GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 1, 2013

Millbrook plans get upgrade, $350K boost

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — Millbrook Meadow and the accompanying pond and dam are not only looking better, but now officials looking to tackle infrastructure problems and deal with invasive species — have even more state money to make things even better.

The town is calling for proposals to quell some common problems in the meadow, like flooding in the winter, while also figuring out how best to handle the brook itself, as large slabs of stone leave water trickling out of the meadow.

The proposal request cites “exceedingly poor drainage, (and) unstable and collapsing waterway retaining walls,” as just some of the issues affecting the area.

The study would address those problems and others; including the invasive Japanese Knotweed which has soaked up land around the pond and near the brook.

”You can’t just throw it out with the rest of the trash,” said Sam Coulbourn, who heads the Millbrook Meadow Committee.

The invasive species has particularly deep roots and can travel well. While some say the bamboo looking plant has a hint of apple taste, Coulbourn compared it closer to celery.

Coulbourn said animals in Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo will enjoy the weed more, as more of it is set to be cut down today and will feed animals there.

Nancy Blue and Laura Hallowell head the Invasive Plant Team of the Garden Club as co-chairs and helped organize the eradication and removal of a large section of knotweed surrounding the pond.

In April, voters backed a $60,000 allocation to the Millbrook Meadow Committee, the group also received a $60,000 gift from a trust and is seeking an additional $120,000 in Community Preservation Act funding at the fall town meeting.

“We’re going to be getting input from the experts,” Coulbourn said Wednesday.

The site has gone through many changes — and funding efforts — since the dam’s destruction after the Mothers Day Storm in 2006.

Karen Houston, who lives next to the pond, said the area was well populated with local fauna before the dam collapse, but since the pond has become so shallow and overgrown, only a few snapping turtles remain.

The dam was stabilized with a $30,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service after the breach; with a grass roots effort by King Street residents and other Rockporters meeting with officials from the Rockport Department of Public Works to get a grasp on how much a project would cost and how it would be funded.

Meanwhile, legislators from both sides of the aisle fought for funding, too.

State Senate Minority leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, as well as state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, D-Gloucester, worked to secure federal funding in 2012 as part of the $42.2 million supplemental budget that was enacted by the Legislature. But Gov. Deval Patrick vetoed the allocation.

The funding involved the Federal Emergency Management Agency taking on 75 per cent of the cost while the state picked up the rest, about $350,000. The state legislature did not have enough time to override the veto in 2012, so it was presented again this year, again passing both the House and the Senate, and this time it held up.

Patrick struck the allocation from the supplemental budget bill earlier this year, and the two legislators issued a letter to Senate President Sen. Therese Murray and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo earlier this month, urging the expedition of the override vote to secure the $350,000 for Rockport.

“The problem arose when the state bond that funded the damage repair costs that were incurred due to the flood event was closed out,” the letter reads.

When asked why Rockport did not receive funding, Tarr said, “We’ve asked that question repeatedly and never got an answer.”

This time, Tarr and Ferrante were successful; both branches unanimously passed an override vote last week to secure the money for Rockport.

“I’m pleased,” Ferrante said, “that the legislature overrode the Governor’s veto and provided this important infrastructure money to the town of Rockport.”

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.