West Tisbury receives town hall landscape plans
In a brief ceremony at their September 14 meeting, the West Tisbury selectmen and Ernest Mendenhall, chairman of the town hall building committee, received copies of a plan for landscaping the renovated town hall. At last month's Agricultural Society Fair, the plan won the Garden Club's open competition for landscaping at an actual public location on the Island. The prize was won by Sarah Johnson, daughter of Richard Johnson, executive director of the Sheriff's Meadow Foundation, and Debra Swanson. Ms. Johnson, 12, is a student at the West Tisbury School.
Only one citizen showed up to comment on the proposed bylaw for administering the funds generated by the Community Preservation Act (CPA). Dan Culkin, former chairman of the affordable housing committee, wanted to be sure that the selectmen remembered that, in his opinion, most voters voted for the CPA to promote affordable housing. The selectmen pointed out that the proportions for distributing funds among affordable housing, historic preservation, and open space will be recommended each year by the CPA committee to the voters at future town meetings.
Taking the low turnout as the absence of objections to their draft by-law, the selectmen scheduled a special town meeting for October 18 to vote on it and any other business which might arise in the meantime.
The selectmen are considering ways of revivifying the shoaling Mill Pond in West Tisbury. Photo by Diana Waring
The Mill Pond is dying
In other business, the selectmen discussed the deterioration of the Mill Pond in West Tisbury, a familiar town landmark. The pond is filling in with silt and becoming choked with weeds. Last month Phyllis Meras came to the selectmen's meeting to complain about the state of the pond, which she feels is worse than she can ever remember.
The Mill Pond's distress is the fate of all shallow ponds everywhere. Runoff from rains carries silt and other debris, much of which is trapped behind whatever obstruction created the pond in the first place, along with the phosphorus and nitrogen that promote plant growth. Left to itself, the life cycle of all of the man-made ponds on the Island is to change from a meadow or a swamp with a brook running through it, to a pond (behind a dam), to a marsh, and eventually to a meadow or a swamp with a brook running through it. The West Tisbury Mill Pond is more than 300 years old.
The process can't be stopped, but it can be kept back by periodic maintenance, and Ms. Meras told the selectmen that she remembers George Manter, father of the present chairman of selectmen, working to keep the Mill Pond as she would like to see it.
Prompted by Ms. Meras's complaint, the selectmen asked Bill Wilcox, water resources planner for the Martha's Vineyard Commission, to take a look at the Mill Pond. A preliminary report was summarized at the September 14 meeting of the board.
Mr. Wilcox concurs with Ms. Meras. He found one to three feet of soft sediment throughout most of the pond, thickest at the dam end. There is a shoal area in the north half of the pond, where plants are visible above the surface of the water. He also found filamentous green algae, an indication that the pond is overloaded with nutrients, and dense patches of pond weed. Mr. Wilcox speculates in his report that the excessive growth may be the result of this year's heavy spring rains and may be less visible in years with less rain.
For solutions, Mr. Wilcox has several suggestions, including weed harvest, dredging, application of herbicides, and nutrient input reduction. He also lists draining the pond in winter to expose the plants to winter cold, which he says would be the cheapest remedy, but might also endanger fish, frogs, and turtles.
Because the Mill Pond drains into other property and eventually into Tisbury Great Pond, all of the solutions would require permission from the West Tisbury conservation commission, permission George Manter wouldn't have needed in the years Ms. Meras remembers him working on the Mill Pond. Chairman Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter reported that Mr. Wilcox had told him that none of the remedies would be inexpensive.
Ms. Meras told The Times that she doesn't care how much fixing the Mill Pond would cost. It is a very high priority, she said, especially when compared with some other town expenses.