Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday Morning Rants

I am far from bring a member of Green Peace, or a true tree hugger. I do have a great respect for nature, and preserving it. At the same time I am also very much in favor for making nature enjoyable to all, not just to pack it up and store it on the shelf away from the influence of humans. What would be the point? Why then conserve nature if we were to restrict its use by man?

It would be like not having it all.

So, about these dams on the Hammant Brook. I would like to keep them. We bought the property with the ponds in it, and it made for a beautiful tract of land for the town to purchase. Now we must change that to something else?

OK, so the state biologists say it will be healthy for the fish and the Quinebaug River to allow the brook to flow free. Hasn't seemed to hurt either one yet, though. And if we are going to use the same argument for restoring the health of the brook, and the river by removing the dams, then all dams that hold back brook and stream waters flowing into the Quinebaug should be removed.

After all, it is for the health of the river, and the stream itself.

Let's start with the earthen dam at Pistol Pond. That old dam holds back a great deal of water that eventually flows into the Quinebaug River. The source of the water is in the wetlands north of Walker Pond. A stream from the wetlands flows into Walker Pond, and out the southern end of the pond, under the ramps of the Mass Pike, under Route 20 and into Pistol Pond. Once in Pistol Pond the water fills the pond, and the excess flows over the dam into Hobbs Brook and on into the river.

This is a whole lot of geography that would be affected if we took down this dam. Many wildlife species that have come to make the are home because of ponds would be displaced. The water level of Pistol Pond would be dramatically lowered, as would the water level of Walker Pond as well. The wetlands would suffer as well. It would be like pulling the stopper in a bathtub.

But, it is a good thing, right? We will have restored the streams to the the way they once were, way back before man came along and messed with the ecosystem.

But, here is the issue: man is here. We chose the area to settle, and to live in. When we came here, we made changes to the landscape to support our settlement. If we change things to the way they once were, how will that affect us, and our way of life?

Something to think on.

As far as I can see, there is no large fish kills from the dams on Hammant Brook, the wildlife is not being adversely affected. Maybe some fish aren't allowed access to the river, and the water temperature, according to the biologists, is not what it could be, but that water temperature is affected by a number of other factors as well. Storm runoff into the river, and the flow from the East Brimfield Dam can alter the water temperature as well.

Seems that it comes down to money. Restore the dams for one amount, or remove them for another. Each has its supporters.

I don't think that the Town would opt for removing the Pistol Pond dam for the same reasons as it is considering for the Hammant Brook dams. There's no money there to fund its removal, and the people that live upstream would light torches and storm the Town Hall with pitchforks if it was ever considered. Hammant Brook has no real abutters, except the wildlife that has come to live on and around the ponds.

Hmm. Take the "free" money now to remove the dams, and be done with them, or spend other money to restore them and maintain them?

How about we just leave them alone? Why bother restore them at all? Why not just leave them as they are?

Maybe, just maybe, the this money from the co-generation plant further down river could be better off spent on taking care of the river downstream from it. The plant sends heated water into the river, and that is a concern, maybe the money should be spent where it is needed more, and not for some "feel good" act way the heck upstream.

OK. I'm done. Enough ranting for a Monday morning.


  1. Well said Thinking!! We can only hope that our small town government can hold its own against the state DEP, who seems to be forcing the idea of removing the dams down our throats. The ponds are a special feature of this land and add to the character and overall beauty. I hope the DEP backs down and respects the wishes of so many townspeople who care about this beautiful landscape.

  2. Part of the issue is that the Division of Fisheries paid pretty close to half of the money we bought the land with. So, they have a stake in it. The conservation restriction they hold includes restoring fisheries for the benefit of all.

  3. So, the Dept. Fish and Wildlife has got us by the trout, eh?

  4. If the conservation restriction states that they can restore fisheries for the benefit of "all", then this should be the end of the deliberations. I will not benefit and many others have voiced concern leading me to think I am not the only one who feels that destroying the dams will have a negative impact. So obviously we "all" will not benefit, SO they should pay attention to their conservation restriction and stop shoving their idea, of taking down the dams, down our trouts, I mean throats!

  5. For the facts, go to Newsotronics or Sturbridge Political Watch. That Conservation Restriction was signed by the Conservation Commission and the Selectmen at the time, and it was reviewed by Town Counsel and Town Administrator James Malloy. The state paid HALF of the price tag on that, they hold all the rights to the property, including development rights.

    No one, and no entity is forcing anything down anyone's throats - read the Conservation Restriction -then you'll be able to comment with factual statements.

  6. At the time the land came up for purchase, I don't remember hearing about the restrictions that would be placed on the land we bought. Regardless of what is in place now, it was not publicized, nor was it made clear to the residents of the town just what we were getting ourselves into. Let's explore this fish story more inn depth, and in the process I am sure we will discover more than has been told. Let's learn more about the behind scenes arrangements the state and the town made, and passed it off in a pretty package for the residents to swallow. Let's hear more.

  7. The land was sold to the town. The development rights (Conservation Restriction) were sold to the Dept of Fish & Game. These were two separate transactions. Nothing was hidden.

    As a courtesy, the state provided the Restriction to the Conservation Commission and Selectboard for review and signature, however when a state entity is involved in such an acquisition, local approval not a requirement of the transaction.

    Keep in mind that it was a private entity that sold the land and the development rights to each of the buyers. That private entity took the best deal being offered at that point in time, just as anyone would, in any real estate transaction.

    So residents didn't "get themselves into" anything. And the restriction is not for the benefit of "all." It's for the benefit of fish and wildlife conservation, natural habitat protection and associated public recreation consistent with Article 97.

    Read the documents.


Anonymous comments not accepted, and will be rejected. Please use your full name. Choose "Name / URL" and enter your name, and your name ONLY. Leave "URL" blank.