Muddying the Mill Pond issue


To the Editor:

West Tisbury’s historic Mill Pond, on the Mill Brook, has been the subject of considerable attention going on five years now. The scenic pond, at one of the gateways to the town, has existed since the 17th Century, and is in the heart of West Tisbury’s historic district. Together with several surviving structures in the area, it has endured over 300 years of increasing human activity and development and been rejuvenated many times by having its accumulated sediment removed, most recently around 1970.

In 2008, at my instigation, the selectmen appointed a committee to make recommendations on what to do now that the pond had once again silted in, and with emergent plants narrowing the open water area in the shallower shoreline zones. That hard-working, and to some degree long-suffering, committee recommended almost unanimously that much of the accumulated sediment be removed again, as has happened many times in the past, essentially saying that the pond should be restored and preserved for future generations to enjoy, as so many already have.

West Tisbury’s 2010 annual town meeting agreed that the pond should be preserved, saying so specifically in a warrant article, and the 2012 annual meeting authorized the solicitation of grant money to pay for the removal of the sediment.

It is, therefore, more than a little surprising, given these clear directions from two town meetings, that now the discussion of what to do to preserve the pond has taken a back seat to a new discussion, championed by the conservation commission’s Prudy Burt. Suddenly the discussion is shifting to whether or not the pond should be destroyed by removing the dam.

Until such a time as the town meeting changes its collective mind, I, as a selectman, feel obligated to respect the expressed wishes of the town meeting and not give either tacit or explicit approval to a completely opposite course of action. With my two colleagues voting to sponsor a so-called informational meeting on alternatives for the Mill Pond they have reopened a question that would seem to have been settled by both the Mill Pond Committee and the town meeting. I fail to see how showcasing a viewpoint contrary to the town meetings’ wishes by the selectmen is appropriate.

However, I have no problem whatsoever if Prudy or anyone else wishes to campaign on this or any other town issue by holding their own meetings or placing petition articles on the town meeting warrant. That is everyone’s right, and I encourage it.

The January 30 meeting, however, with the imprimatur of the board of selectmen (despite my dissenting vote), by inference lends credence to a course of action — the destruction of the pond — that has already been rejected by West Tisbury’s voters. And that is unfortunate.

Richard R. Knabel


West Tisbury