The Great West Tisbury Mill Pond debate continues: pond or no pond. At West Tisbury’s annual town meeting on Tuesday, April 8, at the West Tisbury School gym, there will be a warrant article asking the town to vote to use $30,000 of Community Preservation Act funds for design and permitting costs to dredge the Mill Pond. The exact wording of the article is still under discussion, but if you want to the see the town move in the direction of preserving our historic, scenic and much-enjoyed Mill Pond, you need to mark your calendars and plan to attend.
I urge all West Tisbury voters to read the two studies of the Mill Pond, which the town has paid nearly $30,000 to have done. You can find both of these studies on the West Tisbury town website. You can read the entire final engineering report and environmental study by the ESS Engineering Group in 2012. You can also find the Mill Pond baseline assessment and management plan at the bottom of the conservation commission’s department.
If you don’t have a ton of time or patience, at least read their introductions and summaries of recommendations. If you don’t have a computer, you can go to the town hall and ask to see the studies. You will see that if West Tisbury wishes to preserve its historic Mill Pond, dredging to some degree is the recommended long-term management plan. The pond has been partially dredged twice (1950 and 1970) since the town accepted it as a gift in 1948. Nothing beyond some volunteered pulling of weeds by Kent Healy has been done to the pond since 1970.
Forty-four years is a long time, but the pond began to show signs of distress in 2002. The studies will tell you that the pond is in an advanced stage of eutrophication, meaning it is full of enriched sediment which encourages the growth of vegetation — a process which will only intensify if some of that sediment is not removed. We know from historic pictures that the pond is capable of becoming completely covered with vegetation. The Mill Pond committee recommends a simple dredging of the pond, estimated to cost $160,000 if the sediment removed can be used by farmers and gardeners. While the design and permitting for dredging are being done, a study of the Mill Brook watershed may also be done, which should help find ways to prolong the life of the freshly dredged pond. All this will take a year or more to accomplish.
So the time has come for the voters of West Tisbury to make a decision: pond or no pond. A group of citizens has already raised $20,000 in pledges, but they will not collect those pledges until the town makes a commitment to move in the direction of preserving the pond. They will then also continue to raise funds for the actual dredging. This is what the article asking for CPC funds for design and permitting to dredge the pond is all about. Please read the studies and come to the town meeting to vote your informed decision.
See you April 8.
Anna Alley is a member of the West Tisbury Mill Pond committee.