WITH “GRAND RE-OPENING”, MILLBROOK MEADOW
AND MILL POND ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS!
Rockport’s Millbrook Meadow and Mill Pond had a “Grand Re-Opening" August 17, 2019 with a ribbon cutting. Senator Bruce Tarr and Rockport Selectmen officiated, and Sen. Tarr presented Millbrook Meadow Committee with a Senate Proclamation.
In his remarks, Tarr noted the fog that hung over the Meadow, and he guided the audience through the fog of history, and recalled the arrival of his ancestor, Richard Tarr, and the first citizen of Rockport, in 1690. He noted all the industries that operated on the grounds that are now the Meadow, then he recalled Lura Hall Phillips, who strode forth in 1951 to stop the pavers who were set to turn the Meadow into a parking lot.
When Lura died in 1994, she left her house to be sold for the Meadow. That money, which had grown to over $182,000 by 2013, was used as the "seed money" to start the project now completed.
There were popcorn, strolling miniature horses, Millbrook Meadow souvenir bandannas, nature explainers, music, and jugglers. Then, Rockport’s annual Rubber Duck Race took place in the new Mill Brook.
After two years, Rockport’s main park is open for visitors, with a brand-new playground, a 6000-pound granite whale, loads of new flowers, plants and trees, a Native Shade Garden, and a completely new Mill Brook that is a return to the historic brook. The Rockport Garden Club has created three new gardens.
The Meadow is next to Front Beach. You can reach it on Beach Street, or via Mill Lane from Main or King Streets.
Richard Tarr, the first settler, arrived at Front Beach in 1690. Millbrook Meadow became the site of a grist mill in 1702, when the Town’s first two settlers divided their property at Mill Brook. Soon they built a lumber mill, sawing hickory and hemlock lumber and sending it to Boston to build Long Wharf. Then came a mill to process isinglass, used to clarify wine and beer, and workers made leather seats for buggies, and organs, and bobbins and spools for the textile mills, and boiling horse hooves to make glue. Residents complained about the smell! Finally, in 1932 the last mill closed, and the Rockport Garden Club bought the property.
The Garden Club gave the land to the Town in 1938, and the Todd family gave the Mill Pond to the Town. Garden Club President Lura Phillips continued to defend and build the park, holding fairs and festivals and celebrations of all sorts for over four decades.
In 2012 Rockport Garden Club and Millbrook Meadow Committee members looked at the Mill Pond, full of sediment and cattails, and the Mill Brook, which often flooded its banks, with many trees that were dying or in poor health. They determined to begin a complete restoration. Gunilla Caulfield, Trustee of Lura’s fund, arranged to donate the fund to the Town to provide the ”seed money” to start the restoration. The Town voted to add to this money, and with the Town Community Preservation fund and many private donations from citizens, private funds and businesses, preparations started in 2013.
Milone & McBroom of Cheshire, CT did the work of studying the project, listening to what Rockporters wanted with their park, drilling for test samples, chasing down deeds, obtaining permits and designing the project. SumCo Environmental of Salem did the dredging, and then restored the Meadow. Rockport’s Department of Public Works has provided support and coordination throughout the restoration.
The restoration began with dredging the Mill Pond. Over 3000 tons of sediment and 5000 sq. ft. of cattails were removed, the granite edges rebuilt, a new stairway into the pond was built, and new grasses and trees planted. The smaller Frog Pond in the Meadow was also dredged and rebuilt.
In 2018, SumCo removed the straight, granite-lined Mill Brook that has been in place since 1946 and built a winding brook, following the historic creek bed. They built new granite walls and installed stone and plant features all along the new brook to make it more suitable for plants, wildlife and human visitors.
The newly built, winding Brook got a major test when the Friends of the Council on Aging released over 900 rubber ducks in the stream. This is an annual fundraiser for programs for Rockport’s elders.
As before, Retired Rockport Police Sergeant Roger Lesch led a team to “arrest” the winning ducks, and all who come after, before they can flow under Beach Street to Front Beach.
The “Millie” sculpture was carved by Thomas Berger of Kittery, Maine from Rockport granite. The whale and the new playground are both provided by private donations.
Shannon Mason, vice chair of the Meadow Committee, Laura Hallowell, Project Manager, Barbara Sparks, Art and Play Coordinator, Marcia Lombardo, Treasurer, Aileen Morrissey, Rich Lorigan, Charmaine Blanchard and Stephanie Woolf have all worked many hours, fund-raising, raking, cleaning, planning, designing and coordinating this project. Most have been at this task since 2012.
“We are grateful to the people of Rockport, whose Community Preservation fund paid for two thirds of this project. Friends of the Meadow, including Lura, donated over $560,000,” said Sam Coulbourn, Millbrook Meadow Chairman. “Lura called the Meadow her ‘Magic Place’. We hope visitors will find it theirs, as well.” Coulbourn added.
Reuben Norwood's ice house, built ca. 1850. In foreground, drying fish swim bladders (sounds) will be ground to produce isinglass for use in clarifying beer and wine.
Sumco dredgers scooped out over 3000 tons of sediment and removed 5000 sq. ft. of cattails to make our Pond cleaner, deeper and healthier for wildlife and people!
IT'S SPRING! Good news-- even Covid-19 can't stop spring from springing, and slowly Millbrook Meadow will start to turn green. You and your dog and family can enjoy, and you can visit Mill Pond and see the ducks and the Canada geese couple who are occasional visitors.
Soon Project Manager Laura Hallowell and her Merry Band of Planters, Weeders and Waterers will be at work providing new ground cover, and planting everywhere!
Native Shade Garden. New garden is a gift to Meadow in memory of Barbara W. Beyea . Garden, designed by Milone & McBroom, Inc. is located next to Lura's Stairs (shown) and Frog Pond on King St. side of Meadow.
Native Shade Garden is a generous donation from an anonymous donor, dedicated to the memory of Barbara W. Beyea (1920-2016) of Rockport.
In memory of Marty Coulbourn and Ted Tarr
Martha Jane Coulbourn, who followed Lura Hall Phillips as Chairwoman of Millbrook Meadow Committee from 1992 to 1997, died Sept. 1, 2018. In this 1993 photo above she is shown at center, with Gwen Stephenson at left and Lura, seated.
Frederick H. (Ted) Tarr, III was a member of Millbrook Meadow Committee from 2012 until his death Sept. 25, 2018. Ted was a champion of Rockport's Meadow, and all of the Town's natural environment and was an expert among the trails of Dogtown. In this 1993 photo Selectman Tarr is shown with Selectwoman Priscilla Garlick at an Arbor Day event in the Meadow.
MILLBROOK MEADOW PLAYGROUND AND WHALE
READY FOR KIDS!
Millbrook Meadow had an “Early Opening” of the new playground and “Millie” the Millbrook Whale July 12.
Barbara Sparks, who has been Millbrook Meadow Conservancy’s “Point Person” for creating the new playground and the whale sculpture, cut the ribbon, assisted by the leading donors for the playground.
The new playground is a gift to the Town thanks to grants by The Main Street Charitable Foundation of The Institution for Savings and Cape Ann Savings Bank; and donations by Maura Wadlinger of the Millbrook Meadow Conservancy in memory of John Sparks; Judi Zuker in honor of the Zuker, Benton Ross, and Goodman Families; Judith and Newton Spurr; Nicholas and Hunter Bilenchi and the Richard D. Wilson Community Response Gift Fund; and many others.
The “Millie” sculpture, carved by Thomas Berger of Kittery, Maine, is a gift of Bernard R. and Lorraine B. Horn, the Rockport Garden Club and an anonymous donor.
Also taking part in the opening were Millbrook Committee members: vice chair, Shannon Mason; and Aileen Morrissey, Richard Lorigan, and Coulbourn. Also present were advisers for the committee’s efforts to provide these play features, landscape designer Chris DeRosa, artist Heidi Caswell Zander and fundraising advisers Betsy Giannoccaro and Randy Saville.
After two years, children in Rockport can finally enjoy a playground in Millbrook Meadow, and, for the first time ever, they’ll be able to climb on board a humpback whale, which has beached herself in Millbrook Meadow! ” Millie”, the Millbrook Whale, is a three-ton, ten-foot long teen-ager carved from Rockport granite.
John Sparks pursued life with a passion. Quiet, reserved, and with a scientist’s love for order and process, when John tackled a project, he did it with intensity. He loved architecture, and music, and gardening.
John’s boundless enthusiasm-- whether he was engaged in helping to build the Shalin Liu Performance Center, describing a cathedral in Cologne, or a choral piece he had heard, John's enthusiasm radiated, and gathered up everyone around him.
With his natural intelligence and his new-found expertise in landscape design, when John looked at the Meadow and Pond, he saw a problem that needed solving.
He gathered others to his cause. John led the charge to obtain private and Town funding, and now the project is nearing completion.
John's widow, Barbara, has been an amazing leader, helping to ensure John's dream. With her love of and expertise with plants and trees, she has been a dynamic force. She has led the charge to provide a spectacular granite whale sculpture, a fine playground, a Long Stone Sitting Wall and soon, a restored stairway from Meadow to Pond, with iron handrail.
Project Manager: Laura Hallowell is the whirlwind who has been the Conservancy's Project Manager through a winter of dredging the Mill Pond, a winter of building and restoring our Meadow, and now its completion. She's also part of the Rockport Garden Club team attacking the plots of Knotweed that pop up around Town. They've done a super job of dealing with the knotweed infestation around the Mill Pond. We cut the weed, and a contractor comes to pick it up and carry it to Franklin Park Zoo, where the gorillas, giraffes and zebras enjoy it!
Meadow Warriors: Shown here at Arbor Day in 1993 are old-time champions of the Meadow-- Dyke Brown, Tree Warden; Porter Collie, and Dot Radville, standing. Seated at right is the woman who saved the Meadow, Lura Hall Phillips. Now 25 years after her death, her money is still at work!
Lura's given over $182,000
to restore our Meadow and Pond
Read about Lura, "The Mother of the Meadow"
Many thanks to
Laurie LePine of Zinc Studio, Rockport for our web design.