PEPPERELL -- Sometimes the battle of preservation is between two sides who want to preserve.
It is the case of history versus wildlife.
That is the scenario surrounding a dam nearby a seven-acre portion of the Millie Turner property at 52 Hollis St. recently acquired by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Because the Nissitissit River, the very thing the dam used to harness power from, has a unique habitat and the dam itself a rich history, action in either direction is causing a conflict of interest for conservationists.
According to DFW Northeast District Supervisor Patricia Huckery, the area was acquired for wildlife habitat protection and recreational use, particularly fishing.
"DFW is in the infancy of examining the possible removal of Millie Turner dam," she said. "We are just beginning to think critically about Milly Turner dam so we don't yet have answers to many legal, technical or biological questions."
Millie Turner's parcel is now apart of the Nissitissit River Wildlife Management Area, a riverbank corridor of conservation land established over 25 years ago. Along with land off of Brookline St. to the north, the land serves the interests of protecting wildlife and fish that depend upon the Nissitissit River, Huckery says.
Warmer, slower water caused by the dam is less than for cold water fish, especially trout, fresh water mussels and over a half dozen state-listed or uncommon aquatic wildlife species. Huckery said it would not be surprising to find that the half mile area behind the dam unsuitable habitat for native brook trout because it is warmer pond water and has a muddy or weedy substrate.
"Connecting upstream and downstream resources and restoring river habitat within the impoundment are logical conservation pursuits to us," Huckery said.
On the other side are those who want to preserve history. Groton resident Richard Lewis says he feels the dam is an important part of the history of the entire United States.
"Some of us are history buffs," Lewis said. "I would hate to see it dug up and forgotten."
Lewis works as a construction worker for Tidan Construction and says he sent out over 20 letters concerning the dam. Remnants of old waterways and dam controls, he says, give a look into the past and must be preserved as landmarks.
"My view is that historic significance and wildlife conservation could be worked out together easily," Lewis said.
As far as historical significance is concerned, a mill was built on the site around 1720. It changed hands and names many times until becoming famous in 1871 when the Blake brothers, the owners at the time, invented and utilized a new and improved water wheel at the site.
Former Blake Mills buildings, consisting of a now-crumbling antique house and barn, made for problem-filled property. Upon acquiring the property, the Nissitissit River Land Trust, a local group that collaborates with the Nashua River Watershed Association, enlisted the Restored Homestead, LLC to dismantle the buildings and relocate them to Ashby.
Current dam owner David Babin, a local landscaper, had planned to fix the dam, but found it to be to expensive. A fundraising campaign to repair it a few years ago also failed.
Pepperell Conservation Administrator Paula Terrasi has been in talks with DFW and is working with them to preserve the Nissitissit wildlife.
"There will be a public hearings and time for people to voice input on this," she said.
The group first met this week and the Conservation Commission has a meeting posted for Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. Terrasi says the process will involve a review by many organizations looking at things from historical and species-conservation perspectives. According to Pepperell Historical Commission Chair Diane Cronin, both sides of the issue are important.
"I understand the benefits of removing the dam but once a piece of history is removed it is gone forever," Cronin said.
In order for DFW to proceed, it would need to complete a state-mandated assessment looking at potential impact on land and structures downstream and the negative and positive impacts on wildlife.