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


Blogger Greg said...

My family and I recently purchased a home a few blocks from Turner Pond after living 4 years near Jamaica Pond in Jamaica Plain. My initial observation of Turner Pond was that the shores were too low, resulting in large sections of muddy terrain, the paths were rough and unpaved, and while the Pond provided a relaxing setting, it was not as picturesque as many other parks in Milton. With those thoughts in mind, I have the following concerns:

1) Turner Pond is no Jamaica Pond – Even with considerable investment in Turner Pond I fell I will likely be disappointed in the results.

2) Potential for unfunded long term maintenance costs - Without having further details of the $200k renovation it is unclear whether part of the funds would be used for long term care and maintenance.

3) Imminent Budget Shortfalls - Given the current budget shortfalls occurring at the state level and the likely shortfalls that will occur at the town level it seams imprudent to use the $200k to build new parks, as opposed to using the funds to cover maintenance at current parks.

By using the $200k to maintain current parks the town would be in position to either place budgets that would have been used for park maintenance into a rainy day fund / endowment.

These types of decisions creative solutions will be needed to head off the impending budget crisis. Spending money on pet projects at this time is not a prudent use of town money.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Hi Greg!

The $200,000 cost is being paid for by a $50,000 state grant and a $150,000 private donation.

The money is not available for other uses such as maintenance or a rainy day fund.

The plan is to construct a crushed stone (granite) path. My understanding is that maintenance is minimal.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Philip, you are definitely a person in the know.

A few questions for you as to how these facts evolved.... Was the$150,000 donation a series of donation solicited by the town? Was the state grant request submitted before or after the donation(s)?

Out of curiosity does the town have a process for prioritizing and approving park projects and fundraising initiatives? If so is there any concern as to the sufficiency of the oversight over the process?

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to see the environmental impact of people driving their children to the Glover School instead of using the safer route around Turner's pond, which is virtually impassable during inclement weather. That carpool lane gets mighty long in the winter and early spring. Not to mention the physical and mental health benefits of walking/biking to school.
It is crushed stone, not asphalt. I don't see it becoming a speedway.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


I think the donation was a single donation, but do not know for sure.

I'm also pretty sure the grant request came after the grant.

I know of no process as you describe it. Care of the parks comes under the Parks and Recreation Committee. Any plans they have are submitted as part of the annual budgeting process and are vetted by the Warrant Committee in its routine practice of budget review.

As for fundraising, there is a certain degree of autonomy for town committees who wish to raise money.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Symon said...

Turner Pond is indeed not a mirror compared to Jamanica Pond but Turner pond as a whole is a place that represent "tranquility" in it very own way.During the dog days of summer this is a great place to touch base with nature through recreational activities like Fishing,biking,walking & bird viewing. The pond itself is home to natural habitat from bunnies,birds and spawing area for duck to watch over their chicks. The pond itself is inhabated by many speicies of fish from my experience as angler throughout the years. It hold largemouth bass,Sunfish,Perch,Crappie & of surprise the Common "Carp". The prize fish that hold this area is the "Rainbow Trout" thank to those generous folks that believe in conversation and donations to have the pond restock annually & hosting the local fishing derby every year. I have walked around the pond and yes it bit bumpy & would be a great idea have a smooth walking path so I believe investing in this project will generate good response from the community and it would complete Turner Pond image as Park & Recreation. It Will satisfy the young and the old by having the privilidge to take a morning stroll without the bumpy uncomfortable platform that will last a lifetime with minimal or no maintenance.

5:18 AM  
Anonymous karan said...

Anyone know when the fences come down and the path becomes available again? Missing the pond. And it's thoroughly worth our investment and care: oriole nests, great blue herons, and the osprey family.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


Check out:

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is interesting to read this posting and the comments from the perspective of many years. It puts the naysayers in perspective. Needless to say, the hordes of undesirables have not descended on Turner's Pond, and the town has managed its budget without forsaking recreational and natural improvements.

How many years of enjoyment (and increased property values!) of Milton's involvement in the Neponset bike path have we lost due to naysayers and their irrational fears?

11:37 AM  

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