West Tisbury CPC recommends funding Mill Pond dredging

The Mill Pond in West Tisbury was serene Wednesday. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The West Tisbury Community Preservation Committee (CPC) voted unanimously last week to approve a request for $30,000 in community preservation act funds to partially fund the initial permitting and engineering stages of a project to dredge Mill Pond.

The dredging project is one of more than nine town and regional money requests the CPC has approved and which will be presented to voters for approval at annual town meeting on April 8, totaling $482,627.

The Mill Pond committee initially requested $50,000 to pay for all of the work. The committee reduced the amount to $30,000 when Anna Alley, Mill Pond committee representative, said $20,000 in pledges had been raised since the first of December by the Friends of the Mill Pond, a private group formed to support the dredging project. Ms. Alley said she thought that more money could be raised from private sources to help pay for the dredging.

The subject of Mill Pond has roiled town waters for several years. A dozen supporters of the dredging project attended the January 15 meeting at the Howes House. There was considerable discussion about a proposed Mill Brook watershed study, which the town voted to fund at the April, 2013 town meeting and which some thought should be completed prior to dredging. Selectman Richard Knabel said that no one bid on the request for proposals for the study because it was seen as being too indefinite and that work would have to be done to rewrite the proposal.

No one spoke against the dredging plan and there was no discussion of an alternate plan, championed by Prudy Burt, to remove the dam and allow the pond area to return to its natural state, something proponents of dam removal say would enhance the spawning habitat of native fish including herring, white perch, and eels and allow free passage of trout.

In a telephone conversation Monday, Ms. Burt said she was under the weather and unable to attend the CPC meeting but continues to believe that dredging the pond is not the best option.

“A watershed study, which the town has voted to undertake, must be completed before an informed decision can be made on Mill Pond’s future,” Ms. Burt said.

Also approved Wednesday was a request from the selectmen for $75,000 to replace the fencing around the town cemetery on State Road.

The CPC denied requests for a gravestone preservation project request and for funds to help restore the Martha’s Vineyard museum roof.

CPC chairman Peter Rodegast said that this is the first time that requests for CPC funds have exceeded the money available. “We received requests for more regional projects this time making the decisions a little harder to make,” he said.

In recent weeks the CPC approved to recommend: $30,000 for the Old Mill preservation project for roof repair; $12,000 for West Tisbury School ball field renovation; $50,000 for pre-development work on an affordable apartment building on a lot next to the Edgartown Road fire station; $65,000 for 14 Village Court affordable housing rental apartments; and $104,000 for the Dukes County regional housing authority rental assistance program. The following recommendations were passed for regional projects; $2,650 for Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society historical resource preservation; $25,000 for the Pennsylvania Avenue little league baseball field construction in Oak Bluffs; $80,738 for the Gay Head lighthouse restoration project; and $8,239 for Dukes County Courthouse electrical upgrades.

The CPC was established by the state Community Preservation Act to fund open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing and outdoor recreation from a tax on local real estate and matching state funds primarily from real estate deed recording fees collected by the state.