To the editor:
On May 15, 2006, Mill Brook in Rockport overtopped the dam in Millbrook Park, causing a small portion of its front face to collapse. This seemingly minor event led to a second flood, but this time it was money. It was decided to replace the historic dam at a cost of $1.3 million. A temporary repair of the breach was undertaken shortly after the flood at a cost of $30,000. Permanent repairs could have been done in a way to make the dam more flood resistant at a far lower cost. The replacement dam was completed in 2012 with $1 million from FEMA and about $300,000 from the town.
Currently, more than $1.6 million more, and counting, has been spent on dredging the pond, and “restoring” the meadow below. This has been paid for by a mix of donations and the town. The option to simply allow the pond to fill in was never considered. Nor was the possibility of draining the pond and turning the dam into a bridge considered. Though the restoration was theoretically completed in 2019, plantings and maintenance continue. With thousands of plants added, the need for watering and the cost of maintenance has escalated. The reconfiguration of the brook from a straight channel to a meandering one is an unquestioned improvement aesthetically and environmentally.
Currently the Millbrook Meadow Committee is proposing that lights be added to the dam and is requesting $37,000 from the Community Preservation Act Committee. Since the park is closed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., the need for this lighting is minimal at best. It would be more reasonable and far less expensive to simply close the park from dusk to dawn and post signs at the park entrances. Does the town really want to encourage more traffic in the park after dark? If safety is the concern, why then is a far more treacherous set of steps leading to the meadow from King Street not considered for lighting? Or the steep hill on Mill Lane? Perhaps the motivation is more one of decoration than safety. At what point do the Millbrook Meadow Committee and Conservancy decide the restoration is complete? They have worked hard and accomplished a lot, however, it is time to gear down and allow the park to age in peace.