The town of Durham is moving ahead with plans to restore White Farm, a popular tract of town owned open space recently transformed into swampy marshland, critics say, by years of neglect of Allyn Brook.
On Monday evening, town engineer Brian Curtis presented the town's preliminary proposal to reroute the overflowing, slow moving brook - which flows north and dissects White Farm - by removing built up sediment from a small stretch of stream bed. The plan, Curtis told the Inland Wetlands Commission, would allow the brook to return to its "natural course."
"When the Mill Pond, on the east side of Main Street, failed five or seven years ago, all the sediment retained behind the dam ended up getting eroded and the bulk of that sediment ended up in the brook down here," Curtis explained, pointing to a map showing an area of the brook located on the southern edge of the farm.
"The water is going to the north and south out of the stream bed," Curtis said.
Initial plans to restore Allyn Brook include the removal of sediment to create a three-and-a-half foot deep and 20 foot wide cross section of the brook in the problem area, Curtis explained. He said an excavator would be used to complete the work and any sediment removed from the brook would be moved off site.
During his presentation to the commission, Curtis showed several maps of the brook, including a U.S. Geological Survey map from 1895. The maps, Curtis said, indicate that the brook was channeled sometime between 1895 and 1934, likely for agricultural purposes.
Commission member Pat DiNatale questioned whether the brook was merely returning to a natural course prior to it having been channeled.
"What I'm seeing here is its trying to reclaim its, it's very difficult to make a brook go where it doesn't want to go, because eventually it's gonna go back to where it was," DiNatale said.
Inland Wetlands chairman Richard Eriksen said the commission should consider the planned use of the property by the town before making a final decision on whether or not to approve the town's proposal to restore Allyn Brook.
The commission did not act on the proposal, deciding instead to hold a public hearing during its next meeting on Monday, Sept. 12, at 8 p.m. Commission members plan to take a site walk of the area prior to the hearing.