Corridor study more than just Mill Pond, dam

LAST MONTH’S PUBLIC FORUM on a comprehensive plan for the entire Mullet River corridor in the city of Plymouth quickly focused, laser-like, on the fate of the Mill Pond and dam.

That was probably to be expected, as a large number of those present at the meeting in the Plymouth Utilities Operations Center were residents along or near the Mill Pond.

Indeed, in many ways, the Mill Pond and dam are the proverbial “elephant in the room” in any discussion or study of the Mullet River.

A large portion of city residents who live on the river live alongside the Mill Pond, and the fate and the impact of the pond and dam weigh large for those who live downriver and, most importantly, for Plymouth’s downtown area.

Not surprisingly, a large majority of those in attendance at the forum supported maintaining the dam and the Mill Pond, as a show of hands indicated.

But the fate of the dam and the pond are not the focus of the Mullet River Corridor Study Committee, nor of the city’s consultants for the project, MSA Professional Consultants.

Obviously, the Mill Pond and dam are a major part of their focus, but as committee members and city officials pointed out several times at the forum, the study and the final report it will produce are not designed to be final actions, only blueprints and possible courses of action for the future of the heart of the city – the Mullet River.

The study includes a plan for enhancing and completing the Mullet Riverwalk from one end of the city to the other – improving its current disjointed, segmented character.

One of the major facets of the study and report is re-imagining and recreating the riverfront area downtown between Stafford Street and the

East Mill Street parking ramp into a communitycentered activity and park area.

And finally, the study will lay out alternatives for the Mill Pond area should the dam – and the pond – be kept in place or if the dam is removed and the Mullet reverts to a river in that area. Both focus on increased public access to the pond/river and enhanced recreational opportunities.

The key thing to remember is that the study is just that – a study, with recommendations and not actions that are set in stone.

It will provide a starting point for discussion, consideration and modification, as it already has.

But more fundamental decisions need to be made before what is in the plan can become reality – in whatever form.

Chief among those, as the forum emphasized, will be the future of the dam and Mill Pond.

The Department of Natural Resources has classified the dam as a low-hazard dam, but is still requiring the city to upgrade the spillway and make other improvements in order to keep it in place – at a cost yet to be determined.

Beyond that are questions such as whether to dredge the Mill Pond should it remain, the future of drained lands should the dam be removed and pond eliminated, and many more – all with unknown price tags attached.

A University of Wisconsin-Extension survey a number of years showed widespread support in the entire city for keeping the dam and Mill Pond, but it won’t be long before a price tag is put on that – at which time there is sure to be considerable discussion, debate and soul-searching before any final decision is reached.

But at least the city will have a blueprint of what could follow after that decision is reached.

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