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Left: Lynn water tower posing next to its filtered and unfiltered contents at the Lynn Woods Reservation.
The Lynn Woods Reservation Map and Guide, published in 1999, states that at 2,200 acres, Lynn Woods Reservation is the 2nd largest municipal park in the country. This is a somewhat dubious claim, depending on what your definition of a "city" park is, and is belied by a search of "largest municipal parks" in Google.
Now that I've questioned it's credibility, the Guide also says that 30 miles of trail cross the Lynn Woods' area, and it occupies one-fifth of all the land in the city. One of the claims in the guide I can't question, however, is that Lynn Woods "represents a significant natural watershed and public recreational resource in eastern Massachusetts." Indeed, no swimming is allowed in any of the "ponds or reservoirs in the reservation as they are all used for Lynn's drinking water supply."
I pondered this fact as I hiked the mile or so from the Great Woods Road entrance to Overlook Crag, which yielded a spectacular view of the watershed. With no map in hand, I envisioned the hike as a straight line from point A to point B along a wide unpaved road. In fact, there are numerous narrow trails through forest understory that snake up and down rocky hills, cross babbling brooks and traverse mossyrocked peaks. See pictures of my journey.
The word "watershed" brings to my mind a valley shedding water from its higher points to its lowest. Water flows from hilltops, storm drains, brooks and rivers, rainfall, from many sources draining into one giant pond or stream. Nature has its own trickle down economy, and what we leave at the higher points of the watershed ultimately finds its way down to our drinking water source.
Lynn is located in what the state calls the North Coastal Watershed, which has a total drainage area of approximately 168 square miles. This watershed includes the Danvers, Essex, Saugus, Pines, and Annisquam Rivers. There are approximately 2,428 acres of lakes and ponds in the North Coastal watershed, and it encompasses all or part of 26 Massachusetts municipalities, supporting a population of approximately 500,000 people.
The US EPA sees things on a grander scale. The North Coastal Watershed is part of what they call the Charles Watershed.