By Seth Daniel
National Grid and the Boston Parks Department worked out a plan more than two weeks ago to shut off the highly utilized Blackstone Square Fountain, but neighbors say no one told them about the plan –and the result was a stinky mess as the water sat stagnant for the entire time.
That’s something, however, the Parks Department disagrees with, saying they may not have communicated things that well, but certainly didn’t leave the water in a dangerous condition.
“It was a complete oversight by the Parks Department,” said Toni Crothall of the Friends of Blackstone/Franklin Squares. “The water stayed in there and was completely rancid and stinking and disgusting. It was unfortunate that it lasted two weeks, but the positive thing is it was a victory for community activism. Everyone rallied to get this fixes as soon as possible. Randi Lathrop was the spark that got it done I believe, but I was very pleased so many people cared enough to make phone calls and send out the 3-1-1 reports. That was very encouraging.”
Ryan Woods, a spokesman for the Parks Department, said the situation arose around July 6 when Eversource needed to turn off the electricity that powered the fountain for repair work.
“We found out on July 6,” he said. “It was not a parks issue, but an Eversource issue where they needed to a fix on the street…There was no power and the drain requires electricity so it couldn’t be drained property. The construction crew was treating the water with bromine two times a week. It was being treated so it really wasn’t a hot bed of bacteria.”
He said the fountain was fixed by 3 p.m. last Thursday, and was working as normal by last Friday morning.
“I think what really elevated it was a lot of discussion on social media and Twitter about it,” he said. “That kind of put everyone on edge.”
One “edge” to that discussion was the common refrain of the “dog-people” versus the “non-dog people.” Dogs frequently immerse themselves in the fountain and many dog owners use the park heavily – something that Crothall said has served to activate the park over the years and chase away the negative elements.
Folks who don’t have dogs don’t particularly care for how many dogs are off-leash and frequently in the fountain.
With that, and the stagnant conditions of the water, it quickly spread that it was the dogs that had killed the fountain.
That wasn’t true, Woods said, but they have had to shut the fountain off to clear out dog hair in the past.
“We don’t have staff to come down to make sure that dogs stay out of the fountain each and every day,” he said.
Crothall said that larger argument falls on the dog owners, and she said a new effort to promote responsible dog stewardship in the park has really taken off this summer.
A Facebook page and a social group has formed and they have compiled a Code of Conduct. She said that is the first step to making sure that the park is used correctly by all residents.