Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
I am not a resident of West Tisbury but I grew up in Lambert’s Cove. As a child I played with my cousins in their backyard, which basically was a field that sloped down to the Mill Pond.
I moved back to the Vineyard recently. A few weeks ago I read an article about the plans for the Mill Pond and the Mill Brook, which mentioned the possibility of dam removal and stream restoration. This would mean the end of the Mill Pond as we know it.
The thought of losing a beloved vista makes me sad, no matter the reason, especially a scene that has been familiar since my childhood. But I try to be environmentally aware, so I made an effort to inform myself on removal of the dam and possible restoration of some of the Mill Brook’s natural flow. I watched videos of the presentation and the meeting that took place at the West Tisbury Library and looked at some websites. I became more and more interested in the idea of removing the dam and less and less enthusiastic about the idea of dredging the pond.
As I watched the videos, a number of questions arose in my mind:
• Could the dredging activity itself damage the pond or the pond edge?
• If, as some speakers indicated, the silt in the pond and the Mill Brook’s other impoundments should not be allowed to go into the Great Pond, what is the reason for this? Does this mean that the impoundments and the pond are viewed effectively as septic settling tanks in the landscape to protect the Great Pond? Is this okay? Could the silt be allowed to flow into the Great Pond and then be flushed out to sea by opening the pond?
• Where would the dredged-up material be deposited?
• Some people appear to think that dredging the pond or, indeed, leaving it as is, is compatible with restoring fish runs. Yet the problem seems to be that the high temperatures in the pond water make these two agendas incompatible. Which is it? Clarification is needed here.
• My understanding is that the depth of the pond has changed little in recent years, and so dredging isn’t really necessary. True?
• I have heard that the boards holding the water back at the Mill Pond can be lifted easily and in fact have been lifted in the past, as a prank. True?
In view of these and other as yet unclarified issues, it seems to me that the precautionary principle should guide decision making: First, do no harm. Take no action at this time that cannot be reversed if desired.
It seems quite possible that the dam’s removal could actually end up providing, along with ecological benefits, greater aesthetic value and access for the public than the pond. The stream bank behind the Garden Club building is utterly charming and inviting and has always been one of my favorite hidden gems. Perhaps such areas could be expanded. The terrain could be managed to maintain a vista from the roadway and prevent the kind of impenetrable tangle that currently shrouds most of the Mill Brook from human eyes. The stream might flow through riparian meadows, where people can sit (possibly on boardwalk-type platforms, as in a saltmarsh), fish, and listen to the soothing sounds of a clear, flowing stream.
I personally would be eager to witness what happens if the boards are lifted and the water is allowed to run free for, say, a year or two. This seems to be a course of action with no downsides and only upsides. Not only would it be an interesting, dramatic event but it would also create an opportunity to observe and document a natural process, collect data, and educate both experts and citizens on issues relating to the Mill Brook, the Tisbury Great Pond and watersheds generally.
Katherine Scott, Vineyard Haven