The Mill Pond in Davisburg would return to a river if the dam is removed. Photo by Phil Custodio
Davisburg Millpond looks Davisburg Millpond looks to be restored to river
BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
The Mill Pond in Springfield Township is on track to become a riverwalk after Springfield Township Board came out in favor of removing its dam, but many steps remain.
“This isn’t the final of any decision,” said township Supervisor Collin Walls. “In real estate terms, this is one of many sticks in the ultimate bundle.”
The outlet pipe within the dam, located between Mill Pond and Rotary Park under Davisburg Road, is deformed down to a 30 percent flow and needs replacement or removal, according to the Mill Pond Feasability Study, commissioned by the Township Board in 2017.
The study found the dam is also undersized and does not meet Michigan Department of Environmental Quality standards.
The Township Board formed the Mill Pond Park Committee on Sept. 11, 2017, to explore options to revitalize Mill Pond Park with dam and pond improvements, or remove the dam and restore the river corridor.
Engineer Troy Naperala, project consultant, led the board in a spreadsheet scoring session to evaluate four options with the dam repaired or replaced, and three options including removal of the dam.
The option receiving the top score was to remove the dam and replace it with a pre-cast open-bottom culvert with natural river substrate instead of concrete, with a total cost of $1,596,466.59-$1,755,553.39 and a 100-year maintenance cost of $125,072.12.
“If we want natural, we should go with a natural, open bottom,” Walls said. “Stones on the bottom are better than cement.”
Other dam-removal options included replacing it with a concrete box culvert, total cost of $1.7 million-$1.9 million, 100-year maintenance cost of $125,072.12; or replace with a bridge, cost of $2.09 million-$2.159 million, 100-year maintenance cost of $127,911.15.
Plans that would preserve the dam and pond included replacing the existing spillway with new pipes or culvert, costing about $1 million, or a new bridge, which would cost about $2 million.
Plans calling for a bridge were rejected as too expensive and regulated, and also out of place.
“I don’t see a bridge in downtown Davisburg, with the rural atmosphere we have,” said Trustee Marc Cooper.
Davisburg’s sawmill and dam on the Shiawassee River were built by Cornelius Davis in 1836, according to information collected for the study presentation. The dam was repaired and a new grist mill built in 1854, but it fell into disuse by the 1940s and was demolished in 1948.
Springfield Township and Oakland County Parks and Recreation department signed an interlocal agreement in 2015 to manage the dam, with the county paying 55 percent of the costs and the township responsible for 45 percent.
The township owns and operates Mill Pond Park, and the county owns and operates Rotary Park, located across Davisburg Road from the park. The township and county work together to manage and maintain the Mill Pond.
The township hosted a public meeting on the dam issue in March. This was the Township Board’s first meeting on the issue.
The Township Board fell short of a full endorsement of one of the plans, instead voting unanimously to approve a motion by Walls to forward the results of the spreadsheet analysis to the county.
Some residents at the meeting opposed busting the dam, and called for a ballot initiative to decide the issue. The decision will not become a ballot issue, officials said.
“We have the blessing and a curse to have to do the best we can to represent 14,000 people,” Walls said.
The next step is to incorporate the results of the meeting into the final report. Oakland County Parks and Recreation will consider the options at its next meeting on July 10.
If the township and county agree, the report could be finalized and adopted by both by late summer.
“There is currently no timeline in place for dam replacement or removal,” according to the report.