Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bussey Brook - Before And After

Bussey brook, Hemlock hill. August, 2007

Bussey brook, February, 2008

Bussey brook storm drain inlet, August, 2007

Storm drain inlet, February, 2008

I've posted several entries on the history of Stony Brook, that mysterious waterway that once ran through the length of Jamaica Plain. When I took pictures of what is left of the brook and its tributaries, it was dry season, and some of those pictures showed dry water beds. Since we had about 2.5 inches of rain yesterday, on top of a light snow cover, I figured that those dry beds should be worth another look today.

Bussey brook passes through the Arnold Arboretum, from Walter street, across the front of Hemlock hill, under South street, where it empties into a wetland in the South street extension of the Arboretum. These before-and-after pictures show the effects of a light snow cover, a day of rain, and temperatures in the low 40s. The brook bed went from dry in August to several inches deep and 4-5 feet across in February.

Where the water finally drains underground, near the West Roxbury/Needham line railroad tracks just south of Forest Hills, the formerly dry drain area was flooded back a few hundred feet, with perhaps a foot of standing water in many places.

This small stream was just one of several contributors to Stony brook as it ran through Jamaica Plain, and should give us some idea of what the people of the past experienced. The watershed was too small to keep a constant flow throughout the year, but would have risen quickly after each heavy rain or thaw. Before the district had been built up, none of this would have mattered, but when buildings and roads went in, the brook would no longer be free to flood its banks, and trouble was inevitable. Unlike the smaller Muddy River, which became protected by a park, Stony brook was too big to ignore, but not large enough to be untouchable. Stony brook was just the right size to suffer the indignity of being buried 30 feet underground and forgotten.

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