HAVERHILL — If you're looking for a refreshing, outdoor get-away without having to leave the city, then consider the Plug Pond Recreation Area, which is now open for the summer.

With a sandy beach for lounging and cool, clean water for swimming, the city's only public beach is an appealing and popular summer destination.

The water is tested every Wednesday and the latest test, conducted last week, showed that it met or exceeded standards set by the Department of Public Health, said city Recreation Director Vincent Ouellette.

"It hasn't been very hot and we've had a lot of rain, but on Saturday, which was nice day, we saw a moderate crowd," he said. 

The area, which is for Haverhill residents only, opened last Friday and is in operation seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. until the last week of August.

Lifeguards are on duty during operating hours.

Plug Pond — the nickname for Lake Saltonstall, which is a spring-fed body of water — is not just for swimmers. Canoes and kayaks are allowed on the water, too.

For fishermen, the state stocked the lake with rainbow and brown trout in May, and previously stocked eastern brook trout and brown trout in April.

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. 

Free lunches funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are available weekdays between 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. to children 18 and younger. The lunches are prepared at Haverhill High School and served at the pavilion, where there are picnic tables.

"We might see as many as 75 children, depending on the weather," he said. "The meals range from cold and hot sandwiches to hot dogs and beans, pizza, hamburgers and other items." 

Ouellette said the city brings in three truckloads of beach sand to freshen up the beach each year. 

"And we installed a new 10-by-20 canopy on the beach, for residents and life guards," he said. "And we also have two big umbrellas." 

He said the pond is a haven for residents.

"It's clean, it's safe, and is a nice respite from the heat." he said.

Plug Pond Recreation Area

* Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. until the last week in August.

* Lifeguards on duty during operating hours.

Admission/parking is $2 per vehicle. Walk-ins enter free.

* Open to Haverhill residents only.

* Free lunch for children 18 and under served weekdays between 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.