Marble Works at Otter Creek getting makeover

MIDDLEBURY — As two large pieces of earth-moving equipment began uprooting overgrown shrubbery and weeds and moving white-rock rubble into place for landscaping material, several members of the Middlebury Riverfront Committee gathered Wednesday morning to celebrate the start of a long-delayed project and talk of next steps.

“We’re excited to see the project finally get under way,” said committee chair Nancy Malcolm. “When the big machinery work is all done, the landscaping’s in place and the trees have a few years to grow and provide shade, we think it will be one of the nicest parks in town and a real attraction for visitors.”

Originally envisioned in 2007, the project calls for extensive landscaping throughout the riverfront bank of the Marble Works Complex that fronts the Otter Creek Falls; clearly defined pedestrian pathways, one of which hugs the Otter Creek and another that connects to the walkway leading in and out of the Marble Works; and a small “amphitheater” seating area for groups to congregate and perhaps stage small outdoor performances.

The plan also calls for four historic trestle markers with solar lighting, each of which will include interpretive signs; at least five oak and/or maple trees; river restoration plantings; and a rain garden located adjacent to the stone “Gas House” building at the foot of Printer’s Alley.

Work on the riverfront project is largely funded through a $100,000 earmark from the town’s conservation fund, with another $35,000 financed by individual pledges and fundraisers, said Malcom, who is also Middlebury Planning Commission Chairwoman. Malcolm, who has also been spearheading the riverfront restoration effort said the work is anticipated to take about eight to 10 weeks and will not interrupt the Wednesday and Saturday Farmers’ Market events.

“The disruption will be minimal,” Malcolm said in an earlier interview, “and it will be well worth it.”

Following the slated work, the committee hopes to be able to meet with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to discuss ways the town can mitigate the river trash that collects in the eddy at the base of the falls and within the jumble of logs that collects along the rock ledges below the falls. While recognizing the value of fish habitat the log jam provides and pledging not to disrupt that, committee members noted that ways to keep the area safe for area residents and looking pleasant would be an appropriate next step.

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