Saturday, December 10, 2005

DCR Funding in Light of the Charles River, Magazine Beach, the puddle

The following discussion ran late November, early December 2005:

L writes

my dad told me stories of swimming at magazine beach.


And right after the last ceremonial swim, the DCR/MDC
destroyed the wetlands and put up a wall of designer bushes
preventing further swimming.


Yes, true, and the Charles River has been cleaned up considerably
recently. Not that public health officials are now advocating
swimming in our section of the Charles, but it is probably
sanctioned up river outside the city.


The Charles is swimmable right now (but not in this season,
obviously) near the Charles River dam at the Museum of
Science. This news was folded into a Globe editorial this
past summer.

Swimming in the Charles at Magazine Beach isn't safe because
the sediment there, from long-gone tanneries and other
industries upstream, is toxic. A clean-up or technical fix
may not be possible, or if it is, possible within a reasonable

There is swimming at Magazine Beach, of course, in the DCR
pool. Like skating rinks and other assets, it has suffered
from the MDC-DCR's neglect. The front-page article in today's
Globe addresses the most glaring example of this problem, the
Longfellow Bridge. Ordinary maintenance suffers while fancy
projects like the Memorial Drive "Historic Restoration" ($7.5
million) get funded.

The Magazine Beach pool is also subject to MDC-DCR budget
hold-ups, e.g., "we can't open this summer/we have to close it
in August because we don't get enough money to operate it."
Communities have to mobilize to get their legislators to give
the agency more money for such specific purposes. However, at
one public hearing I attended, a legislator complained that
the MDC-DCR diverts even earmarked money to what it pleases.

At Magazine Beach it pleases the DCR to close the pool and
build up demand for swimming in the river, even if that means
some experimental and costly fix. It doesn't please the DCR
to keep the pool open, to keep condoms out of the kiddie pool,the trash picked up, and the snow plowed.

One thing environmental science has done is to alert us to the
problems of swimming in water with heavy metal sediment. The
designer plants and "swimming lagoon" now at Magazine Beach,
part of Cambridge's $1.5 million contribution to this vision
of swimming in the river, will do nothing to make these
problems go away.

And if the idea's to swim in the river rather than a pool,
it's already perfectly safe and much, much less expensive to
swim in the Charles farther downriver, by the Museum of
Science. The Globe reported the water temperature in June (or
July?) was perfect.



but if we are to be encouraged to want to swim in the charles,
why put the "designer" bushes, etc. by the shore, thus
preventing humans and/or other animals from access?


Marilyn, 12/1/05:


We read that the MDC-DCR is terribly underfunded, its assets fallen into disrepair.

Before you sign on to lobby for the DCR, though, read this on swimming in the river at Magazine Beach (from the agency's website, to see how it would like to spend your money:

"Phase out the aging swimming pool complex and explore the feasibility of an outdoor swimming lagoon and spray fountain. . . . Anticipate the need to reconfigure the shoreline, dredge the sediments, and create barrier islands to separate the swimming area from the navigable channel. If water quality and visibility cannot be sufficiently improved the swimming lagoon should be physically separated from the channel and have its own water circulation and filtration system. The entire complex including support structures should be fully integrated with and subservient to the landscape. Accommodate additional parking off site. The lagoon should support ice skating during the coldest months." (Master Plan for the Charles River, Magazine Beach, at Closing the pool in August sounds like phasing it out to me.)

I wouldn't give an agency with planners like this a nickel. Public pools and skating rinks are "phased out" while the river's dredged and reshaped for a lagoon with filtration system and sediment curtain?

I've heard a legislator complain the DCR diverts even earmarked funds to projects it wants, rather spend them on those for which they're earmarked. So you may think you've lobbied to get the DCR money to repair that "aging swimming pool"--but the DCR has other plans for those funds.

The DCR does have Cambridge and the Charles River Conservancy to help fund Magazine Beach, though. If these worthies think it's a worthwhile expenditure--and they've been on the river with Alpenhorns to publicize the charm of it--we may get swimming in the river at Magazine Beach whether anyone with a particle of sense wants it or not.

Looking at the "lagoon" now in place at MB, I see two pipes (filtration system?), courtesy of Cambridge.



In short, my question is, even assuming the attraction of swimming in the Charles AT MAGAZINE BEACH (and not elsewhere on the river), how much of anyone's money is it worth to indulge this desire? And what are the opportunity costs, i.e., alternative uses of the money?




The lagoon Marilyn refers to an artificial puddle which has been created in a location approximately 20 to 30 feet from the Charles River.

Now that they have a puddle, they need a bridge to go over it. So they put in a bridge.

To create this bizarre thing, the DCR/MDC and Cambridge destroyed five healthy trees.

In the destroyed wetlands, the DCR/MDC and Cambridge have replace a tar path with a composition path, which connects to this silly bridge at a right angle.

The construction so incompetent that the connection between the composite path and the silly bridge is such that the bridge is an inch or so higher than the path. And you have to go over that silly bridge to use the composite path.

The usual bragging about bike paths exists.

Last Saturday, I tried to use the composite path/bridge by bike.

I noticed that one inch difference and tried to make the turn.

This "bike-friendly" entity did a great job of putting me in urgent care.

My right arm is in a sling with possible bone damage at the elbow and an inability to raise the lower arm higher than a right angle at the elbow.

Business as usual with the DCR/MDC and Cambridge.