Meekins Mill River Park

New Mill River Park

New Mill River Park

Sitting terrace at old dam site

Sitting terrace at old dam site

New Fence on Restored Wall

New fence on restored wall

by Nick Dines, Williamsburg

Meekins Park is designed to accommodate public access to the Mill River's edge while providing a safe barrier in the form of a restored iron fence.  The new space is intended to serve Library functions and other public events.  The new benches will allow users to sit next to the river and view both upstream and downstream while reading or accessing the Library's wireless Internet connection and perhaps one day, taking a virtual tour of the new Mill River Greenway!

The new park may serve as a lunchtime respite, a place for seasonal events (Arts and Crafts shows, Farmer's Market, Fall Festival, etc), or merely as a place to gaze at the ever-changing qualities of the Mill River as it passes through Williamsburg on its way to Northampton and onto the Connecticut River.

While the project looks simple, which adds to its beauty, the process required to seek permits and work on riparian buffers is complicated.  Nick, a Williamsburg resident, is a professor emeritus of the University of Massachusetts' Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning.  He designed and built Meekins Park with the help of Lincoln Fish, Christine Allen, Paul Wetzel, Art Silver, Eric Weber, John Hoogstraten, Todd Lynch, Jim Lucey, Jim Locke, Carl Schlerman, Gordon Cranston, Joel Strate, M. J. Moran (who donated a diamond drill bit), the Williamsburg Highway Department (gravel, security fence, trucking and trailer), Gary Warner (Goshen Stone Company), who donated 60' of cap stones and wall stones, as well as patio stones for the sitting terrace.  The project was funded in part by Town Meeting appropriation, private donations, and the Friends of the Meekins Library, with administrative assistance from Lisa Wenner.  It took a "Village" for the Park to become a reality.  Nick will be happy to help guide others through the permitting process.

Project Description:

Essentially, the project involved removing damaged capstones from the existing wall, which had become eroded due to stormwater runoff from Meekins roof and grounds washing over the top and delivering silt laden water directly into the Mill River.

Edge Detail

Phase one excavated a 2' x 1.5' trench behind the wall and placing 1/2" diameter washed stone aggregated to act as an infiltration medium and prevent fine soil from washing against the back of the wall.  Periodic 4" drains were connected to the aggregate layer to provide drainage for both subsurface and surface water.  A geotextile fabric was placed over the stone aggregate to act as a filter to prevent topsoil from infiltrating the stone and to protect the river during construction.  A 2' wide by 1' deep steel reinforced concrete cap was placed over the existing wall stones to create a new base for capstones and a new iron fence.

Old capstones along with new ones (donated by Goshen Stone Company, free of any charges), were then hoisted back into position using a hydraulic arm. The stones were shimmed, to drain back to the land side of the wall and mortared into place, allowing weep holes to drain infiltrated water back to the aggregate medium).  Holes were drilled through the 4" thick capstones and into the concrete base to receive steel posts for the new (restored), iron fence.  The area was re-graded to collect water into a swale with periodic inlets to prevent any storm water runoff from washing into the Mill River without first being filtered by lawn swales and aggregate medium.

A granite cobblestone edge was installed against the capstones to prevent turf and topsoil from abutting the capstones and to act as an infiltration edge for the turf (see detail).

New infiltration edge

A stone terrace (courtesy of Goshen Stone), was constructed to commemorate the site of an old dam (long removed), and provides three benches at two different levels that allow users to look up and down the Mill River while sitting next to the fence.

The new lawn area will be the site of a new Farmer's Market next summer, which will feature local produce and wares.

This is the beginning of the Meekins Mill River Park.  I am working on a similar project directly across the river at the Hilltown Public Housing site next year.