Friday, March 29, 2013

A Vision for Rockport

A Vision for Rockport’s
Green Jewel

 Millbrook Meadow – Imagining its Future by Ken Knowles

            Sixty Rockporters gathered at the Town Library recently to imagine the future for the parkland and pond that sit right in the middle of downtown. 
            Rockporters have skated on the Mill Pond for centuries, and they’ve walked and played in Millbrook Meadow for 75 years.
            It’s been a blessed refuge for townspeople—the green, grassy Meadow and the blissful blue water of the Pond.  We’ve had Maypole dances, fairs, weddings there.  We’ve had library reading hours for kids from all over the North Shore.  Our large Scandinavian community has gathered at Midsummer each year to celebrate in Old World style. 
            Kids have hauled fish out of the Pond, and skated all over it, from Henderson Court to the Dam.
            Then, at Mother’s Day of 2006 the rains came, and it rained and rained for days, and the old dam, first built in 1702, blew out.  The deluge poured out of the Pond and flooded the Meadow and Beach Street beyond. 
            It took nearly seven years to get federal, state and local approval, funding and plans lined up to rebuild the dam, but in July 2012 construction began on a new dam, and in January, 2013 we had a nice new dam.

New Dam for the Mill Pond

            In order to build the new dam, they lowered the water in the Pond until it was nearly dry, and they ripped up nearly half of our beautiful Meadow for all the piles of stones and heavy equipment. 
            This all demonstrated to Rockporters a fact that has been hard to swallow.  Our beautiful Meadow  needs some serious help. 
            The granite blocks that line our Mill Brook are all strewn about, so that the water often floods its banks and turns the Meadow into a soggy mess.

Here, ducks swim where children used to play.

            Over a year ago, John Sparks, a landscape architect and member of the Rockport Garden Club, started to gather people to work on a plan to Restore the Meadow.  We started to gather a group of interested volunteers, and joined forces with a very willing ally, Joe Parisi, Director of Public Works.
            Several people had been working for years to move the reconstruction of the dam forward, and they joined the group, as the Millbrook Meadow Committee expanded to tackle this project. 
            We have a basic plan.  We need to raise the money to hire a skilled design team to dig and prod and measure the Meadow and the Pond, to find out more about the soil, the subsoil, the sediment in the pond, the plantings in the Meadow, in the Pond, and around its edges, and design an improved drainage system for the Meadow, an improved water course for the Mill Brook, and to dredge and re-shape the banks of the Pond.
            We began by requesting $60,000 from a trust fund established for just this kind of thing.  Lura Hall Phillips was the feisty activist who saved this Meadow 62 years ago, when it had gotten so disused that the town leaders decided to pave it and turn it into a parking lot.
Lura knew that it had been given to the Town 13 years before, with the stipulation that it always be a greenspace, so she found a willing local attorney and gathered support from townspeople, and went to battle with the selectmen. 
            When Lura died in 1994, she left money in a trust for the Meadow. 
            Now, her money will be the seed money to get the Restoration project started.  Millbrook Meadow Committee, which now includes John Sparks, has joined with the Department of Public Works to request funds from the Community Preservation Fund, and at Town Meeting on April 6th, we’ll ask the Town for another $60,000. 

            This Meadow and Pond belong to the people of Rockport, and we felt it was time to gather them to hear their ideas about this Green Gem for Rockport, so Millbrook Meadow Committee organized a Visioning Session on March 20th
                        Gaynelle and Paul Weiss and Ken Knowles were invited to join to help with the event. Gaynelle, a veteran group facilitator, collaborated to develop the program. Rockport Artist Ken prepared visual illustrations which showed how the restored Meadow might look.  Paul Weiss prepared the visual display.   Barbara Sparks, Beverly Robbins, Charmaine Blanchard,  Shannon Mason, Maura Wadlinger, Marcia Lombardo and Ted Tarr  all helped prepare and conduct the session.

Skating on the Pond has always been popular.

Brainstorming the Past.  Facilitator Gaynelle invited attendees to share their memories, and recall features they liked and didn’t like. 

Yellow ducks—Council on Aging Duck Race, other such events.
Maypole Dance. Dancing and dressing for Maypole.
Blessing of Animals. (1)
Fishing, Feeding Ducks.. Turtles…(2)
Playground is the only one in town that pre-schoolers can use during school hours.
Teddy Bear Parade, including Pets and Hobbies Fairs.
Library Story Hour.
Easter Egg Hunt.
Rockport Garden Club’s Welcoming Garden.
Mike Parillo telling stories under the great willow.
Meadow as a spiritual, peaceful place—a place of beauty.
Girl Scouts crossing (the bridge) from Brownies.
Granite cracking demonstrations.
Playing on swings.
Pooh Sticks.

Pond:   What do you like about Mill Pond? What made it special? What has changed?

Pond used to be larger, no trees had fallen down into it. 
Would like to see Pond as it WAS.
Remember skating and fishing.
Skating – it was huge!  [This drew enormous response!]

Next came the real “Visioning”: Brainstorming the Future.  After we had finished our lists, we asked attendees to affix stickers to the items they thought were most important.  Everyone had four stickers to “vote” with.  Numbers in parentheses indicate what they thought was most important.  

Gardens and Plantings – What is needed to improve the Meadow and Pond?

Add trees! (6)
Arrange for individuals or groups to adopt trees.
Install the plant maze again—kids used to love that! (2)
Shade is important for usage.  (4)
Remove invasives and plant native plants immediately after removal. (10)
Like cattails to remain. 
Avoid poisons to remove invasive species.
Offer to consult:  Mary Mintz, professional gardener.
Offer to consult: Don Bishop, gardener.
Need native plants that can take flooding. (1)
Encourage butterflies.
Lot of tree work needs to be done. Public safety issue (1)
Volunteer knotweed removal—High school students? 
Dredge Frog Pond, deepen it, remove the bad plants. (2)
Major work needs to be done (2)
Caution about soil being brought in.  Ensure it is carefully tested, so that we don’t get lead or arsenic.
Soil fertility and compaction are issues!
Compost recommended.
Would like to see more garden beds, better results not using chemicals.
Include a lot of trees, lots of shade. (5)
Take away that “terrible brush”!
New, healthier willows would be a help.
Need mid-level shrubs, like red-twig dogwood. Native plants, like Viburnum. (3)
I like the wild roses. (3)
Use compost: Conduct demonstration using Millbrook Meadow compost.
Before restoration get a good inventory of existing plant life. (1)
Self help…. use volunteers!

           Gunilla Caulfield, Laura Hallowell and Judy Spurr “vote” their priorities.

Engineering and Architecture – What is needed?

Keep Rockport granite (retaining walls) in the Brook—don’t substitute concrete!  Traditional—the way it was once built. (4)
Brook could be serpentine.  Channel does not have to be exactly the same straight run.  Allow access to North side. (1)
Preserve open space! (11)
Work on creating a path to Pond through Henderson Court. (4)
Restore playground.  Make Playground safer for kids. (13)
Provide picnic tables next to playground. (3)
Provide climbing device for kids. (5)
Provide comfortable seating in the Meadow.
Ensure future design builds in ease of maintenance. (2)
Eliminate light trespass from parking lot lights.
Make area around swing sets safer—eliminate rocks. (1)
Provide baby swings (1)
Keep your eye on upstream sources of pollution. Look at the watershed!!
Fix Mill Brook channel. (11)
Fix problem of ocean backwash through culvert.  Fix problem of pipes running transversely through culvert. (15)
On ramp from Mill Lane to the Meadow, provide a handrail. (stair retaining wall is too low for safe use as handrail.)
Clean up the pond. Remove dead trees, sediment, etc.

                                      Attendees “vote” their priorities. Left to right, Mike 
                                      Anderson, Ted Tarr, Eleanor Hoy and Nancy Perkins

Nature and Ecology – What is needed? 

Need to test soil and water.
Attack invasives. (4)
Protect, aid eels and elvers. (5)
Remove trees. (1)
Fix Frog Pond. (1)
Provide layered plantings.

Events and Usage – What is needed?

Restore playground (age appropriate) (4)
Ensure open space for Frisbee and Whiffleball.
Library programs under trees. (2)

Ken Knowles addresses Rockporters at Visioning Session

Top Priorities: 

Fix problem of ocean backwash through culvert.  Fix problem of pipes running transversely through culvert. (15)
Restore playground.  Make Playground safer for kids. (13)
Preserve open space! (11)
Remove invasives and plant native plants immediately. (10)
Restore Skating all over the pond, like the old days. (14)

            We ask Rockporters to come to Town Meeting on Saturday, April 6th and vote to support funding for restoration of Millbrook Meadow and Mill Pond  in the amount of $60,000.  (Article I). 


Samuel W. Coulbourn
Chairman, Millbrook Meadow Committee

Vision of how the Pond could be reshaped, and Meadow redesigned, by Ken Knowles.