State drops proposal to ban long-distance swimming at Walden Pond

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation said today "open-water swimming" will continue to be allowed at the historic Concord pond, but that people really shouldn't try it until they know what they're doing:

Over the last three years, there have been 28 saves by lifeguards at DCR's Walden Pond, 13 of these saves came from outside of the designated swimming areas. Water rescues in depths of more than 20 feet put swimmers, lifeguards, and emergency response personnel at a greater risk. In recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of inexperienced swimmers attempting to cross the pond creating a new and more urgent public safety challenge for the agency.

Walden Pond is a kettle pond that has a depth greater than 100 feet (108’) at its deepest point. In an effort to ensure the public’s safety at Walden Pond, while attempting to accommodate the growing popularity of long-distance swimming, DCR recently shared a draft proposal with The Walden Pond Advisory Board and other community stakeholders that would create an unobstructed, 125 yard swim lane for distance swimming in a designated unguarded swimming area. This proposal has been met with some skepticism by community advocates. As a result of ongoing conversations with advocates and emergency responders, this proposal is no longer being considered.

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    Question from non-open water swimmer

    Wouldn't the more relevant risk factor be linear (or nautical, I suppose) distance from shore or from a designated swimming area, rather than the depth of the water where the rescue occurs? I understand that a rescue in 20 feet or more of water can't be easy, but wouldn't a rescue in 10 feet of water also be extremely difficult if it happened to be well offshore?

    Just curious why or whether 20 feet of water is an important number for measuring risk.

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    Over your hhead

    By on

    Same question. I'd imagine the deeper water makes recovering a body more difficult, but that's not the life guards' problem.

    Worst swimming injury I ever got happened similarly. I was at Round or Bound something pond in NJ. I saw some guy swim across the lake, so I went to the swimming beach and swam across. I got most of the way across and a life guard told me I wasn't allowed. I said I went to the swimming area, and what about that other guy? The lifeguard told me he was a tri-athlete. I didn't know the rules didn't apply to tri-athletes but he told me to walk back, which I did, without benefit of corrective lenses or shoes, and I stubbed my toe coming back.
    I'd just had similarly idiocy from petty officials the winter before at Vernon Valley, so I gave up on New Jersey.

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    Distance from Assistance

    The further out you are, the more time it takes to get to you. The further you are from another person who can help, the more time you have to drown.

    Most recreational swimmers who swim regularly will cover 1,000 meters in 20 minutes. So, if you are a 100 meters out, it could take a couple of minutes for anyone to get to you. Kayaks and paddle boards are faster, but that's still at least a minute to launch and close the 100 meter distance.

    The depth really only matters if you are in over your head. Most times, the lifeguards at town beaches will demand that kids of a certain size stay only up to their chest (unless they are with an adult - who may actually be useless ...). Pools will restrict kids to the shallow end until they can pass a test of skills (e.g. swim across the pool).

    I was swimming laps in the deeper, outer zone at Wrights Pond in Medford, noticed a child struggling inside the rope, and alerted lifeguards while heading for the kid myself (I used to hold a WSI, so I'm trained to spot strugglers, no matter how quiet and subtle the signs). It took at least 30 seconds for them to launch their response and reach me and the kid - I got to the kid in a few seconds because I was right there.

    One reason the Walden Pond restriction was a bit tenuous, besides the "its deep" thing, is that most drowning victims are either children (who likely would not be swimming across), or intoxicated young males at night. Your typical Walden Swimmer is not in either category.

    In any case, your odds of surviving a mishap are greatly increased if you use the buddy system.

    IMAGE(http://ww1.prweb.com/prfiles/2013/05/28/10774186/gI_72338_8-Do-Not-Swim-Alone.gif)

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    Think of a cone

    By on

    Think of an upside-down ice cream cone. If you go under, you could reasonably be anywhere near the bottom of the cone where the point of the cone is where you went under at the surface.

    A 10 foot cone has a smaller base area as a 20 foot high cone with the same opening angle (the angle at the vertex is determined by underwater flow, turbidity, etc.).

    In murky pond water, you're going to have less area to search for the body essentially blind if it's only 10 feet deep than if it's 20 feet deep. Anything that reduces the time to find and raise the swimmer is going to add percentage to the chance you save them.

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    Geometricious

    I spent a lot of time picturing a right-side-up ice cream cone in your example before summoning the mental wherewithal to flip it. All good now. Thanks for the info!

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    So it's not so much about rescue as recovery?

    By on

    That makes sense. A person is going to be just as dead under fifteen feet of water as fifty, but getting the body back is going to be a lot harder.

    For what it's worth, I'm glad they're not cracking down on this: my father is an open-water swimmer who lives in Wayland. He does more of his serious training off of Nahant, and most of his casual swimming in Lake Cochituate, but it's still nice to have Walden Pond as an option.

    He also never swims alone.

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    Great News for Swimmers

    By on

    Thank you, DCR, for allowing us to continue open water swimming at Walden Pond.

    There is something magical about being alone on the water, on Thoreau's pond in the morning; a Walden swim is a treasured moment.

    We hope that we are able to continue swimming across Walden for years to come.

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    Lomg ago when i was unemployed and happy

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    I would ride my bike from inman sq to walden, swim across, and ride back to cambridge. Then one day i had a close encounter mid pond with a loch ness monster. Never swam across Walden again. But it's great that one still can.

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    Oh good.

    By on

    One less rule to add to the pile.

    Now sedentary cubicle jockeys can paddle and stroke happily ever after with something heroic to add to water cooler chatter while delusions of significance and exceptional-ness remain unsullied.

    The Free Style Long Distance Water Polo Lobby is taking notes with the Skinny Dipping Advocates pondering the possibilities for their own tumultuous civil disobedience.

    Emily and Swirly, meanwhile, are beating the drum for synchronized swim accommodations and those people who drowned just weren't wearing anything bright enough for Emperor Motorism to see.