Closing Crystal Lake

On Sunday evening, August 21 the city-run swimming area at Crystal Lake shut down for the season. It had been open since mid-June and served thousands of residents as a safe, supervised waterfront. In the prior millennium the beach had stayed open until Labor Day Monday. In recent decades, though, it has closed two weeks earlier, in part to allow its lifeguards, mostly college students, some free time before their classes begin.

I first swam in Crystal Lake in 1970. At that time swimmers could check their bags and valuables in lockers behind the long desk near the entrance. The deep water area also had a raft for sunbathing. There was even a diving board off the dock on the right. For safety reasons, no doubt, both the raft and diving board have long since disappeared. The lake, nonetheless, plays a vital role in the summer life of our city. I typically swim there three or four times each week. Thanks to the air pump to the right of the dock, the water is fresh and algae-free most summers. The lake scum also remains in check when the lake has frozen the previous winter for at least several days. That happened this year, praise the Lord.

Grateful as I am for my numerous swims this summer, I still believe that Crystal Lake closed prematurely.* The two weeks since have been mild, sunny, and often humid. Most of those who use the lake are either young children and their parents or retirees like me, and we miss it. Now you might ask, “Why don’t you swim at Levingston Cove or Cronin’s Cove, the lake’s other beaches? Lots of people already do.” True enough, but I have gone on record in opposition to freelance swimming at the lake. First, everyone ought to help sustain the lake by purchasing a season’s pass. Second, the lifeguards provide an element of safety and supervision missing at the other beaches. I expressed this opinion in an op-ed several years ago in support of the stance of the Friends of Crystal Lake.

All of us are sinners, I guess; last week, on a particularly hot afternoon, I violated my own precepts. The official beach had already closed, and I wanted to swim. Locking my bike to a tree on the margins of Levingston Cove, I waded into the shallow waters. The going was tough at first because the bottom was either rocky or murky. Finally, when the water  was deep enough, I flopped in and swam towards the distant shore.

I had always wanted to swim across the lake. Though the deep-water area at the city beach is reasonably expansive, many a swimmer wants to reach the far shore as long as it is not too distant. Swimming across and back presented no problem to me. It also left me invigorated and refreshed. Still, as I dried myself on the shore, I suffered pangs of guilt. I vowed that I would never freelance swim in Crystal Lake except out of season.

Blame it on the premature closing of the lake front. Somehow, some way, the city beach at Crystal Lake ought to remain open until August expires.

* Yes, Gath Pool remains open, but the experiences are hardly equivalent.




In January 1015, I retired after teaching English for 34 years at Newton South High School. I continue as girls' tennis coach there, this being my 26th year in that role. My wife, Dahlia Rudavsky, to whom I have been married for forty-four years, is an employment lawyer on the side of the oppressed. My wife graduated from Newton South, and we have lived in Waban since 1980. My favorite pastimes are writing (see my periodic column in the Newton Tab) and playing tennis. I also help raise funds for Yad Chessed, a wonderful local charity. You might also find me supporting various causes around Newton.

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Bob JampolSallee LipshutzJulia MalakieLynne LeBlanc Recent comment authors
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Lynne LeBlanc

Ha, ha! I like your rationale for swimming where you normally wouldn’t! It has been a long hot summer, though, and I agree: August 21 seems much too early. As a pass holder, I also agree that the price is well worth supporting such a great amenity, especially when one considers Gath Pool is included in the bargain.

Julia Malakie

Never freelance swim except out of season? That’s a pretty big exception! 😉
I used to get a pass every season, but stopped around the time my work schedule became five nights a week, not leaving much opportunity for afternoon and evening swimming. Someday if I feel like I can afford to retire, resuming Crystal Lake swimming is one of the things on my list to do, along with volunteering at the polls.
I hadn’t realized closing was now two weeks before Labor Day. That’s too bad. The last couple of weeks, and Labor Day itself, were my favorite times to swim. The weather was a little cooler, so I wasn’t getting into a hot car afterwards, and the sun was lower, making it less blinding and easier to navigate while swimming backstroke. And it was usually less crowded than during summer heat.
I too would love to be able to swim across the lake, as people do at Walden Pond. Even a once a season open water swim day would be wonderful.

Sallee Lipshutz

Why is Crystal Lake closed so early in the season. I don’t believe it can be lack of lifeguards. If it were lifeguards’ not being available, wouldn’t Gath Pool also have to close? I know that a new Crystal Lake Bathhouse is a big project being planned, but I wonder why big $’s would be spent on such a project if Crystal Lake has such a restricted season? Anybody know what’s going on?