Touring the Field Pond dam project
Harold Parker state forest, April 2020
With the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world's civilization, one outdoor
activity that's still relatively safe to engage in is solo walking in
the woods as long as they aren't too crowded.
On an overcast but pleasant afternoon I went for a jaunt in Harold Parker,
figuring that I'd meet a sparse share of other people but could easily
avoid coming near them as we passed on the trails.
I didn't even get in the car, as I was able to walk to there
through a couple of other parks,
and lighter traffic made the minimal road crossings easy.
The usual Wednesday morning Friends walks had ceased for the time being, which
I had been hoping would take some opportunity to go view the ongoing new dam
project at the outflow end of Field Pond.
I would have to take my own initiative for that now, and on a Sunday with
everything basically shut down it seemed like a good time to go give it a look.
As everyone continues to adapt to the "new normal", traffic patterns on
the trails are definitely a little different but still manageable.
For example, to head east on the narrowish trail from intersection A24, I
waited at a respectful distance for a guy with a dog to come down the hill
and exit onto the fire road before starting up the trail myself.
It's almost like we're emulating vehicle traffic now -- I'll stop well clear
of some meeting point to let other people go by, and then proceed when safe.
[Images are linked to larger copies.]
After a bit of a ramble I made it down to the construction entrance off
Harold Parker road, where I had seen dump trucks hauling in and out when
driving past some mornings.
This is at the east end of the pond.
I decided I'd just walk all the way up the truck trail to see how it had
been changed for driving equipment and supplies in and out.
The gate was closed, so clearly there wasn't going to be traffic in and
out of the site today.
The other reason for walking up this was the simple challenge, as much
of it is covered with various grades of rough-cut gravel.
Some of it is almost like railroad ballast.
This was welcome conditioning for feet that hadn't been getting outdoors
as much as they and their owner would have liked recently.
A little way in, I started hearing an engine running, and soon came upon a guy
and evidently his offspring who were tooling around in a utility cart
He was actually one of the workers, and was just there for a brief on-site
visit to keep a maintenance eye on things over the weekend.
We had a friendly conversation and he answered several of my questions
about the project.
The effort is indeed to rebuild the dam larger and wider for better flood
control, since the old CCC construction was quite a bit past its functional
life against any serious events.
He said it was fine for me to go poke around the site and get some pictures,
since nobody was actively working on it that day.
In general DCR *does* want to finish this project over the summer despite
the unfolding sociopolitical nightmare.
The contractor has re-trained the workers in distancing and they're
proceeding carefully, but in general the team is staying engaged.
I was glad to hear that; with a small crew this far away from anywhere
else it made perfect sense to keep them employed and not just shut down
for the sake of it.
So I was able to go in and capture a nice photo-essay of the whole thing.
Before getting to the dam I passed through the storage and office-trailer
area; this is it viewed from the east and west.
I popped out on the north end of the site, and stood up on a convenient
bulldozer tread to try and capture the view along the site from as high
as I could reach.
It is a substantial bit of earthworks.
A fallen tree provided a "from the water" shot of the upstream face of
That's some pretty large-scale rip-rap, but not as grandiose as what we
see in sea-walls.
The new spillway is a somewhat complex arrangement: the wall against the
rock fill is the overflow, and the two concrete piers will support a
bridge across the whole thing.
That's what the worker had told me, anyway.
The floodgate box is visible a little farther away, where the water cuts
into the line of the dam.
The worker also warned me to watch out for screws and nails around the
site, but evidently understood that I knew what I was doing and made no
effort to dissuade my visit.
I actually picked up several perfectly unused nice exterior-grade screws
to take home and add to my shop stock, rather than let them simply get
buried here forever.
Two views of the control gate box and mechanisms.
I'm guessing a bit here; the gearbox and screw arrangement in the second
picture is to open the drain gate way down there at the bottom, presumably
for lowering the pond.
The old dam had a similar but cruder setup that had probably been
non-functional for years.
With that, however, I'm not sure what the height-adjustment
in the slot on the upstream side are supposed to do, since where they're set
above the gate level would not allow for complete lowering.
Below the spillway setup is an outflow pipe, similar to the ones used in
"beaver deceivers" but doesn't seem to run as far back as the spillway
In general, as much as I tried to guess about the overall engineering of
this project, most of what's going on here is lost on me.
Part of the old infrastructure is still in the weeds below the new dam.
The big white bags on the left are simply full of dirt.
I continued around the pond on the southern-shore trail, and detoured onto
the headland across from the dam to get a wide view of the whole project.
A little farther on, I found a weird fairyland of the previously submerged
stumps and roots now exposed by the drained pond.
The long-term underwater decay has interesting effects on the wood.
Shortly before reaching the road, did I find the Gateway to the Dead Lands
The western cove of the pond is shallower and has more stumps in it, and right
now looks kind of like that foul swamp you'd cross on the way to Mordor.
That was the state of things in early April 2020.
Over the next few months, despite all the COVID
shutdowns, the project was completed, and in mid-July I went back for
All done, with the bridge now in place!
With the drain gates closed the water level was rising *very* slowly, and
it would take quite a while yet before it would crest the spillway.
Interestingly, all the rip-rap down the spillway got concreted in place,
presumably for a smoother runoff surface.
Well, we'll see how long that holds together...
The crew even "de-graveled" the truck access road, by dumping a whole lot
of sand and fine dirt on top to fill in the gaps in the crushed stone.
So most of the surface was now quite a bit less challenging, and the path
was back to more like it was before the project began.
_H* 200406, updated 200809