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Walden Pond open-water swimming will be allowed again, after public outcry

Michelle Blouin of Medford swam in a designated area at Walden Pond on Friday.
Michelle Blouin of Medford swam in a designated area at Walden Pond on Friday.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Open-water swimming will again be allowed at Walden Pond beginning Friday, state officials said, after a public outcry over the announcement last week that swimming at the storied pond would be restricted to roped-off areas following a string of drownings at local ponds and beaches.

The state will introduce “enhanced safety measures,” along with new rules and best practice guidance for swimmers at the pond, “including modifications to ensure that open water swimming is available to experienced swimmers while prioritizing safety for swimmers, lifeguards, and visitors to the waterfront,” the Department of Conservation and Recreation said in a Wednesday statement.

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“Open water swimming is an inherently dangerous activity, and should not be attempted by individuals who have not trained or prepared for the activity,” the DCR said. “Swimmers assume full risk and responsibility while engaging in this activity, and are advised to use extreme caution when swimming, always adhere to safety protocols, and use best practices to prevent potentially tragic outcomes.”

Until Labor Day, open-water swimming will be permitted before and after lifeguard shifts, which run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, the department said. Swimmers will be able to enter the open water between 5 and 10 a.m. each weekday, from 7 to 10 a.m. on weekends, and from 6 to 8 p.m. each evening, according to the statement.

After Labor Day, when lifeguards will no longer be posted at state ponds and beaches, open swimming will be allowed all hours the park is open.

Open-water swimmers will be required to use designated swim lanes when entering the pond, avoid the “no-swim zone” between the southern corner of the Main Beach and the western corner of Red Cross Beach when it is marked by ropes and buoys, stay 100 feet from the boat launch and 50 feet from boats, and tow brightly colored swim buoys.

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Walden Pond, made famous by transcendentalist author Henry David Thoreau, has long been a popular spot for open-water swimming, but it wasn’t authorized by the state until 2014, when the DCR created a set of rules for open-water swimmers to follow.

The announcement last week that open-water swimming would be banned “indefinitely” was met with a chorus of disapproval from many local swimmers and a letter of complaint from state lawmakers. A petition asking the DCR to rescind the ban and instead require open-water swimmers to tow swim buoys gathered more than 430 signatures.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.