ECLIPSE MILL to WILLOW DELL
The steep slope of the North Branch combined with the Eclipse Mill dam provides the right conditions for a novel option to restore the river in this section. Since existing flood chutes offer no habitat for river dwellers, one alternative is to remove the river from the confines of the concrete. This would involve diverting the river, except during flood flows, at the Eclipse dam into a naturalized channel on the east side of Route 2.
This rerouting calls for transforming the landscape of Union Street into a lush river corridor adjacent to Rte 2 down to Willow Dell. Instead of concrete, the North Branch would cascade over cobble and boulders next to a greenway with paths and other amenities before being redirected back into the chutes. There are a number of variations on how many of the existing building would be left in place. Should serious flooding be forecast, the river would be funneled directly into the flood chutes at the Eclipse Dam to pass through the city as floods have done since the chutes were built.
Thinking ‘outside the box’ becomes literal in this alternative. A close look at the sketch cross sections shows this forward thinking option where the three-sided chutes get a concrete top and become a self contained box. The river would be skimmed from the Eclipse Mill dam and sent across the top of the box in a recreated river corridor.
The now ‘suspended’ North Branch would meander across the chute lid, planted much like a giant window box with native plants and shrubs. Paths and trails would allow people easy access to both sides of the river corridor and even a side trail to Natural Bridge State Park. When flood waters come, the river would be dropped backed into the flood chute to pass through the city as originally designed.