Friends of Willett Pond

The Willett Pond Community – A Hidden Treasure

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The Willett Pond community combines all the charm of a pristine rural waterfront setting with a close proximity to the city of Boston. The Pond is a private lake ringed by the towns of Walpole, Westwood, and Norwood and includes both Willett and Pettees ponds . There are 85 homes surrounding its shores- – about 70 in Walpole and 15 in Westwood, with Norwood’s St. Timothy’s Church on the Norwood section of the shore. All are about 15 miles and 35 minutes from Boston. Commuter train stations are only a few minutes away in Norwood; the Rte. 128 Amtrak stop in Westwood also serves Boston as well as New York City; and the Route 95/Route 128 highways are minutes away. With strong school systems and attractive tax rates in all three towns, the Willett Pond community has much to offer its residents.

The pond itself and almost all 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 itself leases the pond to two organizations for private use: first, the Willett Pond Charitable and Protective Association (“WPCPA”) representing the residential homeowner abutters since its inception in 1985; and second, 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 with an easement for public use limited to minor and nonintrusive passive activities such as kayaking and the like (uses that do not include swimming, motor-boating or the many other “active” uses enjoyed by the residential homeowners and F&G Club members).

Nearly all of the 85 residential homeowner abutters belong to our organization, the WPCPA. Membership is automatic for all residents who pay the $25 per house annual membership fee. Those members are then eligible to sign a long term individual sublease to use the Pond, and those who are current on their lease payments ($750 annually for 2020) can enjoy use rights for the Pond (there is a separate fee for motor boating). 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. Our website, www.willettpond.org provides additional information about our activities and mission.

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. Because we are private, the Pond is generally very quiet, even on weekends, and excessively noisy activities including the use of jet skis and snowmobiles are prohibited. 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 balance between use and environmental protection preserves this special place for future generations while assuring solid and sustainable home values for all of us.

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 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 became in effect the new owner of the pond. During this transition, both the WPCPA and the F&G Club entered into renewable 99-year leases with the Pond’s now-independent owner Landholding to ensure our long-term enjoyment of the Pond for generations to come.

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 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 of any proposed changes pursuant to their lease and other obligations. Together, this process ensures that we can all continue to enjoy the healthy and robust ecosystem we see today.

The pond’s 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-knit community devoted to maintaining and enhancing our property values. 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.”

We would be delighted to provide any additional information about Willett Pond, such as our Pond operating policies, environmental rules and regulations governing landscape alterations, a lease term sheet summary, articles of organization and the like upon request – some of which are also available on our website. Please feel free to contact board@willettpond.org with any questions or if you’d like further information about Willett Pond and its vibrant community.

 

 

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