Jim Marcello is 77, and he’d like to be able to get his boat into Milford Pond and cast a line again. Sometime in the next year he should get his wish.
The 120-acre pond in the center of town, long choked with weeds and underwater sediment, will be dredged over the next year in a federal project designed to restore it as a habitat where fish and wildlife can flourish once more. Bids by companies to do the work will be opened Sept. 9 by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The project has a budget of up to $5 million, with about $2 million coming from local and state contributions, according to documents.
Marcello, who grew up in Milford, learned to fish in the pond with his father. He remembers when children used to jump into the water at its southern end, and swim on summer afternoons. Now, thick weeds reach up to the surface of the water, deterring all movement, he said. The bass and pickerel he remembered catching as a young man are long gone.
“You can’t even row a boat in there now. That’s how bad it is,” Marcello said.
The dredging project will remove sediment, weeds and other material from 17 acres of the pond, in an area stretching from the southern end near the dam to the boat ramp at Rosenfeld Park. The dredged material will be deposited into a containment area to be built on the northern end of the pond. The project is expected to take up to a year, according to the Army Corps, and will take into account the breeding cycles of birds and other wildlife.
In the dredged area, the water will be cleared to a depth of 12 feet. The water in the same section of the pond is now between 2 and 6 feet deep, officials have said.
‘You can’t even row a boat in there now. That’s how bad it is.’
According to the project’s terms, the contractor with the winning bid will build an underwater containment area, using a submerged fence to hold the dredged materials. Once the material stabilizes, the Army Corps will replant native white cedar trees in elevated areas, to help bring the pond back to its original state, said Adam Burnett, the project manager.
Revitalization of Milford Pond has long been anticipated by local residents and officials, who started working on its restoration 20 years ago.
In 2012, Town Meeting members approved a request for $1.8 million to provide a local share for the project. This year, the state awarded a $250,000 grant.
The pond is fed by a freshwater brook, a stream and the Charles River. It was a cedar swamp that was converted to a pond around 1900, when the cedar trees were cut and the river dammed near Main Street.
The current dam was reconstructed in 1938, according to a project description posted by the US Army Corps. It will not be affected by the dredging, according to Burnett.
The project also will not affect the well field maintained by the Milford Water Co. near Clark’s Island, and used as a source for its public drinking water system.
Initially, town officials sought federal approval for a 45-acre dredging, but it wasn’t financially feasible, said Selectman Dino DeBartolomeis, who has led the local effort. A town committee began looking into a restoration in 1992, he said. At one point, it had 21 people. Marcello was among the volunteers.
“All of these people remember how it used to be in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s,” DeBartolomeis said. “They wanted us to do something.”