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Harvard Takes First Step Following Pond Drownings


Exactly 12 days after the drowning death of two small black children in Harvard's "Muddy Pond," administrative gears have swung into action to prevent a recurrence.

Edward S. Gruson, assistant to the President for Community Affairs, met yesterday afternoon with Boston Fire Commissioner James H. Kelly to discuss several proposed ways of minimizing the hazard to neighborhood children.

Gruson said yesterday that no specific proposal was adopted in the 45 minute meeting, but added. "We did succeed in getting the Department of Public Works to remove a lot of trash from their portion of the pond, thereby lowering the water level one foot."

According to Gruson, lowering the water level makes the pond less accessible to children. "There are a few locations where the increased area produced by more water gives the kids a few more places to get in," he said.

The proposed ways of dealing with the danger are to fill in the pond, to drain the pond, to construct a fence around the pond, or to radically alter the landscape around the pond. Gruson had no comment on the probability of any of these being adopted.

The two dead-Margaret and Clyde Johnson-were the children of Jamaica Plain welfare recipients Mr. and Mrs. James E. Johnson. They drowned on Saturday, May 15, when a makeshift raft on which they had been playing capsized. The pond, called a "death hole" by local residents, has been the site of at least one other drowning and numerous near-drownings.

Asked whether or not there was any definite procedure for the construction of a fence around Harvard's properties, Richard Howard, director of the Arnold Arboretum-which has responsibility for the maintenance of the pond area-declined comment. A fence had been constructed around approximately half of the pond property several years ago but most of that has either been stolen or knocked down, said Howard.

Gruson said that he will meet with the fire commissioner again next week to work out some plan of action for the pond. "But we haven't set a date yet," he added.

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