On the day that the at Watertown Square officially opened, state and local dignitaries harkened back to the time before Colonists settled Watertown to illustrate the importance of the Charles River as a place for fishing and recreation.
Ed Lambert, commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, officially opened the new dock Friday afternoon. , with help of an $85,000 grant from FEMA.
The Native Americans living in the area depended on the river for food, and archaeological evidence has been found that one of their favorite fishing spots was just up the river near the Watertown Dam, Lambert said.
The Charles has always played an important role in the town's history, said State Rep. Jonathan Hecht, D-Watertown. For food, transportation and later industry. The river has not always fared well from those uses, but Hecht said the river is on the way back.
"There are periods where the river was neglected, and it was impacted in a negative way," Hecht said. "We are reclaiming the river and appreciate what the river means to the community."
Hecht thanked those who worked on replacing the dock. For more than two years, only wooden pilings poked out of the river in the spot near the bridge in Watertown Square. The original dock, installed in 1937, washed away in heavy storms in March 2010.
The dock was designed by CLE Engineering and constructed by Grove Construction.
Workers removed the fencing from the dock about a week before the ribbon cutting, and people flocked to it right away.
"I came down a couple nights this week and the dock was full," said Town Council President Mark Sideris. "It was wonderful."
A few children and their parents showed up for the ribbon cutting.
Karen Brown, who came down with her son Matthew, said she likes the dock and the other improvements along the river.
"It is great to see them cleaning up around here," Brown said.
State Sen. Will Brownsberger, D-Belmont, thanked Lambert and the DCR for the dock, and work to improve Daly Fields, across the river in Brighton - a project that will also include improvements on the Watertown side of the Charles.
Bob Airasian said he and his son came down to see the new dock and do some fishing.
"There was a group of four kids here fishing. My son caught two sunfish," Airasian said. "It was great!"