Thursday, April 12, 2012

Help us save Rockport's Green Jewel!

A Walk Through Millbrook Meadow
 and Around the Pond

Millbrook Meadow April 5th, 2012

            John Sparks and I asked Joe Parisi, Rockport’s Director of Public Works, to take a walk with us around Millbrook Meadow to start the process of putting together a plan for saving the Meadow.
            Each time the Mill Pond has flooded over the dam in recent years, the Meadow has been covered with water, and it drains very slowly.  The Mill Brook carries water from all over the Millbrook Watershed down, beside the MBTA Station and all the other businesses on Railroad Avenue, into the weed-choked pond, and finally out to Front Beach.  That brook is a snaggle-toothed mess.
Rocks lining Mill Brook are all jumbled near Beach Street.

            On Thursday, April 5th we met Joe for the tour.  Alice Segel, chairwoman of the Millbrook Meadow Committee, joined us. 
            Alice, who has been chairwoman of the Committee since 1998, stepped down a few days later, and Sam Coulbourn is interim chairman.  Alice has been a very devoted steward of our Meadow and we deeply appreciate all her years of service.
            John is chairman of an ad-hoc committee that we have formed to connect up the many people who would like to save our Meadow, the Mill Pond, and the whole watershed upstream.  He represents the Rockport Garden Club, and has already done a tremendous job of mapping out a plan for studying the next steps in saving the Meadow.  Alice and I represent the Millbrook Meadow Committee.

Millbrook Meadow after flood of 2006
            Mill Brook:  The brook that has carried water through the Meadow for over three centuries, and which at first formed the boundary between the first two families of Rockport, the Tarrs and the Pooles, has fallen on hard times.  Stones placed along much of its banks are displaced, some have fallen into the stream, and parts of the bank beside the stream have eroded. The south side of the brook bank needs to be built up. 
            Alice proposed aggressive repair to the Mill Brook that would include structures to create whirlpools to facilitate movement upstream of alewives and eels.  We’ll need to look into this more.  She also notes that the Garden Club is engaged in a project to cut back and eliminate the heavy growth of invasive Knotweed along the brook. 

            Meadow Ground:  We will need to have a soils expert examine the meadow as to its ability to handle sheet flow water runoff, and absorb water.  Will we need to modify the contour, or grade of the land?  Will we need to add fill soil?  Of course this will all have to be part of the permitting process.

            Dam:  Rebuilding of the Mill Dam will start after July 1, 2012; cannot start before then because that would interfere with spawning of alewives and eels. Construction should take about six months.  The new dam will be of reinforced cement, faced with old granite to resemble the dam before it blew out. Bruce Johnson, a local stonework contractor has a subcontract to do the facing work.
            Joe says that the contractor will use as much of the existing granite in the dam as possible.

            Frog Pond:  Joe says that DPW has permission and funding to clean out the Frog Pond, and will scoop out debris and invasive plant life as part of the dam construction project.

            Mill Pond:  We toured the       northwest bank of the pond, walking through the thick undergrowth that lines the pond.  We viewed the heavy plant life that has grown up in the pond in recent years, threatening to turn it into a bog.  There is no active plan nor any funding to dredge the pond, but we will keep on trying to put this forward as an important Town project.  Joe noted that he was interested in the plan that Karl Norwood, an abutter, showed him a year or so ago.  Karl, who resides in New Hampshire, took part in a pond clearing project in Bedford, NH and had some drawings and experience to share.  
Joe Parisi, Alice Segel and John Sparks view the weed-clogged Mill Pond

            Joe also noted that several local environmentalists would prefer to see the dam removed and allow nature to shape the meandering stream carrying the water from the upper watershed down to Millbrook Meadow. 
            Many of us, however, think that the pond is too much a part of the beauty of Rockport to be abandoned.  Moreover, from the days in the early 1700s when it was the main power source for mills, it has also been a year round source of enjoyment for Rockporters, who skate here in winter and fish here in spring, fall and summer.

Mill Pond June 29, 2001

What YOU can do:  We need volunteers now to help us bring Millbrook Meadow, the Mill Pond, and the whole Millbrook Watershed back to the robust life many remember from just a few years ago.
          Step one:  Come down to the Meadow on Saturday, April 21 for a big Earth Day Cleanup. We’ll work from 8 to 11 a.m. Bring a rake, shears, clippers or loppers. 
          Step two:  We need members in Millbrook Meadow Committee.  If you’d like to be a part of helping us protect this Green Jewel right in the heart of Rockport, join us!
          Step three:  We’re forming a Rockport Millbrook Watershed Conservancy, to help gather the brainpower and the energy to preserve and protect our Meadow and our Pond.  We can use your knowledge of plant life, animal life, land, water and rocks; or your eagerness to learn about how we can all help to protect this wonderful resource.
Contact us, to volunteer for anything, or everything!

Sam Coulbourn,                                       John Sparks,
Interim Chairman,                                     Garden Club                
Millbrook Meadow Committee                 978-546-9098

P.S.: If you have already volunteered, we thank you, and will keep you informed.

Overhead view of Millbrook Meadow and Mill Pond from Google Maps©

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