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October 28, 2013

Crystal Lake to get long-awaited makeover

PEABODY — All that glitters is not gold. Sometimes, it’s crystal, and Mayor Ted Bettencourt expects to accomplish a long-sought goal by making Crystal Lake glitter again.

The City Council voted last week to approve $7.6 million in new projects, including money to help restore both the West Peabody lake and the adjacent Elginwood Pond. They long ago fell on hard times, clogging with weeds and lilies, filling with soil believed to have run off from nearby housing developments. But efforts to dredge both — efforts going back decades — failed because of the potential cost of disposing of the waterlogged muck at the bottom of the pond.

The City Council OK’d a $5.1 million bond that will pay for part of the cost of restoring both bodies of water and upgrading the areas, as well as for a new fire engine and an artificial turf field at the high school.

The mayor’s proposal to the council painted a picture of an area transformed not only by dredging both the lake and the pond, but by removing brush and trees and adding landscaping, skating areas, picnic tables, a hiking trail, fountains, and docks for fishing and boats.

Paddle boats could be launched in the lake, the mayor said, “even something along the lines of swan boats.”

As to how he’s managed to finance this when other mayors could not, Bettencourt said, “Things came together very nicely.”

Things like the Community Preservation Committee and its available funding gave him options that some previous administrations did not have. For that matter, much of the money earmarked for the project is already in city hands.

These funds include what’s left of $800,000 appropriated for Crystal Lake by the state Legislature, at the behest of the late state Rep. Joyce Spiliotis. Some of that money went to a demonstration project in which genetically engineered bacteria was supposed to eat up all the weeds and muck. In the end, the bugs ate up only money, but $646,000 remains.

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