2001 Annual Report

Annual Report 2001 Martins Pond Association
c/o North Reading Town Hall
235 North St
North Reading MA 01864 Contacts:
Lida Jenney
Janet Nicosia

2001 Annual Report of the Martins Pond Reclamation Study Committee and the Martins Pond Association

During 2001, we focused on the following:

1) creating or participating in events to raise funds for future park improvements
2) public education of pond water issues affecting the neighborhood and those who utilize the pond for recreational purposes
3) maintaining professional memberships to keep abreast of new information

Fund Raising Activities for Park Improvements

We raised about $5,885 at the following events:

8th Annual Winter Festival – February 3
Approximate profits were $985. We had perfect ice skating conditions on the rink on the pond and in the flooded rink in the Turtle Trail at the park. We offered demonstrations on ice fishing and a Siberian Husky dog sled team. The dog sled team later offered rides to the public on the pond. We also had pony rides, photos with Scooby Doo, games with prizes, a big campfire, face painting, hot food and over 25 raffle prizes including 200 gallons of home heating oil.

Town of North Reading Memorial Day Parade – May 28
We had a “float ” in the parade with a teepee and people dressed as Indians. We had a large photo of Pvt. Frederick Clarke – a veteran who grew up in the Martins Pond neighborhood. Clarke Park is named after him.

Town of North Reading July 4th Festivities – July 3-4
We sold raffle tickets, Pampered Chef cookbooks, Martins Pond baseball caps and T-shirts. We had many free environmental brochures including information on mercury contamination of fish in Martins Pond and other Massachusetts lakes and ponds. We promoted our upcoming Summer Festival.

Seventh Annual Summer Festival – July 14
Despite a brief rainstorm in the middle of the event, we profited approximately $1,600. In the morning, 63 kids participated in the fishing derby winning trophies. We also awarded trophies in our second annual canoe races. Prizes were won in sack races, kids’ tug of war and the pie-eating contest. Arthur Gonsalves (aka Popeye) came with his amphibious car. The Musical Theatre Dance troupe from The Dancing School put on a patriotic show. The Literary Llama offered exotic animal demonstrations including a cute monkey. The 24-foot Rocky Mountain Climbing structure was a fun challenge. The highlight for many was a pontoon boat ride on Martins’ Pond with world-renowned naturalist Peter Alden, author of the NAS Field Guide to New England. In addition, we offered food, a flea market, face painting, a moon bounce, pony rides, live music, and raffles of over 25 prizes including six children’s bicycles.

7th Annual Children’s Haunted Playground – October 20
Approximate proceeds $3,300 – largest to date. About 1,000 participants enjoyed our spooky guided tours through the haunted exhibits. Our skits included the Halloween Hall of Fame, a mummy’s tomb, the Wizard of Oz characters, Martin’s graveyard and more. A National Park Service employee gave a talk about cemetery markers, history and symbols. Children in costume were awarded prizes. Hot food and light rope necklaces were sold.

Public Education

We set up our own website called www.Martinspond.org so visitors can read learn about our history, accomplishments, contact information, upcoming events, view event photos and more. In addition, we submitted information about our group to be included in an “Adopt Your Watershed” website produced by the Environmental Protection Agency. (See http://yosemite.epa.gov/water/adopt.nsf and look under Martins Pond Association).

Members of the Martins Pond Committee and Association have tried to learn more about the following issues which affect the pond community:
1) fish consumption advisory
2) flooding
3) pond water quality
4) the potential effects of a proposed housing development near the northern side of the pond in Andover.

We have been attending meetings with various town officials (Town Engineer, Conservation Committee, Community Planning Commission, Dept. of Public Works, Selectmen, etc.) and State Rep. Brad Jones to discuss our concerns. We have information available about these issues at our events to try and keep our neighbors informed.

Fish Consumption Advisory:

In May 200l, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a freshwater fish consumption advisory list. Martins Pond is listed as having an advisory for mercury in large mouth bass, black crappie, and yellow perch. The general public should limit consumption of these fish species to two meals per month. Children younger than twelve years, pregnant women, and nursing mothers should not eat any of the above species from this water body. In Massachusetts, almost half of the lakes and ponds tested have one or more types of fish with unsafe levels of mercury. Although mercury is a natural element found at low levels nearly everywhere, human activities such as coal burning and trash disposal have significantly increased mercury levels in the environment. In freshwater bodies, small organisms convert inorganic mercury to the organic form, methyl mercury. Methyl mercury enters the aquatic food chain by binding with particles and sediment eaten by fish. Larger fish may prey on smaller mercury-contaminated fish resulting in stored amounts of mercury in commonly caught fish. Fish eliminate mercury at a very slow rate; therefore, mercury tends to accumulate in their tissues and organs. For more information, contact the Mass. Dept. of Public Health (617-624-5757).

Flooding Issues:

The Martins Pond area has suffered due to flooding three times over the past five years, as well as several times more in the past thirty years. The pond was approximately fifteen inches high this fall. We developed a flood control action plan identifying immediate, near term and long-term action items to do. We identified the following areas as possible causes of the water back up in the pond: beaver dams located in the Martins Brook channel and upstream on the Northern side of the pond, debris built up under Rt. 62 bridge (just west of Shea’s and Benevento’s in Wilmington) and in the upstream basin, culverts at the gravel pits needing cleaned out, and an overabundance of purple loostrife plants in Martins Brook which clogs the outflow of water.

We sought and received permission from the Board of Health to breach the beaver dam. The Board granted three consecutive 10-day permits for the DPW to remove the dam. Since the town hired a trapper to remove the beavers, the water level dropped approximately seven inches. We had hoped for a drop of the full fifteen inches so we looked along the channel for further possible problems. Another problem area appears to be in the Martins Brook channel area off the end of April Lane. We found a beaver lodge and the area is thoroughly clogged with weeds and sediment. There is no clear channel for approximately 1,000 feet. We have advised the town administrator that this area would be greatly improved with dredging to get the pond level back to normal levels and further reduce the impact of potential floods. The trapper is also looking at additional beaver activity evidenced on the Northern side of the pond as well.

The bridge on Rt. 62 (in Wilmington) mentioned above is in poor condition and its design prohibits the easy flow of water beneath it. This was identified in both the 1986 drainage study done by our town and in the more recent FEMA flood study commissioned by the town. We have requested that our town have the bridge rated to get it on the Mass. Highway list for replacement.

In the past when it floods and Burroughs Road is closed, the town has opened up an emergency access road off Route 125 to Flash Road. This is apparently not a legal access per the state. We have expressed our desire to State Rep. Brad Jones to have this made a legal emergency access. The access would be gated until it is opened for emergency use only. A traffic light could be turned on at this time for safe entry and exit from the neighborhood on this limited access highway.

Pond Water Quality:

Unfortunately the pond appears to be experiencing problems with several different issues that are not only reducing recreational enjoyment, but also may be endangering the long term quality of the pond and its tributary area. These problems include the following:

-Reduced amount of public swimming and boating activities due to the fear of high bacterial counts in the pond (from animal waste and stressed septic systems). No regular water testing is being done by the town to monitor water quality at this time. The town has instead opted to put up a “no swimming sign.”

-The appearance of high algae conditions in the pond (sometimes in late summer)

-A concern about the increased population of invasive plant species surrounding the pond and in the wetlands at the inlet and outlets to the pond

-Sedimentation of Martins Brook – the pond outlet

-Flooding of the pond, homes and septic systems during large rain events

In December, we applied (under the Town of North Reading) for a $25,000 grant (maximum allowed) from the Dept. of Environmental Management 2002 Lake and Pond Grant Program. The grant will provide up to 50% of the cost of the project so we (the Town of North Reading) must match with an additional $25,000. The grant is being sought to update the 1985 Diagnostic/Feasibility Study, to develop a watershed management plan for Martins Pond, and to perform biological control of Purple Loosestrife using galerucella beetles and hylobius weevils. We want to find out how to limit invasive weed/macrophyte growth in the pond and wetlands around the pond that are clogging it up and limiting water outflow. An expert in the field, Bob Hartzell of BSC Group, identified some plant samples we mailed him including the non-native plant, Cabomba caroliniana, also known by the common name of “Fanwort.” He said that Fanwort dominates most of the ponds in nearby Harold Parker State Forest, and is one of the most difficult non-native plants to control once it has infested a water body. Fanwort can spread quite aggressively so it is important that we develop a control strategy quickly.

Proposed Housing Development (Another “Lost Colony”):

We have been following developer Angelo Petrosino’s steps in trying to create a 10-lot subdivision in Andover (Pine Forest Park) that would only be accessible off Flash Road in North Reading (via Burroughs Road and Lakeside Boulevard or Old Andover Road. The developer has had many hurdles to pass through with both towns’ Conservation and Community Planning Commissions. If the development is allowed, we are hoping both Planning Boards request an intermunicipal agreement so we can solve the fire and police access issues. Many abutters have expressed their concerns about the potential development including the proposed usage of the so-called emergency access road to Route 125. The state does not want to take responsibility for creating another intersection with the highway, but the state has also condoned its usage in emergencies by looking the other way when the gate has been opened, leaving abutters wondering who would be held liable if a terrible accident occurs in the area. Other concerns include but are not limited to the following: extra traffic during construction (due to an estimated 16,000 yards of fill dirt required) and after construction (vehicles for two town’s school buses, mail, trash pick-up, snow removal and cars from ten additional homes), possible impact on nearby wells for town’s drinking water supply and pond water quality (lawn fertilizers), loss of trees and open space, and a change in view from the pond (possible view of Rt. 125 instead of forest with wildlife), etc.

Clarke Park Improvements and Purchases

We continue to try to help the Parks department maintain existing park structures and purchase enhancements. We stained the picnic table shelters and some picnic tables. Scott Miedico of Quality Striping volunteered his labor and materials to paint the basketball court. We purchased the following to help with our park fund raising events: some costumes, lighting , lumber and decorations that can be used again at future events. For the first time, we had a handicapped accessible portable toilet installed in the park from spring through fall (paid for by the Parks Department). This addition was suggested by our group since the bathrooms cannot be left unlocked and they are not handicapped accessible. To renovate the bathrooms would be very costly and it would also require updating the septic system.

Professional Memberships

We maintained our membership in the Ipswich River Watershed Association (IRWA) and the Massachusetts Congress of Lake and Pond Associations, Inc. to keep abreast of current grants, workshops, and watershed action strategies.

Plans for the Future

  • Continue teen/adult drop-in volleyball in Spring/Summer (Tuesdays – 6 PM to dusk)
  • Continue having the same fund raising events
  • Purchase jointly with the Recreation department some new playground equipment to replace oldest green painted structure with tall, straight slide. We have over $13,500 in the Martins Pond Gift Account accumulated
  • Purchase additional play equipment for placement outside the tot lot (ex. spring riders and digger for the beach)
  • Look into purchasing replacement P.A. system for events
  • Add more paved paths for complete handicapped accessibility to park
  • Get Parks Dept. to add drain to center of Turtle Trail basin (winter skating pond) to correct flooding problem. It was not built to plan
  • Support town’s efforts to get a wastewater treatment facility to support Martins Pond area, which has small lot sizes (Berry Center redevelopment may encompass this). Sewering the pond area was recommended in the 1985 Martins Pond Diagnostic Feasibility Study completed by Lycott Environmental Research Inc. & Anderson Nichols.
  • Plan a public meeting/workshop to implement the town’s 1986 Flood Analysis
  • Continue to monitor and try to limit invasive aquatic weed growth, beaver activity, pond water levels, and pond area land development
  • Work with the Parks Dept. to re-design the bath house to have a handicap accessible bathroom, new second level storage area and a stage area with extended roof line where the mural and secure funding to renovate the building (possibly a storage level above and a new pitched roof) – long term goal
    Secure funding to pave the parking lot – long-term goal.