Group plans to remove 2 dams
Safer, more healthy stream is their goal
Tuesday, August 14, 2007 3:29 AM
By Mark Ferenchik
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Bexley teenagers Peter Mott and John D. Connor were body surfing over a low-head dam along Alum Creek near Wolfe Park 20 years ago.
The boys were good swimmers. But they weren't strong enough to escape the "boil," the churning water below the dam that sucked them in and drowned them.
Now, a group plans to remove that dam and another to the north on the creek near Nelson Park. The Friends of Alum Creek and Tributaries say that removing the two dams will not only make the area safer but also improve the water quality for fish and other life in the stream.
Representatives of the group and environmental consultants Burgess & Niple will lay out their plans at 7 tonight at the Wolfe Park Shelterhouse, 105 Park Dr., south of E. Broad Street.
Yesterday, Michael Mott was glad to hear that the dams could be coming down.
He is Peter Mott's brother. Every July 9, the anniversary of the boys' deaths, Mott visits the dam and speaks to his brother, "a quick little talk," to let him know he's thinking about him. Michael Mott was 13 when his 15-year-old brother died.
"We were really close," said Mott, who just turned 34 and is a manager at Figlio's restaurant on Riverside Drive.
The city of Columbus owns the dams and does not object to having them removed. The City Council approved spending $110,000 in November 1993 to pile 680 tons of large rocks at the dam where Mott and Connor died and at two other dams along the creek to prevent the dangerous churning at their bases.
No one is sure exactly when the dams were built. Aerial photographs from 1938 show the Wolfe Park dam. The dam near Nelson Park was built during the 1930s.
The group believes that the dams were built to create small recreational areas behind them, said David Roseman, the group's communications chairman.
The dams are believed to be 4 feet high, the group said. Yesterday, five ducks dipped below the water in search of food below the Wolfe Park dam. A dead tree was stuck between the rocks.
Removing the dams will allow people to canoe that part of the stream. A free-flowing creek also will give wildlife a better chance to thrive because the dams trap sediment and create standing water and lakelike conditions with low oxygen levels, said Russ Gibson, an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency manager.
The Alum Creek group will pay Burgess & Niple $248,200 in federal money funneled through the state EPA to remove the dams. The money also would be used to reseed the banks and monitor the impact of the removals, said Kim Williams, the group's watershed coordinator.
The state EPA is expected to sign off on the contract. The Alum Creek group hopes the dams can be demolished by the end of this year or early next year.
Bexley also received Ohio Public Works Commission grants of $305,208 to remove invasive plants, mostly honeysuckle, along the creek and replant native trees and shrubs and other plants. And it will pay for a pedestrian path near the creek and build a boardwalk to a wetlands, Bexley Development Director Bruce Langner said.
The Alum Creek group doesn't know of any opposition to removing the dams.
One father would be grateful. Franklin County Common Pleas Judge John A. Connor said his son John D., who was 16, and Mott were good friends.
He still doesn't know why the boys went to the creek.
"For some reason, Peter decided to swim under the water. J.D. saw his buddy go down and just dove into it," Connor said yesterday, believing that his son tried to pull Mott out.
Their bodies were found a mile downstream three days later.
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