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State plan to restrict Walden Pond swimming withdrawn

The state has scrapped an open-water swim ban at Walden Pond after protests. The photo above was taken at 6:18 a.m. on a July day in 2007; crossing the pond is a popular workout.

globe staff/File 2007

The state has scrapped an open-water swim ban at Walden Pond after protests. The photo above was taken at 6:18 a.m. on a July day in 2007; crossing the pond is a popular workout.

After a backlash from swimmers, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation has withdrawn a proposal that would have banned open-water swimming at Concord’s Walden Pond.

In its proposal, the department cited an increase in inexperienced swimmers trying to cross the pond, a popular recreation spot made famous by 19th-century transcendentalist author Henry David Thoreau.

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The department said its lifeguards have rescued 28 swimmers during the past three years, 13 of whom were outside the current supervised swimming areas.

But the DCR’s plan to create a designated 125-yard “swimming lane” for long-distance swimming sparked strident objections from experienced swimmers, who invoked Thoreau’s call for civil disobedience in saying they would not follow the rule.

“This proposal has been met with some skepticism by community advocates,” DCR spokesman William Hickey acknowledged in an e-mail. “As a result of ongoing conversations with advocates and emergency responders, this proposal is no longer being considered. . . . We are not anticipating any significant changes this season.”

Hickey said the agency would meet again this week with community representatives to “develop a sustainable plan that balances various recreational uses with swimmer safety.”

The beach at Walden Pond will open for swimming as scheduled on May 24, Hickey said.

Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com. Find him on Twitter at @DanielAdams86.
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