, Newburyport, MA


August 20, 2013

Our view: Two institutions worth protecting

Newburyporters have a long history of banding together to protect local institutions. Two items along these lines came into the headlines this past week, and are worthy of consideration.

The first is one of Newburyport’s oldest landmarks, Frog Pond. The pond is the centerpiece of Bartlet Mall, the city’s central promenade on High Street. It’s suffering from the long-term effects of “living” in an urban setting.

Though its steep sides and isolated location lead some newcomers to think it is manmade, it is in fact a natural pond, formed by glaciers millennia ago that created a deep gouge in the earth that Mother Nature filled with fresh water. It’s an anomaly on our landscape. Unlike the vast majority of our ponds and lakes, there are no streams leading into it or out of it. The pond’s unique siting, and its inability to naturally “flush” itself, makes it vulnerable to our chemical-laden world.

For decades, Newburyport has tried to keep the pond vibrant and hospitable to frogs and fish, and to control the unhealthy chemical content in the water. There’s been successes over the years, but in recent times it’s been a losing battle. One of the most recent signs of that was Yankee Homecoming Committee’s decision to not hold the popular Canoe Tilt event in the pond, due to the poor water quality.

Hats off to the volunteers on the Bartlet Mall Commission and city employees such as Lise Reid, who have been trying for months to find a solution. One solution has presented itself, though it may be costly — a treatment proposed by Amesbury-based Higgins Environmental Associates would remove the harmful levels of phosphorus and return the pond to a more natural state. Estimated cost is $60,000 for the initial treatment, plus a need for regular maintenance. There are also other cleaning methods available.

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