W hat should we do about Mill Pond?

The discussion presented last Saturday by Beth Lambert, the river restoration program coordinator for the commonwealth’s Division of Ecological Restoration offered a new perspective and other possibilities for us to consider. I want to thank Prudy Burt and the West Tisbury Library staff for hosting this talk. After listening, there appear to be more options available to the town that are worthy of discussion.

There are now more than two options for the town to consider regarding the future health of the river system, wetland and pond. Saturday’s discussion outlined a third approach that has many benefits not offered by the other options under consideration — which up until now have been either dredge or do nothing. The more important task at hand is for the town to consider, discuss and evaluate all facts and options before taking action. The more we discuss things the better the final outcome.

The previous study indicated the pond is shallow and healthy. There are several considerations for the town (so far) in evaluating what to do about the evolution of the pond and pond vegetation. Here are a few:

Dredging the pond would preserve its appearance and delay the natural desire of the system to return to a river and wetland. Ecologically this would preserve the monoculture of the pond and its pond-like appearance.

Do nothing and let nature take its course. There is no financial cost or apparent environmental health risk to the pond or town residents of this option.

On Saturday we learned the manmade, private dam systems that are prevalent throughout the commonwealth have outlived their purpose and prohibit the return of the complex river ecosystems that existed before the dams were built. We also learned that there is a pent-up natural ability of the land and river system to recreate the original state of the river, bordering wetlands and wetland vegetation. Pulling the plug or in a pond’s case removing the dam is all that’s required. Nature does the rest and does it fairly quickly. The cost to remove a dam varies from project to project as dams come in many sizes and are made with a wide array of materials. There are several grant programs offered by the commonwealth that fund river restoration. Is this another way to achieve open space preservation?

As with most things there are urgency and financial considerations. Where does a pond improvement initiative fit within the town’s overall capital needs and priorities? The library is well into the planning stages for a renovation and expansion. The police station is also in need of updating and expansion. We have seen the town can add capital debt as it retires debt and achieve these long-term capital improvements without incrementally taxing the taxpayers. Does the pond’s restoration — whatever the desired solution — deserve precedence over the other town services needs and does it deliver the desired benefits to all taxpayers?


Chuck Hodgkinson lives in West Tisbury.