State considers banning people from swimming across Walden Pond

UPDATE: Never mind, DCR says.

Paul Levy considers a DCR proposal to try to stop people from swimming across the historic kettle hole:

Why now? [Open-water swimming] has existed at the lake for decades. What is prompting this proposed change that didn't exist years ago? (I guess there were some similar thoughts in 2010.) Those engaged in OWS are adults who understand the risks. If the issue is the budget impact of the very occasional rescues, simply put in place the kind of rule that exists in the mountains in some jurisdictions: If you need to be rescued, you pay for it.



    Free tagging: 


    Levy The Underling Feely is Right

    Would the nanny state please stop? To say nothing of the treatment that the UU Ganges that is Walden Pond gets from people. It is a kettle hole pond, no different from Houghton's Pond or the pond at Breakheart Reservation.

    Can't people just swim at their own risk? It's fun to swim and not to have a whistle blown at you by the 16 year old neighbor of a State Rep working for the summer as a lifeguard. When the DCR masters snow plowing the SW Corridor for our bicycle riding friends for a few years come back and then explain to me that I can't do the backstroke across the pond full of Don Henley's emotional tears.


    "UU Ganges"?

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    UU = Unitarian Universalist? If that's what you mean, that's awesome.



    I've heard people talk about it like they got tickets to heaven after bathing there.

    A a former park ranger at Walden Pond...

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    …and an almost daily fitness swimmer who occasionally does open water swims at Walden, I can't understand why this is suddenly an issue. It wasn't when I worked for the DEM (now DCR), as a matter of fact, the regular fitness swimmers were practically seen as unofficial stewards of Walden and definitely seen as an important part of the community of constituent users of the facility. The liability issue is all but moot, as the Commonwealth is immune to almost all liability in its role as the Sovereign. There is little to no impact on the pond by open water swimmers, especially when compared to the exponential numbers of recreational swimmers using the beaches, and it will be virtually impossible to enforce effectively without wasting public resources in doing so (in addition to the reasons cited in the blog: those swimmers there are a feisty bunch and undoubtedly WILL challenge any citations issued, which will use up precious DCR resources and personnel, not to mention waste the Court's time). The best thing the DCR can do now is to drop the matter and walk away and pretend it never came up.


    and whatever citations are

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    and whatever citations are challanged will fail. They'd only be wasting their own time, especially the state police are itching to start ticketing the violators.

    Yea right.....

    I'm sure troopers are lining up for that special assignment in concord giving out citations to swimmers.


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    A bermuda-shorted brownshirt told me - definitively - that she would call for officers to arrest me if I got out of the car I was in so that i could go for a quick dip a few years back. Of course, I just went a 1/4 mile down the road and got out and did exactly that.

    It wouldn't be the State Police

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    It wold be one of the (very few) enforcement rangers. When I was there, most park supervisors were enforcement rangers by default, and responsible for their own facilities (and it wasn't uncommon for one supervisor to oversee several parks, reservations of forests) but there were one or two enforcement rangers per region who patrolled the facilities in those regions. Besides issuing parking tickets, the approach to enforcement generally wasn't punitive, they would use regulations as a teaching moment first and only cite or issue summonses to violators who were clearly malicious or repeat offenders.


    Correct Neal.

    Walden Pond is a National Park, and violations would be enforced by the park police. I know the Charlestown Navy Yard has a few there that do some enforcement.

    Naaah, It's A State Reservation.

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    At least, according to the Commonwealth.

    But what I find fascinating is all the stuff they had to regulate for idiot management and precious pushy sorts with their "my little activity is more important than your little activity" routines.

    Reservation Notices

    In an effort to balance public recreation with protection of our resources, the Department of Conservation and Recreation has established a ‘people capacity’ of 1000 visitors at the park to ensure a positive visitor experience and to maintain the integrity of the resources. To avoid disappointment, please call ahead to receive an update on current visitor capacity status. There are no trash barrels on the beach. Please carry out what you carry in.

    The following are prohibited:

    Bikes on trails
    Alcoholic beverages
    Gasoline engines
    Wind powered sail craft
    Metal detectors
    Novelty inflation devices
    Parking on the streets

    This is the essence of why I organize life to steer clear of anything that has been too pumped by whatever, media, folk hype, and what have you.

    Now compare it with the regs at Lake Dennison.

    So poor wretched Walden may well be the most pounded and pummeled bit of state park real estate around.

    Henry was a mediocre philosopher making a 19th century pastiche of thoughts he found at Harvard. His basic nature writing is pretty good, but Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson shred him there.

    Hawthorne called him a "walking rebuke" as he was a noted grouch.

    In a way, Henry's intrinsic mediocrity is the nations intrinsic mediocrity or at least that of greater Boston.

    And foisting the mediocre as the sublime is what makes hicks of us and a cumbersome regulatory mess of rules for some harmless pond.

    The best thing one can do with Henry is take that porridge of an outlook he serves forth and build on it until you have something that really rocks.

    "I'd rather sit on a pumpkin and have it to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion."

    Yea that's strange.....

    I saw a federal prisoner that was arrested near Walden Pond a few years ago, maybe he was arrested at the Minitueman park....


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    Walden was doomed decades ago.

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    The best time to go there would be right now.. 4am-ish.

    I used to take the last train out of North Station to Lincoln and then walk the tracks to the pond to get in a bit of fishing like Henry The Grouch would.

    By 7 or 8am it would begin to suck as those manly men "fitness swimmers" would be stroking obliviously along in the general direction of my bobber, all fluorescent yellow and orange in the water.

    It wasn't like I was hiding as the role of stealth in fishing is mainly not spooking the fish.

    My main worry was one of those unobservant idiots ending up with my hook in their nuts. I lucked out but decided it was done and that was in the late 80s.

    It was toast when the DCR/DEM had to put those fence things along the steep sidewall slopes because they were getting stomped and that was the 70s or earlier..

    I was there last year to make video content for the part of the Bay Circuit Trail that laces through it and that was a muddled mess from blaze vandalism.

    Hank did go back to mom's most nights for supper when he did that shack stunt. If you want the solitude, serenity blah blah blah, you're better off crossing the street to the north and heading for the Hapgood Wright Forest.

    The Henry liked to stroll there with Emerson while discussing the weighty matters of the day.

    Lake Dennison, north of Gardner, is it's twin and hasn't been clobbered by all the PR if you want to do a day trip for a swim.

    It is the recurring problem of concentration because people can't be bothered to figure out other places to stomp and many fresh water swimming options were closed to make reservoirs for thirsty metro Boston.


    So swimmers are getting in

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    So swimmers are getting in the way of your fishing? They have as much right to be there as you.

    I just don't want em

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    ending up with a fishook dug into their flesh.

    While it may come as a shock, this can happen when you backstroke into a fishing line.

    And I was like 10 feet away standing on the shore with a fishing pole thing and line not to mention the bobber on the other side of em. It was pretty funny actually.

    The thing has plenty of room for all who want it but unobservant dipshits are their own problem.


    I have a long list of things I don't want

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    but I recognize that public space is for everyone so I don't bitch about my personal peeves on open forums. Because I'm an adult.

    I haven't fished in a few decades

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    ...however, were roles reversed I assure you I'd have a care to steer things with monofilament line and a hook a short distance from shore.

    It's a subtle variation on the theme of don't just wander into traffic or something... stand back when the subway car rolls in.

    A valued part of this shared use thing is having a care to not become some clod's catch.

    And even better, I don't go there.

    Doing the video sweep was enough.

    I will get back to Hapgood Wright soon. see.. dispersal.. I'm doing my part.

    Concord has a suite of great conservation properties that all knew a Henry visit or two. There is Punkatasset Hill, the Great Meadows, two threads of Bay Circuit and a grand old revolutionary war era dirt road that was a defilade passage for militia coming down from Carlisle.

    So good.

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    So good.

    "problem of concentration

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    "problem of concentration because people can't be bothered to figure out other places"

    What other legal freshwater beaches exist? Walden, Sandy Beach in Winchester, the Breakheart Reservation in Saugus, and that muddy pond in the Blue Hills are about it as far as I know (plus various residents-only town beaches where people like me aren't allowed).

    Here ya go.

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    I'm assuming you have a car oh anonamid.

    I don't but can get to most of the places in the east.

    And the funniest part of this thread banter is I'm trying to help people find this stuff while the assortment of deriders are just going But But me me me me blah blah blah.

    Didn't I open by saying fishing sucks unless you want to risk hooking a human?

    And didn't I mention my remedy was to just go elsewhere?

    But me me me me all the way home.

    Anyway, if I tossed out a few useful clues about how to look stuff up in a very easy system it will be a wash.


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    But the places I mentioned, plus maybe Lake Cochituate, Ashland, and Hopkinton if you go a little further, are all that's within a reasonable drive from the city.

    In other words, it's like I said. It's not that people can't be bothered to find a place besides Walden. The problem is that there are so few legal places to swim.

    The solution: change the rules so anyone can swim in Jamaica Pond, Spy Pond, the Arlington and Lexington reservoirs, the Charles when it's clean, ...


    Jamaica Pond Swimming

    That would be the greatest. From the beach towards the Arborway circle to the farthest bank by Perkins is approximately 2650 feet. You could sink end markers and buoy off an exact half mile course for laps. It would quickly become a popular place to swim (every triathlete in Boston would swim there). They could set hours for swimming that don't coincide with boating hours for safety. Most open water swimmers are morning people anyway.

    Where's Thoreau when you need him!

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    Now that the fare hikes or tax on poor T riders has been passed we need a modern day version of Thoreau to lead the masses in civil disobedience against the fare hikes or better still Lady Godiva


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    He'd probably say T? Why not walk? If I remember right, it was no big thing for Henry and co to walk to Cambridge or Boston.


    I'm less concerned about a 5%

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    I'm less concerned about a 5% fare hike than I am by the fact that there's *no* Commuter Rail service to Concord on weekends until Thanksgiving.

    That's right, no trains and no substitute shuttle buses for the entire Fitchburg line west of Brandeis/Roberts (with the exception of holiday weekends). People without cars have to stay home.

    Enough with the Nanny State

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    Anyone who's ever been to Walden knows it's beautiful. It's a place to go to enjoy yourself . I've swam across exactly 4 times and will continue to do so whenever I have the time and the urge to do so. Too many people in Massachusetts are busy bodies and like liberals everywhere, seem to get almost sexual pleasure from trying to regulate and control the lives of others. My advice to the Nanny staters is to mind your own damn business.


    Please leave your personal

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    Please leave your personal politics out of this. This has nothing to do with liberals.


    Everything to do with liberals

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    It has everything to do with liberals and their desperate craving to regulate everything and every one. Those in charge of DCR policy making are Deval Patrick Appointees. Everyone of them is a liberal. It's simple to those who have an IQ above 9.


    Oh those nanny liberals

    They just keep trying to tell women what to do with their uterus, what health care their employers get to decide for them, and who people get to marry.


    They are also the ones obsessed with how people have sex, and want to jail people for possessing a relatively harmless herb that is mentioned in the Bible, and force their idea of God on people at public gatherings For Their Own Good!

    The Nerve!



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    I can only imagine that you must get a lot of sexual pleasure when you use the word
    "liberals" while drinking your Sam Adams beer.



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    Scoob, can you leave your personal perversions out of this discussion please? I don't get why this was even posted, Adam. There's no actual point being made.

    Can you blame the DCR? This

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    Can you blame the DCR? This is the organization who didn't even notice a woman drowned in the deep-end of a fully staffed swimming pool.

    If we're lucky, their next move will be to block hikers from using Blue Hills for their precious little "outdoor activities."

    The state does not to enough to protect us from ourselves!! Nature is only meant to be fawned at from afar people. Not any other purpose!


    Why oh why?

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    I grew up on a nice lake and as such feel that any clean body of water should be available for swimming. Take Jamaica pond. I know there are bandits who swim there at night, but why is swimming there completely off the table as a concept? Must the vast majority be "protected" from the insignificant minority who can't swim and would show up anyway and drown?

    It makes me crazy.


    Don't protect people from themselves

    Laws start getting nanny-ish when they exist to protect people from themselves.

    Also, as Levy said:

    First, on enforceability: Any rule that inhibits OWS will be disobeyed (yes, just like H. David Thoreau would advocate as a form of civil disobedience!)

    The only answer is to put chain-link fences around every body of water in the Commonwealth. That includes along the whole coastline.



    Massachusetts: where officials say you're scaring away the tourist dollars by warning about sharks, but you can't swim in a relatively shallow pond.



    Huh. I thought kettle holes were, by definition, relatively shallow? IS that a relatively shallow depth for a lake that size? It is deeper than the inner harbor.

    A giant left behind ice cube

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    eventually melts leaving a kettle hole pond.

    The post glacial features of the place are part of what makes it wonderful.

    And think of all the fun words: Eskers, erratics, terminal moraines, tombolos, drumlins, aretes and ever loving kame terraces are keys to fascinating forces and motions sculpting the thing we live in.

    Extra points if you can name examples of each off the top of your head.


    easy solution

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    It seems to me that the obvious solution to this problem is to increase funding for the DCR so that they can properly staff Walden an ensure everyone's safety. The DCR has been losing funding for years now, and has had to cut back on many great programs and services as a result. Alternately, the fee at Walden -- which is ridiculously low -- should be increased. (By comparison, Crane Beach, managed by the Trustees of Reservations, costs $15 on weekends; Walden is $5.)

    And please stop with the talk about people footing the bill for their own rescues. It's punitive and petty. Those in trouble should be rescued and not punished for it. And how would you calculate the cost of a lifeguard rescue at Walden? The issue isn't the time it would take a lifeguard to reach a swimmer in the middle of the pond; it's that lifeguards would have to be out in the middle of the pond at all times in order to monitor it, and lifeguard hours would have to be extended. I swim across Walden once a week from June through the end of October, and like many others I arrive when the park opens and no lifeguard is on duty.

    I think that many of us early swimmers would also be willing to pay an extra fee for the privilege of swimming outside lifeguarding hours, and that money could go towards staffing the pond more fully during peak usage. However, that wouldn't help with the main issue of safety. Nobody wants someone to drown. It's a terrible tragedy, and even those of us who are experienced endurance swimmers know how easy it is for something to go wrong -- an asthma attack, a heart attack, a cramp. Let's not blame those who have run into trouble while swimming, and let's not complain about those who want to keep anyone from dying in this beautiful pond.


    It's not that simple

    You would like to think its that simple. But your view involve several foundational tenets: assumption of state responsibility to ensure safety from oneself, belief that everyone like the idea of sharing the cost to ensure safety via increase fee (and assumption of the increase is nominal), and value safety on the same level as you.

    As the comments seems to show. How people are valuing differ quite a bit. The first comments basically views that the state doesn't have a mandate or requirement to provide such safety. One commentator below your post does view that if a swimmer gets in trouble that he or she would cover the cost of the rescue. I would interpret from many post that it implies people would mind paying an extra fee. It seems many would rather have less safety than paying the extra cost for the agency to provide it.

    Also, I have to take specific attention to your argument that talking about asking the rescued to pay the cost as "punitive and petty". It sounds you like your basis is the sense of unfairness because anyone can have the bad luck of a cramp or something regardless who is the person. Since such incident did not occur by recklessness, thus making a person pay who had that bad luck rather undeserving. However, one can view that it is rather unfair to require everyone share the cost and rather require everyone assume the risk even in the case of bad luck.

    I guess then it comes down to

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    I guess then it comes down to whether or not you're a compassionate person who values nature and human life.

    That's One Single Track Way to View it

    I am not of the mind to basically say anyone wanting the status quo as a bunch of heartless people who does not value nature and human life.

    There's seems to be a number of arguments here. Raising points that the current policy have been done for a long time and there's no catalyst for this change (not that we need a person to drown before changing, but part of the reason the currently policy stayed the same as long as it has so far is because the current policy have been working). Raising points that if we need to maximize security via government intervention. Neal, in particular above, argued his point well. To say all those arguments to be moot by heartlessness to human life (and somehow nature despite this is about safety) is a bit overly-dismissive and fallacious.

    Crane Beach costs $25 on

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    Crane Beach costs $25 on weekends. It's the most expensive beach in New England (except the ones that aren't open to the public at any legal price), and I find the price offensive. I'd never want a state beach to charge that much.

    That's all

    Once you pay the $15/$25 for the carload, you're in.
    The $15 rate is if you join TToR

    Make 'em Pay

    As the story posted says, just put up signs saying that anyone needed to be rescued from beyond the normal swimming area will bear the full cost of a recovery which starts at $1k+. This seems pretty reasonable and is a modeled used elsewhere.

    One of the big problems is the lack of public fresh water swimming in the metro area -- there are many ponds and lakes but almost all are private or restricted to people living in that town.

    How about

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    Neon green thong unitards? And what if they are from Kazakhstan instead of Russia?

    Drowning deaths equal pedestrian deaths

    People on UHub whine on about pedestrian deaths, yet every year about the same number of people drown accidentally. Given that many more people walk on streets and more often, than go swimming, swimming is the far riskier activity.


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    Thread winner!

    Naah it peddled off

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    with Emily. Tell her hi when you see her doing those deep lake laps.

    Not always

    Swimmers can get hit by motor boats, jet skis, sailboats, row boats, and even kayaks! A fair number of pedestrians who die are impaired by drugs/alcohol as are swimmers. Pedestrians additionally play a role in their own demise by listening to music or looking at smart phones instead of where they are going. You just have to see the two stories on pedestrians walking off the train platform to know they aren't all blameless.