Artillery Practice at Gate 52, the Quabbin Reservoir
I beg your pardon? Must be some mistake.
No, not really. In fact, during World War II the Reservoir (which was still in the process of filling) was used for a variety of forms of target practice. Gate 52 is actually inside Quabbin Park, just west of the Goodnough Dike. It’s a short walk from the Gate to the Reservoir itself but along the way, you will see platforms for, you guessed it, artillery.
Thankfully, the stewards of the Reservoir have seen fit to leave them be. Perhaps as a reminder. Your next question may then be, “is it wise to pump artillery shells into public drinking water?” Didn’t those things contain all sorts of chemicals? I don’t have enough details to respond to the question. J.R. Greene says the following in his wonderful book, Historic Quabbin Hikes. “The shells were fired into the flooding valley and their effectiveness (and the gunner’s accuracy) were checked. Many guns made at the Springfield Armory were tested here.” Here’s the powder house where ammunition and firing powder were stored. There was a war on, after all and I don’t say that sarcastically. The way we make decisions is influenced by a host of factors. And we’re always making trade offs.
The reality is that we know so much more about the vulnerabilities of the environment now than then. Lead for example was everywhere, particularly in paint. What we didn’t know is how easily children could be poisoned by that lead. Many were and some died. Policy leaders in governments at all levels have made it much more difficult for our children to be exposed to lead in the same way, thankfully, though the danger still exists. In this case, the Reservoir is so vast, that perhaps it could absorb whatever toxins might have been involved. I think the lesson here is that we need to be respectful of what we don’t know. Hubris is not indicated.
This is the end of the trail at Gate 52. Old State Rt. 109 which used to run from Belchertown through Enfield to Ware goes underwater here.