Continuing our exploration of places to walk during the pandemic, we discovered the Mill Pond Conservation area in Burlington.
Tucked in behind neighborhoods and back roads is a reservoir used for the Town of Burlington’s drinking water, resting on the Wilmington and Woburn town lines. Mill Pond is a 140-acre protected space that is surrounded by woodlands. It was an unexpected find, showing up on Alltrails, a crowd-sourced trail walking site, and on Atlasquest, a letterboxing site.
The Town of Burlington has a detailed map on its web page which is useful for wandering on the many side trails. When we visited, people were trail running, mountain biking, walking dogs and just meandering.
We began our walk at Hansen Avenue in Burlington, parked in a quiet neighborhood near an access gate. Parking is permitted, but be respectful of the neighbor’s ability to get in and out of their driveways. Parking is also encouraged at the water treatment plant on Winter Street.
The trails are unimproved but well worn, with some variability in places due to roots or rocks. A loop trail around the reservoir is approximately two miles in length.
The pond, according to the Town of Burlington, is the most visited site in their network. It is the largest body of water in the community and was created through the construction of dams. Water from the Shawsheen River is pumped into the pond from five miles away in addition to its own naturally occurring watershed, according to the town’s Open Space and Recreation plan document.
The area is also known as a birding hotspot, and the town has a link to record sightings; https://ebird.org/hotspot/L3081341. Rainbow and brown trout are stocked at the reservoir, but only Burlington residents with a permit are allowed to fish. The area has a combination of woodlands, wetlands and vernal pools.
According to town history, Mill Pond was a pre-existing pond, though much smaller in size. As Burlington grew and the need for water increased, the pond was transformed into a man-made reservoir in the early 1970s. The pond reportedly had ice houses dotting the space where ice blocks were harvested for sale prior to the advent of the modern refrigerator.
There is more lore about the construction of the reservoir on the burlingtonretro.com website which may be of interest.
The walk at Mill Pond is a pleasant way to get in an early morning or late afternoon walk. Dogs on leash are permitted. And remember to socially distance and bring your mask should you encounter others along the trails.