A Failing Dam Owned by the Girl Scouts Threatens the Existence of a Quiet Richmond Pond
|By Freese, Alicia|
A pre-storm calm hung over
The mile-long pond spans two towns -
Hint: Think green-sashed girls selling Samoas. Despite the protests of
Leeches and underwater weeds rule out swimming, but plenty of residents come to skate, cross-country ski, canoe and fish in, on and around
But for the Girl Scout troops that stay at the nearby
When residents got word last fall that the
Low, a self-described ringleader, walks with a slight limp and is wearing a worn yellow T-shirt, work jeans and duck boots. He rattles off facts about the pond as he wheels his canoe cart over stones and shrubbery on the short walk from his house to the water. According to his research, it has existed since the early 1800s.
That long history is part of the pond's appeal for
For all of those reasons, the
In theory, the
So what's the problem?
Those costs have grown over the years. According to Low's research, the
The upfront costs aren't the hitch, according to Low. "The hooker," he said, "is who will take over the long-term responsibility." Somebody would have to pay for maintenance and insurance on the dam.
Transferring a dam - and the liability for it - from one owner to another isn't as easy as writing a check. The Girl Scouts want to be sure the Friends can raise the funds before they agree to sell, according to Mellor - and they don't want responsibility if the dam washes out in the meantime. The Friends say they need assurance that the
Mellor calls it a Catch-22.
Although the state has classified it as a "low-hazard" dam, in part because no houses would be affected by rising water, a sudden flood could result in a fluke accident. Collapse is "imminent," Mellor said, "so we have real concerns for what that could mean for anyone downstream."
Engineers for the
That might bring the Girl Scouts Board of Directors peace of mind, but it will also make salvaging the situation "essentially impossible," according to Low. The state wants fewer artificial bodies of water, not more, and so is disinclined to permit new dams.
"The general preference from a water-management point of view," said Rep.
"It's hard because I feel like we are the bad guys in this, and we certainly don't want to be in this position," Mellor said. "We are between a rock and a hard place, or a rock and a really bad dam."
One possible solution: The Friends have roped in several groups with fundraising finesse, including the
Mellor said she's open to the offer, which is under review by the
"The big issue," according to Ellis, "is one of timing."
To show the depth of the community's support, they sent out a survey about how people use the pond. It generated 200 responses. "There's just been a real coalescence of energy around finding a solution," O'Brien said.
Low, it turns out, is an acclaimed academic - a professor of physiology at the
He approaches the pond with childlike wonder, fawning over the beavers he credits with patching holes in the dam - "They can be a nuisance but we think they are rather precious." And coaxing birds - "I want the winter wren to sing again!"
Rain starts to dapple the water's surface, but it doesn't dampen his spirits. He says he's optimistic Gillett Pond isn't going anywhere.
WE ARE BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, OR A ROOK AND A REM BAO DAM.
Contact: [email protected].
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