Could Middletown’s pond be replaced with a park? The idea worries some residents. | Wender Mind Kids

 Could Middletown's pond be replaced with a park?  The idea worries some residents.

MIDDLETOWN — Residents of Pameacha Pond and those who grew up with the wildlife and vegetation-rich area along South Main Street are concerned about the future of the area, which today is mostly accessible only to those who live there or own property .

Many are concerned about the possibility of the 19-acre, long and thin body of water being replaced by a park — something Chris Holden, director of public works, said is only in the concept stages.

The city is open to other ideas, he added.

The family has owned an estate at 375-77 S. Main St. for more than 100 years.

Sisters Mary Ellen Sutton, who owns a yoga studio that opens onto the pond, and Janet Smith remember growing up in the apartment building next door where their grandmother used to live and where their aunts and uncles grew up.

Both learned to skate on the pond. “There’s so much history there, it’s incredible,” Smith said.

Sutton was delighted when a turtle recently found its way into her garden, facing the water, and laid her eggs there. “It was so incredible,” she explained.

The view used to be littered with trash and other debris, she said. “Over the years the pond has regenerated and become such a beautiful wildlife sanctuary” including gray herons, great egrets and a variety of ducks. It’s an absolutely amazing little place.”

“It’s funny when people let go and nature recovers. It’s amazing how nature has been able to bounce back,” she added.

Sutton acquired property at 387 S. Main St. about two years ago, undertook a major restoration and recently opened Cheemah on South Main.

“As you walk through the door, it opens onto the pond,” Sutton said. “People come in right away and you can see how relaxed the stress level goes down. Everyone is naturally drawn to the pond. Water is so good for the soul.”

“If she had known the pond was going away, she would never have done it,” Smith worries that the students may lose that sense of calm.

“If you have a yoga studio and it’s very quiet, you’re out on the lake and people are walking by or kids are screaming on their bikes — that wasn’t what she had in mind when she built the property,” Smith said .

The sisters started the Help Save Pameacha Pond Facebook group less than a week ago. Smith was surprised to see membership grow to 142 in such a short time. “It blew my mind,” she said.

In about a month, crews will begin laying the sewer line, which will run through a box culvert and under the Wilcox Apartments property and then drain into a ravine in the area, Holden said.

The line carries raw sewage to Mattabassett Wastewater Treatment Plant in Cromwell.

There have been a few issues over the years, such as: B. knocking off a manhole cover or loosening a pipe, causing some sewage to enter the water that entered Sumner Brook and eventually emptied into the Connecticut River.

DEEP conducted an environmental study upstream of the dam to determine what types of industry there may have contributed to contamination, the public works director said.

Extensive sampling of the sediment has been conducted, Holden said. “Overall, there was nothing to say, ‘We have a big problem here. Stop it now. There’s so much contamination, it’s going to be a big problem.’ We haven’t experienced that,” he said.

Another project in the future involves the removal of the dam, which the Department of Energy and Environment recommended removing rather than repairing to allow the creek to flow freely.

According to Holden, the earliest the dam could be removed is next summer, during a low-water period in the summer of 2023. That’s due to the state’s extensive permitting process.

If a park were ever to be built, Holden said, there would be a slow process of lowering the water, Holden said. “It wouldn’t be like we removed the whole dam and all the water poured out.”

If a park were to be created there, it would have been done after careful consideration.

“It’s not going to be a big, open field of grass,” Holden said. “There will be pathways through vegetation” that wetland plants would grow in the humid environment. “We try to keep it as natural as possible.”

Holden and his staff are in the process of setting a date for a public hearing and input, which he says is critical to the project.

Brian Gartner, Vice Chairman of the Commission on Conservation and Agriculture, who is also a member of the Inland Wetlands Commission and the Water Pollution Control Authority, resides at the Wilcox Apartments.

There used to be a beach area here for swimming and teaching. “It was a vibrant little place, but there is currently no secure public access,” he said.

One issue DEEP is concerned about is the snakehead — an invasive species. “You don’t want it coming out of Pameacha Pond into the Connecticut River,” Holden said.

“We’re fighting that across the board on our property — whether they’re within the watercourse or not, invasive species have absolutely taken over over the last 15 to 20 years,” Gartner said, pointing to the emerald ashborer and the gypsy moth. “We have more freedom and more things for those things to survive under than ever before.”

A big problem, he says, is “major flooding events,” after which water is left in a 60- to 70-foot-high ravine that runs from the old Pameacha prison/workhouse on Warwick Street and behind its complex.

“Rain events are becoming more intense,” Gartner said. During the last big storm, rocks were removed on both sides of the gorge, creating a natural dam, he added.

“One of the biggest benefits of removing the pond and restoring the creek is that there is a constant flow of water there. It’s going to be very, very stagnant and very smelly,” Gartner said.

He sees both sides of the problem.

“I could go either way. I enjoy the pond. It’s a nice resource, but there’s limited public access; We have serious problems with the dam. That’s a huge burden for taxpayers to pay for this,” Gartner said.

“Some residents are very, very disappointed at the prospect of losing their small pond and I totally understand that. I get it. You bought a piece of land and thought you would have a pond forever. It’s been there for 300 years. I sympathize with them.”

He is “intrigued” by the idea of ​​the park and would like to see the creek restored, with decorative bridges running across it, native plants, some reforestation, hiking trails and other passive recreation opportunities.

“If done right, I could see that it’s a beautiful place,” Gartner said.