Sinkhole Appears in Charlesgate Park

A mysterious sinkhole was discovered in Charlesgate Park this past Sunday, and was reported to be around five feet wide and eight feet deep, according to a spokesperson for the Emerald Necklace Conservancy.

The sinkhole is located by the brick-floored area of the park known as the “Grove,” and had been coned and taped off first by George Lewis of the Charlesgate Alliance, and then by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), which began an investigation on Tuesday morning.

A five foot wide, eight foot deep sinkhole was discovered on Sunday in Charlesgate Park and has since been cordoned off.

Karen Mauney-Brodek, President of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, said that she is “glad to say [the sinkhole] is not directly on a path,” and the area is safe as it has been blocked off from pedestrians.

While a diagnosis on the cause of the sinkhole has yet to be made, Mauney-Brodek said that the hole is “not far from the edge of the river,” and over the last hundred years or so, the area has been through many changes.

“The area originally had been far more marshy,” she said, with “less channelized river edges” and “more open water.”

She said that it is a possibility that the land where the sinkhole is “may represent more recent fill that has been displaced or is sinking.” 

It was also reported that some water was seen inside of the hole, which Mauney-Brodek said might have something to do with the adjacent Muddy River, but she doesn’t “want to hypothesize,” as not much is known yet.

“The team at Emerald Necklace Conservancy think that this is a result of some problem with water running through the soil (we got a lot of rain before this appeared) and through a flaw in the structures underground,” according to a spokesperson for the Emerald Necklace Conservancy.

She said with the Muddy River recently receiving a D- rating from the Environmental Protection Agency and now this sinkhole, it’s becoming increasingly more evident that “this part of the park and part of the Emerald Necklace” need to be addressed and “can use our energies and attention now.”

The Emerald Necklace Conservancy, along with the Charlesgate Alliance, the DCR, and other organizations, has been working on a comprehensive revitalization plan for Charlesgate Park that would create user friendly spaces like a playground and dog park as well as help better manage the park from an ecological standpoint, including habitat and stormwater management, as the Muddy River connects to the Charles River

She said as part of this kind of project, things like borings and checking to see if different areas of the park are stable are standard and this sinkhole might help them learn something about the park and how to move forward with the redesign.

“We need to make sure this doesn’t happen down the road,” Mauney-Brodek said, as a goal of the Muddy River is to “safely handle the flow of water and stormwater.”

She said that it is unlikely that the sinkhole is a well, because “this never had housing or building on this precise area,” and “at first quick glance, we did not see utility lines or anything like that.”

She added, “I do think nature sometimes doesn’t always like being reshaped,” as this area has morphed over the years and was made by Frederick Law Olmsted around 1880, according to the Emerald Necklace Conservancy.

She said to stabilize the riverbank, it’s important to properly plant and maintain the river’s edge and surrounding area so the “soil can be helped and hold nutrients. These are kinds of things we’re trying to do up and down the Emerald Necklace—this is why you do them,” she said.

The area surrounding the sinkhole did have some plantings and a tree has fallen into the hole, so “this area was not completely barren,” she said.

The DCR is still investigating the cause of the sinkhole, so not much information is available yet. “The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is aware of a sink hole in Charlesgate Park in the City of Boston. At this time, the agency has blocked off the area, is investigating and does not have any additional information,” a spokesperson for the DCR told the Sun

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