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September 06. 2012 10:59PM

Mont Vernon pond officially renamed

MONT VERNON — The name of the pond at the foot of Grand Hill has now been officially changed by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names from Jew Pond to Carleton Pond, bringing an end to the controversy that erupted alongside a bloom of blue-green algae nearly two years ago.

It’s unclear when the tiny spring-fed pool was named Jew Pond, though local historians assume the name dates back to a brief period when Jewish businessmen owned the Grand Hotel, a summer retreat for city folk that has long-since burned down. But when cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae as it’s commonly known, was found in the pond in 2010, the town’s health officer, Richard Masters, discovered that the body of water most people called either “the pond” or “Carleton Pond” was actually named “Jew Pond.”

Masters launched an effort to have the name officially changed, suggesting Frog Pond instead, but met with resistance from the board of selectmen. However, as public comment increased — stirring controversy in the local and national media, as well as Jewish and other religious organizations, even some neo-Nazis — the question of whether to change the name was put to a vote at town meeting. Residents overwhelmingly voted to rename the pond. It took several more months to decide on a name, and in the end Carleton Pond was chosen in honor of the family that donated the surrounding park to the town.

But the name change still had to be approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, a federal board made up of representatives from several governmental agencies tasked with naming, and renaming, public lands.

Staff researcher Jennifer Runyon said the board was formed in the 1890s because folks were heading west, throwing names on rivers, lakes and mountains that had been previously named by earlier settlers. The growing confusion over what was what led to the creation of the board, which has the final say over every feature on the landscape.

Runyon said the board meets once a month to consider name changes, but doesn’t go looking for things to rename.

“We wait for them to come to us,” she said. “We don’t want to sit in D.C. and dictate what happens in Mont Vernon.”

With the Jew Pond issue, Runyon said the board didn’t act until Mont Vernon had reached a decision. Earlier this month, the board officially voted to accept Carleton Pond, and when the next round of Geological Survey maps come out, Jew Pond will be relegated to history.

Masters said he’s pleased with the board’s vote. Going forward, he’d like to create a kiosk at the pond that details the changes to the name of the pond over the years and explores the natural history of the area as well.

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Nancy Bean Foster may be reached at nfoster@newstote.com.


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