By Leif Skodnick
Originially published in the Fairfield County Business Journal, July 14, 2014.
The Rippowam River ambles along just west of Washington Boulevard in Stamford, winding under the Broad Street bridge and into the Mill River Park and Greenway, a verdant space separating West Stamford from downtown.
Natural vegetation grows along the sloped river banks in the park, the tall grasses, wildflowers and trees creating a habitat for rabbits and birds. And while the river neatly slices through the park, babbling over the rocks as it flows toward Stamford Harbor and the Long Island Sound, 10 years ago this park was in a state of decay and the river was choked with sediment.
In the last decade, the Mill River Collaborative has worked to transform the landscape along the Rippowam River to a ribbon of parkland for Stamford’s residents. In May 2013, the first phase of the project opened between Broad Street and Main st.
Walking into the park from Washington Boulevard, Mill River Collaborative Executive Director Milton Puryear recalled what the space used to look like.
“There was a full dam here, plus a 1,000-foot-long mill pond with concrete walls on both sides,” Puryear said. “Inside, there was 18,000 cubic yards of sediment with stuff growing out of it. It wasn’t really a pond. It was a mess — shopping carts, motorcycles, bicycles, televisions.… When we emptied the pond, we found four dumpsters that had been washed off of banks during floods and tumbled their way down to the dam.”