Mill Pond becomes focus of river plan forum

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff


CONSULTANT ANDREW BREMER of MSA Professional Services (above and below left) went over maps and details of plans for the Mullet River corridor during a public hearing on the corridor study Wednesday at the Plymouth Utilities operations center. — Review photos by Emmitt B. Feldner CONSULTANT ANDREW BREMER of MSA Professional Services (above and below left) went over maps and details of plans for the Mullet River corridor during a public hearing on the corridor study Wednesday at the Plymouth Utilities operations center. — Review photos by Emmitt B. Feldner PLYMOUTH – The study is of the Mullet River corridor, but the focus at Wednesday’s public forum was on the Mill Pond and dam.

The Mullet River Corridor Study Committee hosted a public forum Thursday at the Plymouth Utilities operations center building on the preliminary report prepared by MSA Professional Services.

Consultant Andrew Bremer of MSA went through the proposals for the Mullet River walk, a potential downtown riverfront park, and alternatives for the Mill Pond area with or without the dam and pond.

It was the last items that drew the most comments and questions from the more than 50 people attending the forum.

One audience member stated, “The Mill Pond has been part of Plymouth forever. I still think it’s the center of Plymouth. It’s a beautiful part of Plymouth. Why, if you could save it, would you take it out?”

When one member of the audience – a large number of whom were residents along both sides of the Mill Pond - asked for a show of hands of those favoring keeping the dam in place, nearly every hand in the room was raised.

“The report doesn’t include a recommendation to keep the dam or remove the dam,” consultant Andrew Bremer of MSA assured the audience. “That’s not the intent of the study. Our intent is to visualize both alternatives.”

“There have been no decisions made,” committee chair Alderman Charles Hansen emphasized. He added that none of the report recommendations are likely to be implemented in the near future.

“This is a study looking at potentials,” Hansen continued. “This is the city recognizing that over time we have decisions to make. We wanted to assess what are the pros and cons of each alternative.”

“Dams need maintenance,” Alderman John Nelson told the audience. “In due diligence, as a city, we need to look at alternatives. It is our responsibility as a governmental body to look at all options. I think we’d be remiss if we did not do that.”

City Administrator Brian Yerges pointed out that the alternatives for the Mill Pond and dam were the result of a Department of Natural Resources-mandated dam break analysis study.

“Initially we thought it was going to be (rated) a high-hazard dam, but it was designated lowhazard,” Yerges noted. But the city still has 10 years to upgrade the dam to meet the DNR’s spillway requirements, he added.

Beyond that, Yerges told the audience, the dam is currently leaking and that needs to be repaired immediately.

“Sometime between this year and next spring we have to hire a contractor to pump concrete inside the dam,” to fix the problem, he explained.

Beyond the status of the dam, another issue raised by some in the audience was a part of the plan calling for creating more public access either to the pond or to that stretch of the river if the dam is removed.

The plan identifies nine different properties that could be purchased to create several alternative accesses, but recommends that the city only develop one of them.

“It is not the intention of the committee that the city acquire all nine parcels,” Bremer emphasized. “We want to have a little more public access to the space and fishing access to the river. One of the comments in the committee was that it would be nice if there was more public use there.”

Still, some in the audience questioned why more access to the water is needed when the city already has access at Veterans Park, the ice skating warming shack and upriver at the Edna Street footbridge, the Youth Center building and Riverview Middle School.

Questions of costs for the various plans were also raised, with officials responding that cost estimates have not been finalized.

Bremer said rough preliminary engineering estimates would be part of the final report, which he said would probably be ready for submission to the committee and the city in October.

“Our next task is to compile the report and present it to the committee,” he said. “Part of this project is to do planning level cost estimates.”

The report’s plans for adapting drained lands that would be created if the dam were to be removed were also questioned by some in the audience.

At issue was ownership of the land that would be created.

“The city has asked the city attorney to research the riparian issues,” Bremer conceded.

Bremer presented the plans for short-term and long-term improvements to the pedestrian/bicycle trail along the river, as well as a potential downtown riverfront park.

The latter would include removal of the ramp up to the parking deck at the east end of Mill Street and the creation of a festival/ event area on the riverfront.


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