By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — The city’s summer destination for sun and fun is now open for the summer. The Plug Pond recreational area and beach is ready to accommodate the expected crowds of youngsters and adults who flock there each year to swim, get a tan, have a picnic and simply enjoy beautiful summer days without the hassle of driving to the beach.
The city’s only public beach is now open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., said Vincent Ouellette, Haverhill’s human services director who oversees recreation. Lifeguards are on duty during operating hours, he said.
The pond water is tested weekly and the latest test showed that it met or exceeded standards set by the city’s Board of Health, Ouellette said.
The area is popular for many reasons, Ouellette said.
“It’s picturesque, the water is clean and clear and warm compared to the ocean, and parents feel it’s safe because their children are always in view,” Ouellette said. “And there is ample space for children to run around within the picnic area and along the edge of the pond, where some children enjoy catching minnows.”
Recreational vehicles with gas-powered motors are not allowed, which is a restriction that helps keep pollutants out of the water, as does the minimal number of homes that were built around the pond, Ouellette said.
Lake Saltonstall, known locally as Plug Pond, is fed by underground springs resulting in a clean lake, Ouellette said, noting that water quality is important, and so is keeping the shoreline, trails and parking area free of debris and trash.
In preparation for its June 20 opening, staff members along with DPW workers and community service workers provided through the trial court system worked for several weeks getting the area ready.
“We filled potholes on the road leading to the park, picked up leaves and debris along the fence line and throughout the park, mowed and swept the entire area, painted the bath house floor, upgraded all of the lighting in the bath house, repaired all broken benches and picnic tables and painted them, and we brought in about 20 tons of new sand, which allowed us to increase the width of the beach,” Ouellette said.
To add to the aesthetics of the area, workers spread mulch around the park’s benches and trees.
“This summer we plan to replace all of the bathroom stalls and are currently seeking quotes from vendors,” Ouellette said.
Families looking to have a cookout can bring their own propane grills, but they must be small and will be positioned by staff members for the safety of everyone.
Only Haverhill residents are allowed in and must show proof of residency to recreation staff members at the entrance. Parking costs $2 per vehicle. A season pass is $20. Walkers enter free.
In addition to its sandy beach — which is perfect for lounging — the lake offers recreational activities such as sailing, canoeing and fishing, although the city does not provide boating or fishing equipment.
The summer lunch program offered through Haverhill’s public schools is now in effect. Lunches are free and are offered weekdays to people 18 and younger.
Plug Pond beach
Open: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week
Lifeguards: On duty during operating hours
Haverhill residents only: Proof of residency required
Parking fee: $2 per vehicle
Restrictions: No alcoholic beverages, smoking or pets
Season passes: $20, available at the gate