Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it a lake or a pond?

Although the Commonwealth calls it a “Great Pond”, geologically speaking, it is a “lake”, due to its annual cycle of temperature stratification.  A lake is defined as a body of water that forms stable layers of different temperature water in the summer; cold at the bottom, warm at the top.  In the fall, those layers “flip” and the cold water at the bottom rises to the top as the surface water cools.

  • What's with the two names?

The longstanding name of the body of water is Forge Pond, but in the 1950’s developers selling summer homes in the area decided that “Lake Matawanakee” sounded more appealing. They began using that name and it stuck.  It’s a “Lake so nice, they named it twice”.  

  • Is the lake in Westford or Littleton?

70% of the lake’s area is in Westford but 70% of the homes on the lake are in Littleton. Westford maintains a Town Beach and the State maintains a boat launch, so it is truly a shared resource.  

  • Is the lake natural, or man-made?

The natural lake is “enhanced” by the dam, which holds the level about six feet higher than it would be if there were no dam.  The dam was built in the 1800’s to provide a reliable water source for the mill.

  • Why was Friends of Forge Pond formed? 

Since the lake is shared by two towns, existing organizations and town governments could not address the lake’s problems without coordination.  The Friends of Forge Pond was formed allow the participation of all who have interest in the lake. 

  • What is 501(c)3 tax exempt status?

The numbers 501(c)3 refer to a specific section of the Internal Revenue code. It exempts approved charitable organizations from paying tax on their income.  This tax-exempt status allows your donation to Friends of Forge Pond to be claimed as a deduction on your income taxes.

  • Why are some weeds called invasive?

Some of the weeds in our lake come from other areas of the world.  In other words, they are not native to this area.  Since they didn't “grow up around here” they didn't become part of the natural competition for light and nutrients and so they have some advantages against the native plants and out-compete them.  They are uncontrolled by natural processes, so they become dominant, and a nuisance. Invasive species can become so "successful" that they fill the lake, killing the fish and other wildlife and making the lake unattractive for recreation (or even to look at!). 

  • What is an herbicide?

An herbicide is a chemical that kills plants, like the weed killer you use might on your lawn or garden.  Some can be selective, and kill only some plants and some can kill all the plants they touch. 

One common aquatic herbicide is called “Sonar” which is also the name of the “pinging” technology used by submarines and fish-finders so this can lead to some confusion.

  • What is a draw-down? 

When we talk of a draw-down  we are speaking about the practice of lowering the level of the lake in the fall, letting the exposed lakebed freeze during the winter, and then refilling the lake in the spring.  The roots of the invasive plants generally don’t tolerate freezing, so those plants die.  This is a good way to control most invasive populations.

  • Why do we need to raise more money?

For a number of years, several efforts have been made to improve the quality of the lake and many barriers have been met.  In the meantime, the problems with weeds and algae have continued to get worse.  Recent volunteer efforts to perform a draw-down have run into difficulties that require more engineering and perhaps construction at the dam.  These things can be funded through town, state and federal programs if they are well supported by data and if there is a properly governed organization to administer the funds.

  • Why don’t we use herbicide in Forge Pond?

Although herbicide use is not ruled out, the nature of our lake makes it a difficult option.  Most aquatic herbicides require a stable concentration of chemical in the water for 40 days or more.  The volume of water flowing through our lake (mostly from Beaver Brook and Gilson Brook) is higher than the flow through many lakes in the area, “flushing” the herbicide, so we would have to reapply the chemicals two or three times in a season.  For this reason, herbicide would be an expensive weed control option for Forge Pond.

Even if herbicide were not so expensive, it creates a difficult environmental imbalance. Herbicide treatment can also kill native plants, so if we apply annual treatments a few times and then stop them, the invasive species can take advantage of the reduced competition and come back stronger than ever.

  • Why can’t I throw some herbicide in front of my house?

This is a bad idea.  It is illegal for a number of good reasons.  First, it doesn’t work.  To be effective, most aquatic herbicides require whole-lake treatments.  If you just put it in front of your house, the chemical is quickly flushed away and the concentration in the water is not enough to significantly reduce your weeds.  Second, the chemicals are dangerous to health and the environment and (like many pesticides) can be legally handled only by licensed professionals.

New herbicides are being approved that are meant for “spot” application, but they still require licensed use. 

  • What is hydro-raking? 

Hydro-raking involves a tractor on a barge, which uses a large “rake” to dig up sediments and weeds in a shallow area.  The muck and weeds are put ashore and then disposed of.  This can help a limited area be more free of weeds for a season and has been a common practice here.  The trade off is that since the invasive plants spread by replanting cuttings of themselves, the many torn weed fragments that hydro-raking generates can be spread by the current and replanted elsewhere.  Our lake is pretty much already “infected” so this may not be as big an issue as in some places.

  • What is a trailer wash? 

Since these invasive weeds reproduce through replanting cuttings of themselves, a scrap of milfoil from our lake can travel on your boat trailer to a pristine lake in Maine and start a milfoil infection there.  There are several regions where invasive weeds have not yet taken hold, and it is our duty to make sure we don’t spread ours.  Many lakes have washing facilities at the boat launches to allow weeds to be washed off boat trailers before they are launched, and after they are taken from the water.

  • What is a weir?

A weir is usually a pile of stone or dirt, which acts as a dam.   The dam on our lake is mostly composed of a stone weir.  Looking at the dam, it looks as if there is a steel structure there, but that just supports a walkway over the weir. 

  • What is a sluiceway? 

A sluiceway is a channel of water that directs the flow somewhere and is usually controlled by gates (sluicegates).  There is a sluiceway with gates on one side of the dam on our lake, which channels water into Abbot Mill.  This water was once used to power the mill, but it is now used to heat and cool it. 

  • What is a culvert? 

A large, round pipe that carries water under a road is called a culvert.  There are two big culverts under the bridge at Beaver Brook, and there is one small culvert that allows water to flow around the weir at the lake’s outlet (Stony Brook).



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