Time for a Mill Pond decision

Time for a Mill Pond decision

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To the Editor:

The Great West Tisbury Mill Pond Debate continues: Pond or No Pond.  At West Tisbury’s annual town meeting, Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 7 pm at the West Tisbury School Gym, there will be a warrant article asking the town to vote to use $30,000 of Community Preservation Act funds for design and permitting costs to dredge the Mill Pond. The exact wording of the article is still under discussion, but if you want to the see the town move in the direction of preserving our historic, scenic and much enjoyed Mill Pond, you need to mark your calendars and plan to attend.

I am a member of West Tisbury’s Mill Pond Committee, and I urge all West Tisbury voters to read the two studies of the Mill Pond which the Town has paid nearly $30,000 to have done.  You can find both of these studies on the West Tisbury town website: http://www.westtisbury-ma.gov (type in the search box: Final Report Mill Pond Study, and then click Search).  You can then read the entire Final Report Engineering and Environment Studies for the Mill Pond by the ESS Engineering Group in 2012.  You can also find the Mill Pond Baseline Assessment and Management Plan at the bottom of the Conservation Commission’s Department.

If you don’t have a ton of time or patience, at least read their introductions and summaries of recommendations. If you don’t have a computer, you can go to the town hall and ask to see the studies. You will see that if West Tisbury wishes to preserve its historic Mill Pond, dredging to some degree is the recommended long-term management plan. The pond has been partially dredged twice (1950 and 1970) since the town accepted it as a gift in 1948.  Nothing beyond some volunteered hand pulling of weeds by Kent Healy has been done to the pond since 1970. Forty-four years is a long time, but the pond began to show signs of distress in 2002.

The studies will tell you that the pond is in an advanced stage of eutrophication, meaning it is full of enriched sediment which encourages the growth of vegetation; a process which will only intensify if some of that sediment is not removed. We know from historic pictures, that the pond is capable of becoming completely covered with vegetation. The Mill Pond Committee recommends a simple dredging of the pond, estimated to cost $160,000, if the sediment removed can be used by farmers and gardeners. While the design and permitting for dredging are being done, a study of the Mill Brook Watershed may also be done, which should help find ways to prolong the life of the freshly dredged pond. All of this will take a year or more to accomplish.

So, the time has come for the voters of West Tisbury to make a decision, pond or no pond. A group of citizens has already raised $20,000 in pledges, but they will not collect those pledges until the town makes a commitment to move in the direction of preserving the pond. They will then also continue to raise funds for the actual dredging. This is what the article asking for CPC funds for design and permitting to dredge the pond is all about. Please read the studies, and come to the town meeting to vote your informed decision.  See you April 8.

Anna Alley

West Tisbury

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  1. Thank you to Kent, Bob, Anna and the Mill Pond Study Committee for obtaining useful information for our town voters to review and understand this issue in depth. The historical legacy of the Mill Pond is tied to the precedent and function of the town of West Tisbury in its regional context to the other towns of Martha’s Vineyard. Since the 1600’s, Takemmy, part of the township of Tisbury and later, in 1892, incorporated into West Tisbury, provided the vital water power to grind grains, and was part of a water/dam system that extended all the way to Chilmark. There are several ponds that continue upstream from Mill Pond in West Tisbury. Mill Pond is the most widely recognized historical feature of the town and provides aesthetic, historical, environmental, recreational and other benefits that ESS has carefully and scientifically analyzed in their report. I encourage every voter to read the report and see just how detailed their analysis provides useful information that recommends the best possible (in my opinion) use of Mill Pond and the necessary dredging to restore this historic and priceless venue, indeed-Mill Pond welcomes everyone to our town and should forever remain etched in our memories as it has for nearly 325 years.

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