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