The Water Closet for October 23, 2015
[pullquote]”The broad river floodplain around it stretching deep into Peabody and Danvers is in season a flower garden of herbaceous wetland plants and woody bushes often described here in the Water Closet.”[/pullquote] Nestled in a great north turning elbow of the Ipswich River where Middleton, Danvers, and Peabody, once parts of Colonial Salem meet at the river’s channel, is Middleton’s Emily Maher Park soon to be expanded by the town. Perched on capped 20th century dumps will be tennis courts and more ball fields in addition to the town’s recycling center and trash transfer station already there. For over five decades refuse was brought to where tens of thousands of truckloads of gravel were taken out. Once sloping to the river’s floodplain the low hills were excavated and hauled southeast for Logan Airport’s runways. People from around the world now takeoff and land on asphalt overlaying Middleton’s gravel and coarse sand, gifts from continental glaciers.
Photographs from the area taken in the late 1950s show a large area pocked with the bottoms of gravel pits many below or near the ground water table. Less than a century ago this land was ten to thirty feet higher than now. After being stripped mined the land roughly resembled a lifeless moonscape; almost a hundred acres was without topsoil or vegetation.
Last Friday the Council on Aging/Conservation Commission hikers walked for two miles counterclockwise around the edge of the mined and then filled area between it and the Ipswich River floodplain on unexcavated berms left by the strip miners to keep the water out when the river ran high. These ridges still carry out that function. If someone chased a ball south down from the baseball field and transfer station, they would descend a steep slope of legumes and grasses covering the thick fill that caps the trash. At the base is a narrow wet, east-west meadow that grades into a strip of poplar, birch and oak woods, which continues on up and over the berm’s summit where we hiked. From the path, narrow, almost “knife edges” in places, the land drops steeply to the river a few yards away. This profile is pretty much repeated along the up and down winding mile of rough trail. We Stream Teamers can think of no better combination of wildlife habitats: slopes down from the landfill covered with lush stands of herbaceous plants; wet swales, much of the year puddled; woods of a half-dozen species of trees on rough slopes; and finally the shaded river. The whole area of a hundred or so acres embraced by the Ipswich River was a half century ago without soil or plants. It is now covered with diverse vegetation from switch grass and golden rod to mature poplar trees, oaks and a few pitch pines to mention but a few species. All this growth is on land with only a few millimeters of new topsoil formed in the last half-century. The broad river floodplain around it stretching deep into Peabody and Danvers is in season a flower garden of herbaceous wetland plants and woody bushes often described here in the Water Closet. Stream Teamers and many others paddle the meandering river channel passing through it. This entire ever-changing wondrous wilderness, within a mile of commerce and residential houses is protected by the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act.
Friday’s hike above the slow flowing river beneath trees shedding their leaves was one of rough beauty. Leaves lightly paved the water’s surface in various breeze brushed patterns. Many still had hints of bright fall colors, but the browns and grays were creeping in. The walkers’ feet crunched leaves along the path. Despite it being mid- October there was still much green above them making color exceptions stand out.
One day dreaming old walker had trouble as he tried to hear the bulldozers and trucks of a half century ago. The sounds of leaves played by breezes and the chatter of old hikers drowned them out. Soon, we hope walkers of all ages, will circle the ball fields and the busy transfer-recycling station on this path while hearing the same natural sounds native Agawam and Naumkeag folks did four centuries and more ago.
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches
|2015 Central Watershed Actual
|0.5 as of 10/20**
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Oct 20, 2015 Normal . . . 9.1 CFS Current Rate . . . 63 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Sept..
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for Oct.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584