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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.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. James, I read this entry when you first posted it in July 2011 while I was in Afghanistan. Since I read this, I had been dying to go and see for myself. At the time you posted, this was the only reference I was able to find on the internet for such a thing! So finally, last November, I was able to make my way out there. It pretty much looks the same now as it does in these pictures, though when I went there was no growth around the platforms and the water levels were significantly lower.

    I plan on posting my own version of this venue late this week or early next week and, if it’s ok with you, I’d like to mention this entry and link to it. It would be good for you to see my entry as well, just to check the differences between when you went and November 2012 when I went, as I have very similar photos to what you have displayed above.

    It’s not often that I have to rely on others to provide me with ideas for the Quabbin, as the Quabbin does a great job of inspiring me entirely on its own. However, I do have to tip my hat to you on this one for introducing me to this incredible location, hiding in plain sight! Thanks

    March 27, 2013
  2. Hi,
    Thanks so much, yes by all means. It is an amazing artifact isn’t it? I look forward to seeing your imagery and will check.

    March 30, 2013
  3. Jim #

    James, I would to go see this site , how do I get there

    August 1, 2015
    • Hi

      It is inside the Quabbin Park, if you enter the Park at the entrance closest to Ware it is perhaps a mile or so on the right, Gate 52. It’s a rather short walk in and on your right.

      August 3, 2015

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