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GREAT POND

          Many home owners on lakes have tried to make their lake/pond/reservoir private without due process.  We have had reports of intimidation and even threats that have no basis.  It is important that we all understand our rights and limitations within the law.  With the hard work of legislators, our commonwealth have made strides to keep our wealth in Massachusetts common to all.  In recent years The Board of Access and the Department of Fish and Game have made great strides in providing access to the general public to rivers and lakes.  These access points have been enhanced making their facilities friendly to all.  We at Massachusetts Paddler support their efforts and encourage any additions or enhancements that provide ALL people access to as much of our waterways as is safe and reasonable.  At the same time, there will always be a place for private lakes and ponds.  This wonderful country of ours has room for ALL people.
            Great Ponds enjoy a special status under our laws.  Great Ponds are forever protected for all.  It is important that we all understand that there are hundreds of lakes and ponds throughout the state.  There are still lakes that have not been completely evaluated based on the definition of Great Pond.  The Great Ponds that are currently recognized by the state will have the Great Pond logo above to help you as you visit their page on this website.  The most current list in document form can be access by clicking the button below:
             In addition, we have provided below information from Massachusetts Law.   You may find the text below from The Massachusetts Lake and Pond Guide.  This may be more readable for a wider audience.  In addition, we have provided below information from Massachusetts Law. 
List of Great Ponds according to a 1996 Waterways Program Study   
Massachusetts Great Ponds

The following was taken from Page 20 of The Massachusetts Lake and Pond Guide - DCR 
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           Any project located in, on, over or under the water of a great pond is within the jurisdiction of Chapter 91. A great pond is defined as any pond or lake that contained more than 10 acres in its natural state. Ponds that once measured 10 or more acres in their natural state, but which are now smaller, are still considered great ponds.

Chapter 91
         Chapter 91 of the Massachusetts General Laws is the chief vehicle for regulating development activities in and around great ponds, rivers and the ocean.  Chapter 91 is based on the public trust doctrine, by which the Commonwealth holds these water bodies in trust for the benefit of the public.  Section 9.2 defines Great Ponds as waterbodies that are over 10 acres in their natural state, as calculated based on the surface area of lands lying below the natural high water mark.  This includes water bodies that have been artificially enhanced by dams or other methods.  The title to such lands is held by the Commonwealth, in trust to the public, subject to any rights which the applicant demonstrates have been granted by the Commonwealth.  Department of Environmental Protection shall assume that any pond presently larger then ten acres is a Great Pond unless the applicant presents topographic, historic or other information demonstrating that the original size of the pond was less than ten acres, prior to any alteration by damming or other human activity.

The Massachusetts Lake and Pond Guide
The 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
​​ GREAT POND

Section 45: Great ponds; public use; rules and regulations

Section 45. Except as otherwise provided in this section and elsewhere in this chapter, every great pond not actively being used as a source of water supply of any town, water supply or fire district or public institution, and not subject to the provisions of section one hundred and sixty of chapter one hundred and eleven, shall be public for the purpose of hunting or boating thereon and shall, notwithstanding the provisions of any special law relating to fisheries in any particular place, be open to all inhabitants of the commonwealth for fishing purposes; provided that any city or town in which the whole or any portion of any great pond not exceeding five hundred acres in extent is situated may, as to so much thereof, as is located within its boundaries, make and enforce rules and regulations relative to hunting, fishing and boating thereon. Any such rule and regulation relative to boating may include, on all or any portion of said pond, for all or any portion of the year, any of the following: a speed limit, a limit on engine horsepower, a prohibition of the use of internal combustion engines, a ban on water skiing and other high speed uses and a limitation of such uses to certain areas and certain times. Any such rules or regulations shall, to the extent that they authorize hunting or fishing or, both, be subject to the approval of the director, and to the extent that they authorize any other use thereof, be subject to the approval of the commissioner of environmental protection or to the extent that they impose restrictions upon the speed limit, a limitation on engine horsepower, a prohibition of the use of internal combustion engines, a ban on water skiing and other high speed uses, and a limitation of such uses to certain areas and certain times, be subject to the approval of the director of law enforcement. All persons shall be allowed reasonable means of access to such ponds for the purposes aforesaid.
       Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section and section thirty-nine B of chapter ninety, any city or town in which is situated the whole or any portion of any great pond, as defined by section one, may, as to so much thereof which is located within its boundaries, make and enforce rules and regulations relative to the use and operation of aircraft equipped with floats or other means of transportation on water; provided, however, that such regulations, ordinances, or by-laws providing for such use and operation shall first be approved by the Massachusetts aeronautics division.

Section 46. The department of environmental protection shall, upon the request and at the expense of any person claiming to be interested in a pond, cause a measurement thereof to be made which shall be recorded in the office of the clerk of each city and town within the limits of which any part of such pond is situated; and no arm or branch shall be included as a part of such pond unless such arm or branch is at least fifty feet in width and normally one foot in depth.
The 190th General Court - Section 45