The Bristol Board of Selectmen is right to consider the town’s options for the future of the Bristol Mills Dam and right to encourage feedback from residents on the subject.
We hope residents pay attention and tell the selectmen what they think, especially about the idea of a study to examine the effects of dam removal.
As the chairman of the board acknowledges in our front-page article, there are not many options for freshwater swimming in Bristol – or in all of central Lincoln County. When you add free and public to the criteria, the options are even fewer.
It is near-impossible to park in Damariscotta Mills on a hot day (and Bristol Mills is deeper).
You can go to Biscay Beach, but you’ll miss the fun of jumping off the dam (and some of us older swimmers go in all at once or not at all).
For other public swimming options, you can brave the frigid salt water at Pemaquid Beach or make the drive to Damariscotta Lake State Park in Jefferson. Both have entrance fees, unlike the dam.
Unless you own a boat or lakefront property, there just aren’t many options, and we should protect the ones we have.
We think many Bristol taxpayers would gladly pay their share for maintenance and repairs to the dam and fish ladder to keep the swimming hole open.
To remove the dam would also cost a significant sum of money without much public benefit we can see beyond a savings in maintenance costs and an easier swim for the alewives.
Biscay Pond property owners, other upstream property owners, and the towns of Bremen and Damariscotta might also want to pay attention to this discussion and the results of the study, should one take place. How would removing the dam affect the water level in Biscay Pond? How would it affect the water level in the Pemaquid River between the dam and Biscay? Would you even be able to take a canoe or kayak up the river anymore? If the water level drops dramatically, how would it affect the wildlife on the river?
A study could answer these questions – or try to – but if people want the dam to stay, a study seems unnecessary.
To us, the recreational value of the dam alone – beyond any concerns about ecology or fire protection or upstream water levels – justifies the maintenance of the dam and fish ladder.