The Hyde Park Historical Society has asked the state to formally designate Sprague Pond, just off Sprague Street and next to the Northeast Corridor train tracks at the Dedham line, as an official "great pond."
The designation, only available for ponds of at least 10 acres in size (including ponds that used to be 10 acres but which have since shrunk), would allow public access to the pond for, at a minimum, fishing, bird hunting and boating, under the Colonial Ordinance of 1641-1647, which Massachusetts courts continue to uphold to this day.
The state Department of Environmental Protection holds a hearing on the request at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
One potential issue is that almost all the land around the pond has private owners. The city of Boston, however, does own a one-third-acre strip of land between Sprague Street and the pond, between the current industrial park just over the Sprague Street Bridge and the first house past the entrance to the industrial park.
If the state formally designates the pond as "great," it would be just the second in Boston - after Jamaica Pond - but the only one that might have a locomotive at the bottom.
Legend has it that an engineer figured the easiest way to get rid of a decaying locomotive would be to start it up, then jump off and let it run off the tracks into the pond. However, historian Harry B. Chase, Jr. reports that while there may still be the remains of a coal-fired locomotive in the pond, it got there by accident, when the Providence and Boston Railroad was building the line way back in 1834:
The engine Black Hawk, which had labored unsung in lowly construction service for barely a year, toppled ignominiously off the track along with its train of loaded cars, or else the roadbed sank under it, and was lost forever in the treacherous quicksands of Sprague's Pond.