Editorial: Still the Mill Pond

Editorial: Still the Mill Pond

Back to square one. West Tisbury selectman Richard Knabel said that’s where the town has got to in its search for a solution to the Mill Pond dilemma, if it is a dilemma. Apparently, $15,000 for another study of the lovely, shoal, artificial pond that graces one of the entrances to town is not sufficient. There may be an amount that will resolve the debate, but it is not yet apparent. Mr. Knabel said he would look for money somewhere in quantities sufficient to pay consulting firms to gather the facts.

Sometimes, municipal decision making, absent clear and specific proposals made by leaders to voters and despite all the facts that money can gather, can drag on, as has the question of the Mill Pond and Mill Brook above it, for years. It may be that time, as much as additional information, will be the key to an eventual decision. Like so many questions one confronts in this whirling, headlong world, there are virtues that adhere to the several choices that confront town voters. The preservation of a beloved miniature pondscape that is perfectly harmonious, perfectly distinctive, and perfectly West Tisbury is by itself a perfectly defensible position to take on the question.

The notion that significant ecological benefit might be gained by unharnessing Mill Brook and destroying the dam that creates the Mill Pond and later other dams along the brook’s way, reshaping the landscape through which the brook flows to Tisbury Great Pond and reclaiming its natural ability to support a variety of freshwater and anadromous species is, for altogether different reasons, compelling too.

It is likely that another study, no matter how competent and expensive its consultants may be, will not do the trick, will not turn what is an aesthetic, historic, sentimental issue into a practical ecological forward facing decision favoring the free passage of native water species that include herring, trout, eels, and white perch — in other words, a choice that town voters are prepared to make.

It may be that the question that ought to be put to voters now is whether they’d like the town to put aside the formal question of the Mill Pond for the time being. It may be that the case for action now, of whatever sort, has not been made. It may be that the time for decision has not arrived, though informal discussion will continue.

As has been argued in this space before, apart from the metrics of water flow, stream depths, aeration, species, and general environmental health — all of them important but none so far conclusive — it might be worth imagining what Mill Brook and what is now the Mill Pond and its immediate neighborhood might look like if the pond were dismantled. Would there be a marsh where the pond is today? Would the brook rush clamorously through a narrowed streambed bordered on each side by grassland where people might fish and picnic? If the pond, so pleasing to the eye, is lost, what will we see instead?

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