contributed to this. But water levels have been dropping for the past 5 years and possible causes may include a general drop in the water table, less water flowing in through underground springs, and pumping from the nearby Town well.
The focus these past few years has been on the Town land, and the erosion and unregulated swimming issues. However, the original goal going back to the earliest White Pond Advisory Committee reports has always been the development of a comprehensive management plan for the White Pond ecosystem as a whole, which includes the watershed area and adjacent neighborhoods.
The health of the pond and the surrounding neighborhoods are closely intertwined. Poorly maintained roads have been identified as a major cause of runoff in many watershed areas. The roads in the neighborhoods to the north and south function as public roads but for historical reasons are classified as private roads. With no Town maintenance and no owners association in place these roads lack a coordinated road maintenance program.
In the past, White Pond has been managed as separate and unrelated pieces of property instead of as an integrated ecosystem. Now we are waking up to the need to respect Mother Earth and understand her ecology. According to the EPA, "A watershed approach is the most effective framework to address today's water resource challenges." What realistic steps can we take to protect White Pond from the effects of human use and climate change?
A watershed association could help address the ecosystem's many interrelated and longstanding issues. A White Pond watershed association, whether formal or informal, would include the major stakeholders: State of Massachusetts (owner of the pond up to the shoreline), Town of Concord (largest landowner on the pond), White Pond Associates (owner of the Plainfield Rd beach and adjacent fields), Thoreau club, neighborhood beach associations, private homeowners in the watershed, and adjacent neighborhoods (including Stone Root Lane and the Town of Sudbury Frost Farm neighborhood).
If a watershed association is the most effective way to address the multiplicity of jurisdictions and issues what would be the best way to organize an association? Is this something The Town or the White Pond Advisory Committee (WPAC) could assist with? Is it up the various property owners to take the initiative?
We have presented the idea of a watershed association to the WPAC and to Marcia Rasmussen, the Town Planner. She shared her perspective with us and recommended that we contact the Select Board to explore this possibility further. We will be meeting with Alice Kaufman, Chair of the Select Board, to discuss ways we can all work together to preserve the pond's health.
As always, thanks for supporting the health of the White Pond ecosystem and please let us know if you have any comments or suggestions.
Chris Gerzon, Robert Gerzon, Joyce Ricker, Jim Ricker
Preserve White Pond Coalition
Preserve White Pond is a tribute to White Pond and the natural gifts it offers our community.