The Arlington Reservoir, located in Arlington Heights between Mass. Ave. and Summer Street, has long been a destination for local residents and visitors. Over its 150 years of use, the “Res” has evolved from a man-made means for water supply to a welcoming recreational oasis.
The reservoir’s extensive 65 acre area, half of which is in Lexington (although owned by Arlington), connects the Great Meadow of West Arlington/East Lexington with the Mystic Lakes and Mystic River via the extensive Mill Brook, which flows through the center of Arlington.
In the early 1870s, the growing town of Arlington was in need of a dependable water supply. An earlier effort to tap Spy Pond as a municipal water supply had been short lived. Despite objections from the town’s prosperous mill owners, the Arlington Reservoir was created by damming the nearby Munroe Brook. By 1896, the Reservoir’s water supply was deemed low quality for drinking and the town joined the Metropolitan District Commission Water Supply (MDCWS), which is linked to the Quabbin Reservoir. Water from the Arlington Reservoir was used for piping to fire hydrants, nearby greenhouses, and even to Spy Pond in an effort to raise its water levels.
Since that time, “The Res” has been a popular swimming destination and recreational space offering an area for non-motorized boating and trails for walking and cycling. In 1935, a beach area was developed, and in the 1970’s filters were added to create cleaner water for swimming. However, by the 1980’s, the water quality had diminished, and a separate swimming area was constructed with the addition of chlorination. Over time, concern grew regarding the longevity of the Reservoir’s dam, which is vital in preserving the well-being of the land and the safety of its visitors. In 2002, the deteriorating health of the dam was addressed with steel support sheets at the base. During the renovation, a bridge was built on the southeast side of the reservoir, near Hurd field. In 2006, emphasis was placed on planting new trees and plants around the beach area, and in 2010 a wildlife habitat garden was planted next to the bridge thanks to an anonymous donation.
In 2020, in consultation with engineering firm Weston & Sampson (which previously worked on the Robbins Farm Park renovations in South Arlington, the North Union Spray Park in East Arlington, and the Reservoir’s prior dam reconstruction project), a lengthy 3-phase renovation kicked off with the replacement of the bath house, as well as with changes to many recreational features.
The 15-year old playground was replaced with a captivating new play area, which includes swings, slides, and various climbing structures. Updates were also made to the snack bar, picnic pavilion, sports courts, water play area, and grass areas. Improvements were also made to the parking lot and boat ramp to offer guests a more enjoyable experience.
The water at the beach is fully chlorinated, with a ramp for people with disabilities, and certified lifeguards keep swimmers safe at all times. Additional focus was given to the 1.2 mile Reservoir Trail that loops around the water and extends to the Great Meadow Trail, a scenic 1.9 mile loop that is well-known for hiking, cross-country skiing, and wildlife observation.
Completion of the project was celebrated in June 2022 and efforts continue to remove invasive species such as water chestnuts to maintain the habitat garden, and to control erosion. The trail is a great place to walk (leashed) dogs, observe wildlife, or just enjoy a beautiful day. The path also connects conveniently to Hurd Field, which sits beside the Minuteman Bikeway and is in close proximity to Trader Joe’s and Starbucks.
The Res opens for the swimming season on June 17th, and closes on August 25th. Hours are 10am- 7pm. Day passes may be purchased at the gate (cash only) for anyone over age 1. Season passes are also available for residents and non-residents. Except for pre and post season maintenance, the park is open to the public approximately September – May in the off season.
This summer, be sure to stop by the Wednesday Afternoon Kids Events and Friday Night Concerts at Reservoir Beach! Grab your lawn chair and your dancing flip flops and come on down to the Res for some FREE fun performances the entire family can enjoy. Arlington Recreation will also be working with Arlington Brewing Company and local food trucks to provide the Friday night concert goers with the option for food and beverages during evening concerts.