The Department of Environmental Protection ruled today that Sprague Pond is no longer just OK - it's officially great.
In a letter to the Hyde Park Historical Society today, the head of the department's Waterways Regulation Program said that the pond, in its "natural state" would be at least 10 acres in size - and 10 acres is the minimum size for a Massachusetts pond to be declared a "great pond." The ruling means that Jamaica Pond is no longer the only official "great pond" in Boston.
The status has potential implications both for public access to the pond. "Great ponds" in Massachusetts are public waterways - via laws that date to the Colonial Ordinance of 1641-1647. The problem at Sprague Pond is that almost all the land around the pond is privately owned. Boston does own a thin, third-of-an-acre strip of land that runs between Sprague Street and the pond, which is the final resting place of a locomotive that fell into it in 1834, during construction of what is now the Northeast Corridor. The Historical Society adds there is a public way allowing access to the pond from Lakeside Avenue, where it has a sharp curve.
The designation could potentially affect the status of plans for three attached condos proposed for the Hyde Park side of the pond, next to the easement. Developers won city approval for the Lakeside Avenue site, but now worry that if the pond's historic water boundaries reach far enough up the property, it could make it impossible for them to build.
Sprague Pond used to be officially great - an 1899 Supreme Judicial Court ruling on ice harvesting on the pond hinged on the fact that it was - but somehow over the decades, it was dropped off the various official state lists of "great ponds."
At a state hearing in May, the Hyde Park Historical Society presented maps and other evidence dating back centuries to make the case that the pond, even if currently closer to eight acres, was historically great and so should be designated as great once more.