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Cambridge pond inches closer to renovation's end

By Kristin Cantu
On September 9, 2008

9/23/08With wildlife and vegetation abounding, hundreds of residents of Cambridge and neighboring communities stroll, run, bike, or walk their pooch through this oasis with a pond, butterfly garden, designated wetland, and community garden just for starters. This popular Cambridge destination is the Fresh Pond Reservoir and it is Cambridge's drinking water source.

The land surrounding the Fresh Pond Reservoir has had many uses in the past: a soccer field, a dumpsite, and other industrial uses. Because of the many uses of this reservoir's land over the past century, it was in desperate need of a makeover. Part of that makeover involves the Northeast Sector Project.

"This is an area rich in biodiversity," said Chip Norton, Cambridge Watershed Manager. But he noted ithas struggled between its naturalist and recreational demands.

The northeast sector of the Fresh Pond, a 30-acre area, has been under renovation since February 2006. A total of $4 million, funded mostly through the Community Preservation Act, is being put into the Fresh Pond Reservoir for its upkeep and restoration, Norton said.

The first goal with the Northeast Sector Project was to protect the water supply and drainage to the pond, Norton said. Water flows through this reservoir's wooded areas over its paths natural filter system and creates a wetland habitat, Norton said.

This wetland is also "designed to take water from the Fresh Pond during dry summers," Norton said - a problem they didn't have this past season. Thanks to the rainy summer, the Fresh Pond is at 95 percent capacity, Norton said.

The wetland area is a corner of the reservoir that during the spring and summer times is teeming with colorful wildflowers, cat's tails, and a rocky pathway for the rainwater to flow into the pond. Now full of vegetation, this section of land that was once used as a soccer field also served as a practice site for firefighters, Norton said. Norton points out that the fire hydrants that dot this area are now used for watering vegetation.

The Northeast Sector project works with many contractors and conservation groups to enlist their knowledge in what would be best for this ecosystem, Norton said. This included bringing in experts when designing the Butterfly Meadow.

The project was advised on which specific vegetation to plant in order to attract butterflies. The Wildflower Society is also consulted in the Northeast Sector project, a $1.5 million endeavor.

While still under construction, many parts of the Fresh Pond Reservoir are partitioned off from the public. There are miles of temporary fencing Norton said. "In an urban environment, it's the only way to ensure the area's established." The Northeast Sector project is "highly engineered" and will "hopefully be completed in a month," Norton said.

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