Pameacha Pond Neighbors Oppose Middletown Wildlife Sanctuary Park Proposal

MIDDLETOWN – Residents of the Pameacha Pond area, who oppose a proposal to remove the dam and turn the water and land into a park off Route 17, have expressed myriad objections to the idea to the wetlands and inland waterways.

The long, thin 19-acre pond is used for fishing, and those who live on the pond say it is a great place to observe nature. In its heyday, Pameacha, which once fed nearby mills that have now disappeared, was also an ice rink in the winter.

The area, which has shrunk in size over the years, is off Route 17 / South Main Street, across the street from Ace Hardware.

The Wilcox, Crittenden & Co. building from circa 1814, now Wilcox Apartments, at 234 Main St. was a former wool factory and marine hardware factory, according to city records. Pameacha Creek was its main source of water power.

The Pameacha production mill occupied the site starting in 1650.

Earlier this summer, the public works department created a conceptual design of a park that could replace the pond, however, director Chris Holden said, the city is open to other ideas for the property.

The plan incorporates wetland planted nature trails. “We’re trying to keep it as natural as possible,” Holden said.

Several residents spoke during the public forum. City environmental planner James Sipperly said it is still unclear whether the agency will have jurisdiction over the wetlands portion of the matter.

Neighborhood problems

“It is a gem; it’s a beautiful place, ”homeowner Taylor Brown told the committee. “It provides a certain sense of peace that isn’t usually found in a busy city.”

“It has been a pond for 10,000 years,” said Charles Wiltse. “[A park is] not what his natural condition is, “he told agency members.” It’s loaded with [wildlife]. It is worth saving “.

Over the years, supporters of the pond say, the surroundings have become a sanctuary for wildlife.

Many species of birds and turtles, blue herons, white egrets and even eagles can be found there, according to Mary Ellen Sutton, who opened Cheemah yoga studio in South Main two years ago.

His family has lived nearby for a century and owns a property at 375-77 S. Main St. When clients look out the back of the studio, they admire the beauty of the water, Sutton said, something he intended to do. the attraction starts.

He created a video, “Living Pameacha Pond”, on Vimeo that portrays the area over the seasons. It also shows the remains of an icebox that used to be there.

Neighbors have mobilized around the issue since June.

Sutton and his brother Greg Wilson, along with neighbor Tyler Eckstrom, are leading a campaign to raise awareness of the problem to a wider audience, including the distribution of a bright yellow “Save Pameacha Pond; Repair the Dam lawn signs ”.

When Sutton and others ask nearby businesses if they can put a sign on their property, he said, they reply, “You’d do better.” People are really reacting to this. People really care ”.

Neighbors are also examining the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and city documents about the dam, which is crumbling in parts, Sipperly acknowledged, as well as conducting research into the history of the pond.

Those who oppose the concept are pushing for the dam to be repaired.

The waterways agency will hold an information meeting on the pond later this year, Sipperly said at the meeting.

Contribution from the audience will be taken into account, the director said. “It won’t be just a big expanse of mud. There are improvements we can make out there, “like a nature trail that could cross it.

Traditional park elements, such as a playground or baseball field, won’t be part of the plans if they move forward. The pond could be reduced to a stream that would flow through the park with a pond next to the yoga studio, Holden added.

“It will still be very wild. Everyone would be able to enjoy it, “said the director.

The objectors gather

Meanwhile, those who oppose the project have turned their efforts from the 370-plus-member Facebook Help Save Pameacha Pond group into knocking on doors and having face-to-face conversations, Eckstrom said, to get people interested.

Now they use it as an information site.

“The real change will happen on the streets by spreading the word to people individually,” Eckstrom explained. The signals are part of an effort to let the community know “this project is wrong,” she said.

“Financially, completely draining the natural pond and rehabilitating wetlands into grasslands, building a park and then maintaining it for years to come, is not likely to benefit taxpayers,” he added. That would cost more than repairing the dam and cleaning the property, Eckstrom said.

He raises another point: “The pond has a great history, largely dating back to the early days of Middletown … when the first European settlers arrived.”

In fact, “Pameacha” is a Native American term used by the Algonquins.

Wilson is co-owner of 377 S. Main St., where his sister lives. About two years ago, the family was under the impression that the project involved lowering the dam for sewage work, after which the area would be cleared.

They understood the dam was not going to be removed, Wilson said.

She has fond memories of the pond, including her grandmother’s Polish meals in the winter. “I was always going over there and shoveling an ice skating area right behind her house,” she said.

After consulting Google Earth, Wilson found that the pond was much larger, even in recent years. A good deal of sediment has come down from the plaza across the street, as well as from the apartment buildings near the McDonald’s restaurant, he said.

Remember that, as a child, the swamp almost reached Farm Hill Road in the east.

Sutton’s courtyard faces away from Pameacha, where it is much quieter than the back. “I couldn’t even talk to you because of the loudness of the cars and the noise,” she explained, something she calls “pretty awful.”

The difference is “surprising,” he added. “You walk around, and there is all this nature, birds and trees,” she said of the “little sanctuary”. There is also a bush where monarch butterflies drink nectar.

Should the project progress, Holden said, “we will go into it with an open mind to understand everyone’s concerns and move forward on what’s best for the city. Everything is possible at this point. ”

Any work would start in at least a year, because the authorization process alone is “quite complicated,” the director said.

For information, visit Help Save Pameacha Pond on Facebook.

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