Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Turner's Pond - Park or Wilderness Area?

When my children were small and we lived on Maple Street we made occasional visits to the pond. My son and I would circumnavigate the park on our own little adventure. After a couple of attempts to take my daughter in her stroller, I admitted defeat to the rough, uneven and occasionally wet terrain of the path created over decades by the steps of thousands.

During the last couple of years a group of Milton residents, and subsequently the Milton Parks Department, have put together a plan to improve accessibility by constructing a crushed stone pathway around the pond. They have raised $200,000, the entire cost of the project. The Parks department fully supports the plan, drawn up by Pete Jackson, a Milton Landscape architect. Just last night, after a great deal of study, the Conservation Committee blessed the project.

Now as always in Milton, any change generates opposition and the Turner’s Pond pathway is no different. I don’t say this to disparage those who have concerns. But any observer of the Milton scene knows full well that it is far from rare for small groups of opponents to exercise a disproportionate influence on decisions due to their own diligence and strength of feelings, and to the relative apathy of the rest of the citizenry.

So what are the concerns? Abutters, who constitute the majority of the opposition, fear improved accessibility will produce increased noise, litter, teenage partying, and a racetrack for young bicyclists. A group I’ll call “naturalists” are concerned that increased usage might affect the presence of certain wildlife occasionally seen in the area.

Somehow improved accessibility has been interpreted as a large increase in usage, and of negative types. Who besides those currently prevented from enjoying the park by reason of age or infirmity or affliction will be encouraged to visit? I don’t believe teenagers are currently discouraged from holding drinking parties by the lack of a crushed stone pathway. Will parents pushing strollers make lots of noise? Allow their young children to discard their candy wrappers?

Turner’s Pond is a park, not a wilderness area. It is meant to be enjoyed by residents of the town, and ideally by all who wish to do so. One of the abutters told the Boston Globe that not all residents should expect to be able to use the park, anymore than all Americans should expect to be able to hike and have full access to the Grand Canyon. Huh? The last time I checked many Americans not able or willing to hike down into the canyon enjoyed access to it via boat rides down the Colorado River, or on plane rides through the length of the canyon.

Turner’s Pond is named after Jacob A. Turner. Turner purchased what was then largely a swamp in the 1870’s. He used the land for a commercial enterprise – The Milton Ice Company. The current body of water was created by dredging and a dam, constructed to provide more ice. It exists today not in some ancient natural state, but as a result of man-made efforts that would not even be permitted by the Conservation Commission which last night approved the sensible plan to make it easier for people to experience it.

The concerns some are raising are matters of regulation and enforcement, should they materialize at all. We shouldn’t shy away from creating opportunities of this kind because of theoretical consequences. I remember some of the reasons offered for not allowing access to the Neponset bike path in Milton. Anyone who has biked from Milton to Castle Island in South Boston must wonder what all the fuss was about.

Much of the recent news on this has occurred over the summer. Many people are not here, or are not paying much attention to what’s going on. If you believe that enjoyment of Turner’s Pond should be open to all and that we should take advantage of $200,000 in a State grant and private donation now to realize that goal, please contact members of the Board of Selectman and the Parks Department to let them know how you feel. They need to hear from people other than those who oppose the initiative.

For your convenience:

Board of Selectmen

Kathy Fagan

John Michael Shields

Marion McEttrick

Parks Commissioners
Parks Dept phone number at Town Hall

Barbara Brown

John Davis

Terry Driscoll

David Perdios