The campus of Wellesley College will reopen to visitors starting Tuesday, Nov. 16. That’s the good news.
The bad news is those who thought they’d be resuming the most beautiful walk in town, the loop around Lake Waban, will be sorely disappointed. Earlier this year the Hunnewells informed the College and the Town that they will not be reopening their portion of the lake path to the public, according to the College. This closed section extends from the closed gate behind the President’s house and along the southern shoreline to the closed gate at Pond Road.
The College reminds visitors that there is no public access to campus buildings or restrooms. Building access is limited to members of the Wellesley College community and registered visitors on College business. All athletics facilities—indoor and outdoor, including the track, fields, and tennis courts—will remain closed to the public. Spectators are permitted for outdoor games.
Perhaps 1 clue that a campus reopening might be coming was that the Wellesley Turkey Trot course would be allowed to run through the college campus on Thanksgiving morning.
Wellesley College closed off campus to the public last March 31 as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, in an effort to keep students and staff safe. The College and Hunnewells at that time also closed off access to the path around Lake Waban, technically a Great Pond that state law appears to require public access to. The reality was that the campus and path were getting overrun with people seeking outdoor spaces, and many weren’t abiding by campus rules.
Residents who have long been used to wandering around campus and on the lake path have been frustrated by the continued lack of access, even while acknowledging the college is a private facility. Many took to social media and the comments section of our site to vent. The College maintained its priority was to keep students and staff safe, leading some in town to wonder if the campus would ever reopen to the public even as vaccinations rates rose and case numbers dwindled in the area.
Babson reopened its Wellesley campus to the public over the summer.
So, the hope now is that the public and college community will get along well, and that those of you with Hunnewell connections can convince them to change their minds on lake path access. After all, no one says that elementary school up for rebuilding over on Cameron Street couldn’t be renamed.
Wellesley College campus reopening guidelines including parking restrictions
From Wellesley College:
Wellesley College’s campus grounds are once again open to its neighbors.
The paths on Wellesley College property along Lake Waban are now open. However, earlier this year the Hunnewells informed the College and the Town that they will not be reopening their portion of the lake path to the public. This closed section extends from the closed gate behind the President’s house and along the southern shoreline to the closed gate at Pond Road. As a result, visitors will not be able to complete a loop of the lake and should adjust their walking plans accordingly.
Wellesley College requires all dogs to be leashed. Having dogs under voice control is not permitted.
There is no public access to campus buildings or restrooms.
Building access is limited only to members of the Wellesley College community and registered visitors on College business. Visitors and guests on College business must complete the visitor registration form prior to coming to campus and will receive details about parking and building access from their campus host.
All athletics facilities—indoor and outdoor, including the track, fields, and tennis courts—will remain closed to the public. Spectators are permitted for outdoor games.
Campus visitors may only park in the Distribution Center Lot #2. Because parking is limited, it is recommend that visitors walk to campus to the extent possible. Please review this map.
Cars without parking stickers that are parked in other areas, including at Cheever House by the Sudbury Aqueduct, Waban House, French House, the Wellesley College Club overflow lot, or the Nehoiden Golf Course along Dover Road, and cars in unauthorized spots along Rte. 16 and Rte. 135 may be subject to ticketing and towing by the College or by the Town of Wellesley.
I have been walking around lake Waban since the 1970’s. I assume there has been an easement open to the public to stroll around the lake.
Haig Tellalian says
Yay, wonderful news Wellesley College! Thank you!!! Hunnewell Family – please consider opening up the path around Lake Waban in the future. A true gem!
Herb Gliick says
Eminent Domain! The town should take an easement just wide enough for a comfortable path connecting the open portion(s) of the round the lake path.
As for your suggestion that the name of the Precinct G elementary school be changed upon rebuilding, Bravo.
Fred Margolis says
What about adverse possession since this path has been open for well over 20 years?
Good idea. I think it will require legal action. Also Wellesley College is complicit. They have put up fencing.
Elke Cardella says
Hunnewell family – As a member of the Wellesley running community that REALLY enjoys running around Lake Waban, I would kindly ask that you consider opening the trail access on your property! Thank you!!!
“and shall, notwithstanding the provisions of any special law relating to fisheries in any particular place, be open to all inhabitants of the commonwealth for fishing purposes”…
So, if you carrying a fishing pole, they basically can’t stop you from walking on….
Amy G says
Hunnewell allowed visitors free range over the hillside to explore impeccably maintained gardens and outbuildings. It was a world-class attraction in the late 1800s. Strange that the landscape has only declined with increased restrictions on public access. Maybe they’re restoring it to its former glory and want to surprise us?!
People have treated that path and land poorly for years. About time they stopped letting the whole town treat their back years like a dump smh
No, as of this writing, they’ve knocked down a considerable number of lakefront trees and put a landslide landscape fabric on their hill, apparently for some future “non native landscaping..or another McMansion to go with their quad garage sized boathouse. They have also put a pushbutton type lock on the “DO NOT ENTER” gate, along with a dozen “KEEP OUT” type hobby horses.,
For now, and as usual,, as they take down their “private” land to make it harder for it to ever have public access allowed again, it will be the water quality and appearance of the waterscape that will be most likely further compromised..
Jason B says
One of the key reasons we bought in Wellesley was the Brook Path and Waban Lake loop provide an amazing walk/run. It’s a treasure for everyone to share.
Your new style allowing a numeral instead of spelling out “one” is appalling.
Please stop doing it.
You’re not texting, and it’s a very poor look.
I am so appreciative to the Hunnewell Family for allowing us to walk on their land, and hope they will feel comfortable letting us walk there again. I do know that they were not happy about people letting their dogs run around without leashes even through there was a sign that said keep your dog on a leash. I am so shocked by people who just let their dogs off a leash when there is a sign that says keep your dog on a leash AND they are walking on property that does not belong to them. I think a solution would be to not allow dogs.
Elke Cardella says
Great idea. I would do anything to start running the full loop again.
Sometimes you just gotta go says
But sometimes the dog walkers leave nice gifts wrapped in colorful plastic bags. It’s almost like finding plastic eggs on Easter Sunday!
We have been walking the loop for many, many years. It was a wonderful treasure. It’s very sad that this has been closed down. I don’t buy the argument that the dogs were so terrible. That’s not been my experience when walking. Even dogs off the leash were well-behaved. It sounds like Covid was used as a convenient excuse to close access to the public. Can the town or college do anything about this?
Steven Dobkin says
Very sad, indeed, to see the way that Wellesley College has made it abundantly clear that the general public, as well, of course, as the residents of Wellesley, are no longer welcome, to the Campus, and, likely, to a wealth of College activities, the way they once were.
Over the nearly 50 years my family and I have lived in Wellesley, the College was one of the features of living here. My wife and I have audited courses, attended lectures, movies, plays and other activities. Our son even had a DJ spot on the campuswide radio station while in high school. We were always made to feel welcome, and a virtual part of the Community. Perhaps this was one way for the College to give back to the community in return for occupying an exquisite parcel of land, tax exempt. (Yes I know that they have made some money contributions to the town in lieu of this).
Perhaps the decision to become so restrictive came about from a brush with a Pandemic, a change in administration, rethinking an open campus policy or some mix of these. In any case it will be a great loss to those of us who have walked the path along the lake, enjoyed the academic and arts activities, and even Canines and Cocktails!