I’ve run by the spot dozens, maybe hundreds, of times over the years along the Boston Marathon course in Wellesley and have often thought to myself: I really should picnic there some time.
Not that I picnic often. But when I do, I like it to be a little different.
And different this would have been, overlooking the once notoriously contaminated Paintshop Pond, which sits between Lake Waban and Morses Pond just south of Rte. 135.
Someone plopped a picnic table atop the dam some years ago that would put you at a safe distance from any lingering junk swirling around the pond. An excellent story map about the pond from Jessica Ostfeld, Wellesley College ’20, refers to “a lovely picnic spot up at the northern end of the Pond” that I assume refers to this most distinct and carefree piece of patio furniture. A few years back we included the table in a roundup of top Wellesley picnic spots, alongside those at Town Hall and various other Wellesley public spaces.
But alas, the Paintshop Pond table is no longer there. New wooden stairs are, along with a shiny new “No trespassing” sign that warns all to steer clear.
As if losing another Rte. 135 running route landmark, “Coney” the sidewalk Catalpa tree, wasn’t a big enough blow.
Getting to the bottom of this
I’ll confess that my first thought when I saw the picnic table was gone was that Wellesley College’s fun police had confiscated it and put up the sign.
But apologies to that crew. It turns out this is actually Wellesley Department of Public Works/Water Department land.
“The Park & Tree Division recently installed those steps to make access to the dam a bit safer for our folks that need to get down there for inspections,” says Wellesley DPW Director Dave Cohen.
The Wellesley DPW, however, isn’t taking credit for the picnic table’s demise.
Legend has it, according to Cohen (who can’t confirm this), is that “the table was seen floating by and was plucked out of the water and enjoyed a nice stay on the ledge.”
Such a dramatic rescue story only adds to the mystique of this secluded spot.
Being the romantic fool that I am, I assumed the table would stay there forever. It’s not like the area was never used. I’d seen others who had discovered the somewhat secret waterfront location. How I now regret that I’d never put into action my dream of one day breaking out my special picnic backpack—a weirdly brilliant giveaway from a former employer—that I’d been holding on to for just the right moment.
And now, like so many dreamers before me, I must face the bitter disappointment that my picnic has been rained on.
As it turns out, the water giveth and the water taketh away.
According to Cohen, someone apparently pushed the table back into the drink recently, “probably out of COVID boredom.”
His team first removed it from the water, and then banished the table from the area rather than have to deal with future vandalism or safety issues on the ledge.
Meanwhile, I eagerly await the possible reopening of the Wellesley DPW Recycling & Disposal Facility give-and-take area. Might the picnic table turn up there?
Probably not. But I think my picnic backpack just might.