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February 19, 2013

Saving a 'real jewel'

New report offers plan to clean up two Peabody ponds

PEABODY — It’s the holy grail of Peabody city government: the seemingly unattainable quest to fix Crystal Lake and Elginwood Pond.

It has stymied successive administrations going back decades, leaving the two West Peabody ponds filling up to near the top with silt, lily pads and other vegetation. Some people remember swimming in Crystal Lake, but its depth is considered shallow enough now to wade across.

Yet, armed with a new report from the Springfield-based consulting firm GZA GeoEnvironmental, the city is hoping to give the rescue of these still-beautiful assets another try. As usual, Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz said, money will be a determining factor in what, if anything, gets done.

The report offers an estimate of $2.6 million for dredging and restoration, to be done in four intervals.

“I’m going to set up a subcommittee on Crystal Lake at Thursday’s (council) meeting,” Sinewitz said last week. “But it’s still not going to go anywhere until we have the money.”

He’s hoping to see the waters deepened and renewed as the area, which even now attracts water fowl, becomes available for recreation.

“There is some money set aside,” Council President Tom Gould said, citing a state grant of roughly $600,000.

“We wanted the study just to outline the options,” said Mayor Ted Bettencourt, who calls the spot one of the city’s “real jewels.”

But he admits to a bit of sticker shock at the $2.6 million. “It’s a big number. I was hoping it might be a little lower. ... As with everything, we have to prioritize.”

“We want to do it in stages,” Sinewitz said. “We don’t have enough money to do the whole thing.”

Councilor Dave Gravel reflected the long-term frustration surrounding any Crystal Lake project. “I’ve heard of nothing but consultant’s reports, when I first got on the council ... even when I was in school back in the ’60s.”

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