Willett Pond is a small lake ringed by the towns of Walpole, Westwood, and Norwood and it includes both Willett Pond itself and adjacent Pettee’s Pond. There are roughly 85 residential homes surrounding its shores- – about 70 in Walpole and 15 in Westwood, with Saint Timothy’s Church on the Norwood section of the shore.
The pond itself and most of its surrounding shoreline is owned by Neponset River Land Holding Association (“Landholding”), a nonprofit whose mission includes environmental stewardship of the pond and maintaining the dam and its related structures. Landholding leases the pond to two organizations for private use: first, to our organization the Willett Pond Charitable and Protective Association (“WPCPA”) which has represented the residential homeowner abutters since its inception in 1985; and second, to the North Walpole Fish and Game Club (“F&G Club”), whose members primarily use the pond for fishing. Revenue from these two long-term leases fund the pond’s operating costs, and the two leasing organizations work together with Landholding on governance and budgeting matters. On the northwest end of the pond there is a small beach along Brook Street that has an easement for general public use, which is limited to passive activities such as kayaking and the like (our own residential lease allows our members broader use rights, including motorboating). There is also a second public access point across from Adam’s Farm on Fisher Street.
Nearly all of the 85 residential homeowner abutters belong to our organization, the WPCPA. Our members are eligible to sign a long term individual sublease from us to use the Pond, and those who are current on their lease payments can enjoy use rights for the Pond .WCPCA is a 501-c-3 nonprofit entity governed by a seven-person Board of Directors elected by its membership. Its mission is to coordinate with our co-tenant F&G Club and Pond owner Landholding to help manage the Pond and to work with our State House legislators and local officials of the three towns on conservation and related public policy matters that affect the Pond. Fees from our lease, as well as those from the F&G Club, are used for–and only for—Pond maintenance and improvements as these entities are the principal revenue source to manage the Pond.
The Pond itself covers 225 acres and is roughly 1.25 miles long, with a maximum width of just under a half-mile. Maximum depths reach about 18 feet. WPCPA membership and sublease allows typical private waterfront usages such as swimming, use of motorboats (with additional fee) and the right to install a boat dock in compliance with established rules. Among the most popular activities are waterskiing and tubing, fishing, kayaking, rowing, sailing, paddle boarding, and swimming. – and when the pond is frozen, ice hockey, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing are quite popular. Simple common-sense use restrictions such as limits on boat size (18 feet) and engine horsepower (135 horse power) are designed to maximize safety, while restrictions on dock size and shoreline landscaping assure that the Pond’s vibrant ecosystem and wildlife remain in their current pristine condition. This considered balance between use and environmental protection preserves this special place for future generations to come.
Willett Pond was created by George Willett as a manmade body in 1913 when the Bubbling Brook was dammed to provide a reserve water supply for the Winslow Bros. & Smith Tannery located downstream in Norwood. Using immigrant workers and mule teams, Willett built the 900-foot long dam along Bullard and Brook Streets as well as the 1,900-foot long dike along its eastern shore. The area that now constitutes the Pond was sculpted by the glacier resulting in its natural bowl shape and glacial eskers, the remnants of which can now be seen as Fox Island and the islands and ridge along the west side of the pond. Underground springs, Mill Brook, and small brooks on the west side and south end also contribute to the pond’s inflow.
Willett Pond was originally referred to as “New Pond” as the new pond in town, and was in the past accessible for public use via a beach, bathhouse, and snack bar on property formerly owned by Norwood where St. Timothy’s Church now stands. When the tannery failed after World War II, Pond ownership was assumed by the Neponset Reservoir Corporation (NRC), which comprised three Walpole industries located on the Neponset River using it as a seasonal reserve to supplement river flow. NRC licensed Pond abutters for recreational use of the pond for many years. By 1995 NRC no longer required the pond for industrial use and then donated it to the non-profit Neponset River Watershed Association (NEPRWA) in exchange for a tax deduction. NEPRWA then created Landholding to hold the property deed itself and continued providing a use license to the abutters. In 2019 NEPRWA disassociated itself from Landholding and a new independent Board of Directors was established for Landholding which remains the owner of the Pond. With these changes, both the WPCPA and the F&G Club entered into long term 99-year leases (replacing prior short-term leases) with now-independent owner Landholding to ensure our long-term enjoyment of the Pond for generations to come. Fees from these leases represent the vast majority of the funds employed to properly manage the Pond and keep it in the pristine condition it is now in.
Willett Pond enjoys a vibrant and robust ecosystem that is unusual within the Boston suburban area and it has not become plagued by weeds or pollutants as have so many other local lakes and ponds throughout the Commonwealth. Eleven different species of fish populate its waters, and the pond is stocked with trout and other fish by our co-tenant F&G Club ensuring great fishing for all our members. Moreover, dozens of bird species, including great blue herons, swans, and bald eagles, routinely visit its shores and many other forms of wildlife call Willett Pond home.
On Willett Pond, we take environmental preservation seriously, and we work-hand-in-hand with Landholding and various State and local regulators on policies and procedures which ensure that the Pond’s shoreline remains in its pristine condition. First, any proposed landscape alterations within 100 feet of the high water mark (Wetlands Buffer Zone) by homeowners abutting the Pond must be approved before any work may begin by governing town Conservation Commissions under the Wetlands Protection Act and the respective towns’ By-Laws. Second, both our organization and Landholding must similarly approve beforehand any proposed changes to the landscaping of Landholding’s shoreline property. Working together, this collaborative process ensures that all can continue to enjoy the healthy and robust ecosystem we see today.
The pond’s roughly 85 homes and properties range in size from 1/4 acre on the southern end to a full acre and more towards the northern end. We also feature a mix of home ages and types that include early 1800s farm houses to over a dozen new homes built in just the last few years. Homeowners range from younger professionals who work in Boston to local third-generation retirees, all from just about every walk of life.
Though we are a diverse set of active users, we all share a common appreciation of the stunning waterfront resource at the edge of our properties, one which binds us together as a close community. Most of our members attend our association meetings which we hold 2-3 times a year, and we are fortunate to have a host of active volunteers contributing to our collective efforts in maintaining the Pond and its environs. Indeed, Willett Pond is a special and unique community, and with its location so close to Boston we believe it remains a “best kept secret.”
Over the long, 108 year history since the pond was first formed, much has—and has not—changed. Most notably, what was a pond with only several owners in 1913 has grown to what it is today, and the best representation of these changes is the comparison below of the 1913 map to that of today’s map.
As these three towns have grown, so has the pond’s human population—representing the biggest change and challenge to our conservation efforts. But despite this growth, what has NOT changed is a singular shared community focus on responsible development and conservation efforts. With Neponset as our partner, we have an effective team providing the critical stewardship to ensure that the pond, its watershed, and its ecosystem are not compromised. We strive to continue protecting these most precious natural resources and we welcome help and assistance from any organizations and individuals who are willing to help us further our mission of proper environmental stewardship.
Please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or if you’d like further information about Willett Pond and its vibrant community.