Tag Archives: Muddy Brook

Muddy Brook Project: A Bridge Too Far?

More than 4 years ago, I published a story by Wendy Crowther.

The preservation-minded Westporter described the history of 19 Craftsman-style stone bridges, built over Willow, Muddy and Deadman brooks, at the dawn of the automobile age.

The Cross Highway bridge. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

A century later, 9 remained. They’d survived hurricanes, road reconstruction projects, and collisions with decades of distracted drivers.

Wendy noted:

Today we pass over these bridges daily. Yet few of us notice their rustic presence. Their stone walls (“parapets,” in bridge lingo) were designed to convey the sense of a park-like setting — an aesthetic popular at the time.

Most blend seamlessly into the roadside landscape, often appearing to be mere continuations of Westport’s many fieldstone walls. They are simple, folkloric, and historically important.

And she added: “They are at risk.”

Evergreen Avenue (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

She and fellow Westport Preservation Alliance colleague Morley Boyd were particularly concerned about the Kings Highway North Bridge over Willow Brook.

Its enormous stone foundation perhaps dated back to the original “King’s Highway,” built in 1763 to carry mail between New York and Boston.

Large stones in the abutments beneath the Kings Highway North Bridge: Remnants of a much earlier bridge? (Photo: Wendy Crowther)

Wendy and Morley asked the town’s Historic District Commission to list all 9 remaining bridges on the National Register. She said:

We feel that these very special bridges possess the integrity of location, design, setting, materials and workmanship to qualify for this distinguished honor.

On a more visceral level, the preservation of these bridges will allow us to appreciate the human craftsmanship that went into building them.  By picturing the crew of local men who lifted each stone by hand and mortared them in place, we’ll not just notice these bridges — we will feel them.

Nearly half a decade later, they’re still pushing the HDC to act.

That Kings Highway North stone bridge has already been lost.

The one on Greens Farms Road over Muddy Brook may be next. The Flood & Erosion Control Board voted recently to prioritize its replacement.

The Greens Farms Road bridge over Muddy Brook (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

Its historic past was not part of the discussion.

That’s a shame, Wendy and Morley say.

“Of the few remaining circa 1910 stone bridges still remaining in Westport, this is the most beautiful due to its length, its gentle bend, and its setting,” Morley notes.

“Perhaps if the board members had known this, they might have asked different questions, and perhaps some may have changed the way they voted.”

Wendy adds, “Having advocated for their preservation for years, I know that there are ways to deal with or divert flood waters through adjacent culverts without having to replace the bridge in its entirety.

“There are guidelines and engineering publications on how this can be done without ruining the dimensions and historic integrity of the existing bridge.

“These problems can be mitigated without destroying this beautiful bridge. Let’s please insist on seeking alternate solutions to replacement.”

Hold On! Mitten Crabs Are Here

You may never have heard of mitten crabs.

After reading this, you may be sorry you now have.

The small (3 inch) brownish crustacean with hairy, white-tipped claws — it looks like a mitten – is not native to Connecticut. But it’s here.

According to Dick Harris — a marine scientist who conducts environmental assessments for Copps Island Oysters — mitten crabs burrow into mud. Those habits threaten stream bank stability, promoting erosion and habitat loss. They can even undermine structures built nearby.

Last year, mitten crabs were found in the Housatonic and Mianus Rivers. On Wednesday, one was caught right here, in Muddy Deadman Brook.

Mitten crab

They are the only crabs in North America that spend time in fresh water. Salt water predators include sea bass and black crabs. In fresh water, their only danger comes from raccoons.

Harris wants Westporters to know how dangerous this invasive species can be. If you catch one, freeze it or preserve it in alcohol. Note the date and location of the capture, and call Harris: 203-246-6696.

 

How Healthy Are Our Rivers?

Westport’s waterways look beautiful.

You just don’t see the bacteria.

Harbor Watch — the Earthplace-based research and education program — has just released a study of water quality in rivers throughout Fairfield County. All 4 of the Westport rivers studied are not as healthy as they look.

Muddy Brook — which discharges into Sherwood Mill Pond — and Pussy Willow Brook, a Mill Pond tributary, exceeded state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection criteria for E. coli.

Two rivers empty into Sherwood Mill Pond. (Drone photo/Patrick Sikes)

Sasco Brook failed DEEP criteria for bacteria. So did the Saugatuck River — which, with 2 sewage spills last summer, also showed elevated Enterococci concentrations.

The good news: our rivers are pretty good in terms of dissolved oxygen. That’s an important water quality indicator, because many aquatic species rely on it for survival.

Overall, 77% of the 123 field stations studied by Harbor Watch exceeded either 1 or both of the state criteria for acceptable levels of baceria. Click here for the full report.

E. Coli In Westport’s Waters: Here’s The Poop

First the bad news: Of 20 rivers in 17 Fairfield County towns, 77% exceed one or both of Connecticut’s criteria for acceptable levels of E. coli. The bacteria can indicate the presence of sewage pollution.

The slightly better news: The Saugatuck River had the lowest percentage of failing sites.

The worse news: Muddy Brook — which drains into Sherwood Mill Pond — was one of 8 rivers tied for the most bacteria. (The others: Bruce Brook, Deep Brook, Goodwives River, Greenwich Creek, Keelers Brook, Pootatuck River and Rooster River.)

The Saugatuck River gets high marks from Harbor Watch. (Drone photo copyright Ben Berkley/@youreyeabove

That’s this morning’s news from Harbor Watch. The group — Earthplace’s water quality research program — studied data from 169 stations, at those 20 rivers. They released their report this morning.

Harbor Watch director Dr. Sarah Crosby says: “The high incidence of failing bacteria concentrations shows us that there is still a great deal of work to be done to improve water quality in the Long Island Sound watershed.”

No s—.

(Click here to read the full report.)