New Milford to restore polluted stream through partnership

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox
Great Brook stream in New Milford is in poor shape.

Great Brook stream in New Milford is in poor shape.

Grant Dupill

NEW MILFORD — Through a communitywide effort, a polluted stream with invasive plants in New Milford will soon be restored to its natural beauty.

In a partnership with Sustainable New Milford, the Housatonic Valley Association, and community residents, $15,000 was raised toward the cleanup of Great Brook, a 4-mile stream that flows near downtown New Milford.

About $7,500 was raised for the effort in less than two months through an online restoration crowdfunding campaign on patronicity.com called “Help Restore New Milford's Great Brook.”

Sustainable CT, a voluntary certification program that recognizes thriving and resilient Connecticut municipalities, matched every dollar that was donated, to double the contribution.

With the funds raised through the campaign, HVA representatives will provide technical assistance and plant material to restore Great Brook. The cleanup is estimated to begin in late spring or early summer, and completed by Aug. 1.

According to Courtney Morehouse, conservation projects manager with the HVA, portions of Great Brook such as Hulton Meadow Park and the New Milford Center Cemetery, contain non-native vegetation. She said over time, as floods come through the area, there will be soil erosion.

Additionally, Morehouse said the area provides very little shade for wildlife, and a lot of trash and other debris have washed down the river.

As part of the project, the HVA did a state-mandated water quality management program.

“Through research, they were able to identify spots on Great Brook that are publicly accessible, that volunteer community work would help restore,” said Julie Bailey, co-caption of the New Milford 2021 Sustainable Connecticut Re-certification Team.

As part of the restoration effort, the HVA will provide training for the volunteers as well as supervision on the site, according to Bailey.

To prevent soil erosion, the HVA will provide live tree material to the area. According to Bailey, this involves live sticks that are planted “to restore the integrity of the banks of the Great Brook stream.”

Additionally, the funds will go toward a complete watershed management plan for the entire Great Brook stream, that will identify areas that need to be repaired to restore it.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and depending upon the status of the COVID-19 vaccinations at that time, safety protocols will be put in place during the project, such as social distancing and masking, according to Bailey.

The HVA, which has a location in Cornwall Bridge, is a river conservation organization that works to protect the Housatonic river and surrounding land. The Housatonic River Watershed runs from Pittsfield, Mass. to the Long Island Sound.

Bailey said the Great Brook project is exciting because “not only does it increase community awareness of the importance of maintaining our streams that are tributary to the Housatonic, but it also demonstrates what happens when town and community volunteers are able to access the expertise of groups like the HVA.”

sfox@milfordmirror.com