Water Works: Volunteers aim to restore Coes Pond to former glory
Roger Parent remembers spending his summers as a kid at Coes Pond – swimming and fishing with his dad and hanging out at the area’s nightclubs, restaurants and bowling alley with friends.
“When you are as old as I am, you know about Coes Pond,” said the 66-year-old Shrewsbury resident.
Coes Reservoir, known as Coes Pond, covers nearly 21 acres of land between Park Avenue and Mill Street in Worcester. Once a robust hangout spot and the site of the historical Coes Knife Factory, the beach currently leaves much to be desired. For years, community groups have been working to improve the quality of the area, including Parent and his fellow members of the recently formed Coes Zone Task Force (CZTF).
“We have made some really good progress in the last six months,” said Parent, who serves as co-chairman of the committee’s 50 people.
When Parent retired from his career as a pharmacist a couple of years ago, he wanted to get more involved in the community. He started volunteering with the American Red Cross and joined the Blackstone River Coalition as the monthly Tatnuck Brook water tester.
“When the coalition heard there was a community group trying to revitalize Coes Pond, they sent me as their representative,” Parent said. “A few months later, I was the co-chair of the committee.
Spearheaded by District 5 City Councilor Gary Rosen, last spring’s meeting included a couple hundred community members, including city officials, neighbors and students. From there, the group began having monthly meetings.
“Everyone had a different idea of what they wanted for Coes,” Parent said. “We needed a plan. Throughout my career, I’ve always been someone who likes to get things done. I felt like I could do something here.”
Visions for Coes include an all-inclusive park, a walking/biking path around its circumference and a functional beach that’s water sports-friendly. “We decided to start by restoring the beach and making it a more pleasant place to be,” Parent said.
Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus pointed the group toward the Working for Worcester organization, which accepted CZTF as one of its 2015 partners and awarded the group a $5,000 grant. Because the land is owned by the city, CZTF had to present its plans to Worcester’s Conservation Commission. Plans include clearing the shoreline of trash and weeds, adding more sand and cleaning out brush to make the pond accessible for water sports. The group will also fix the existing bathhouse on the property; it will be painted by volunteers and restored with city funds.
“We don’t know what the final price tag will be,” said Parent, adding that the group is in fundraising mode. “It might be $15,000 to $30,000 just for sand.” The group also wants to install security lights and wi-fi.
“This is our first phase, and we don’t want to stop there,” Parent said. “We have to demonstrate some results, not just talk about it. People are sick of hearing the ‘back in the day’ stories, so we need to show some changes.”
Parent added that CZTF is working with area colleges to apply for grants and improve the water quality, as well as creating an educational program for Coes residents on how they can help. Group members also are collaborating with individuals from Clark University to identify species in the area to ensure they don’t remove anything they shouldn’t.
“There are students down there all of the time testing the sediment, water and Ph levels,” Parent said. He said the long-range goal is to make Coes “a collaboratory and an observatory,” where academics can study the area.
“We need the skills and competencies of those around us,” he added. “We’re just volunteers focused on beach stuff. Enlisting the intellectual help from the community, that’s a fantastic formula for success.”
Parent insists that being engaged and involved keeps the volunteers, who are mostly senior citizens, young. “There is a lot of passion in our group. Hopefully, we can keep that going,” he said. “We are doing this so citizens and future generations can enjoy it. Having a body of water in the middle of an urban area is rare. We want to restore it to its former glory.”
To get involved, visit http://sewutka.wix.com/coespondma.