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Local group works to revive Dead River Park



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Aimee Michaud has recently gathered some volunteers to help fix up and maintain Dead River Park located from Cole Street to the back parking lot of Valley Creek Eatery. (Photo by Jody Houle) (click for larger version)
August 19, 2015
BERLIN When Aimee Michaud took a stroll through Dead River Park last fall, two things came to her mind her first thought was its natural beauty, and her second was her concern over the lack of maintenance and on-going vandalism.

During our interview, we took a walk throughout the park examining the natural beautiful landscape that was being desecrated by the amount of litter and lack of maintenance. The walking bridge under the old train trestle is deteriorating and is only one of the issues. As Ms. Michaud stepped on the edge of the wooden bridge looking out to the pond and describing its beauty, a board snapped and her leg went right through it and caused her minor scrapes and bruises. She almost ended up in the river. She got up and walked it off and this further validated her concern for the upkeep of the park.

In the last couple of weeks, Michaud has conducted two clean up sessions in the park with a crew of volunteers who have picked up litter, planted perennial lilies, removed and cut brush and opened up a few areas. She has started a Facebook page "Friends of the Future Plumpetoosuc River Park" and many people have offered to help in some way.

Michaud said she plans on doing a periodic ongoing clean up with her crew. Other plans are to have the water tested for pollutants.

"It will take a group effort. Let's create some hope and do something," she said.

Recently, a trash bin has been placed in the park and the city has done some maintenance including some pruning and landscaping. Public Works Director Michael Perreault is on board said Michaud. There are plans by the city to fix up the playground equipment. Due to a large number of parks there is a limited budget, so Perreault highly recommends and encourages any volunteers willing to help. Michaud said that the bridge is now also a major concern that she plans on addressing to the city. Also, inmates supervised by Sue Whitehouse have done some work and there are plans to have them return.

Besides the vandalism and maintenance issues, another problem that Michaud is addressing is the drug activity that takes place in the park. She noted that the city has a high rate of poverty and there are not a lot of things for the kids to do. She has made an effort to meet some of the kids that hang in the park.

"I hang out with them and try to get to know them. I want to set an example. It's not an 'us-against-them' mentality. There are not many places for them to go," she said.

Michaud said that the focus was just on the park at first but then it came to her attention that dead river runs three and a half miles with many acres of wetlands. Pierre Lessard, who owns property on the river, is teaming up with Michaud.

"We are creatively thinking on how to restore it in two different sections," said Michaud.

Lessard recently suggested changing the name of the river to its original Abenaki name "Plumpetoosuc River" meaning "shallow, narrow river with swift current." (According to some research, when four settlers purchased the land off of an Indian named Philip, the deed listed the original name as "Peumpelusuck.") Berlin Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme agrees to the name change being a more suitable name. She is researching the history and plans to propose the change to the planning board and city council.

Michaud has other intentions for the park including possibly having cook-outs, live music, and yoga and meditation sessions.

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