PHOTOS: Local, State Officials Celebrate New Improvement to Hemlock Gorge

A ribbon cutting was held on Monday, Nov. 19 at Hemlock Gorge for a recently rebuilt dike, which replaced a century-old structure.

Well, one could say it all started with a Barbie doll. 

"I want to acknowledge the person who really got this thing rolling...and I do of course mean, Barbie," Ward 5 Alderman-at-Large Brian Yates said during a ribbon cutting at Hemlock Gorge Monday afternoon. 

Yates acknowledged this gem sent around to local media outlets and blogs in the spring of 2011 by Upper Falls resident (and Newton Patch blogger) Jerry Reilly. The photo and news release talk about a brave Barbie doll who plugged up a hole in the leaky Hemlock Gorge Dike

"From there, it just snowballed," Yates said with a smile. 

After seven months of construction, Newton, Needham and Department of Conservation and Recreation officials celebrated a newly reconstructed dike and spillway at Hemlock Gorge in Newton Upper Falls Monday. 

The new structure replaces a 106-year-old dike that had a leaky structure and unworkable wooden stoplogs.

According to DCR officials, the Hemlock Gorge Dike is "critical" to maintaining water levels in the gorge and protecting the surrounding riverbanks. 

A full press release from the DCR is included below:

DCR Celebrates Completion of Hemlock Gorge Rehabilitation

NEWTON—Monday, November 19, 2012—The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) cut the ribbon on the Hemlock Gorge Dike today, to celebrate completion of rehabilitation work that has resulted in significant improvements in infrastructure and public safety. The Hemlock Gorge Dike is critical to maintaining proper water levels in the gorge, ensuring flow in the Charles River, and protecting downstream roadway bridges from flooding damage. DCR Engineering staff determined that the dike required total replacement due to its advanced level of deterioration. 

“DCR is best known for protection of the Commonwealth’s natural, cultural and water supply resources,” said DCR Commissioner Ed Lambert. “But as the value added agency, DCR is also committed to repairing aging infrastructure to ensure the public safety of communities across Massachusetts."

The original dike, constructed in 1906, lacked low-level outlet controls and had unworkable wooden stoplogs in the spillway. The concrete structure was not reinforced, allowing it to leak. The poor condition of the structure jeopardized the Route 9 culvert downstream, as well as water levels in the gorge. The dike is critical to maintain water levels in the gorge, protecting the surrounding river banks and marine habitat as well as ensure flow in the Charles River’s East Branch, which had no water for 10 years before the original dike was built. 

Work began in April 2012, including placement of upstream and downstream water control structures, demolition of the existing dike down to bedrock, construction of the new dike, removal of excess trees and vegetation, planting of compensatory vegetation within Hemlock Gorge, and installation of a path and railing downstream of the new structure. Eight post-tensioned rock anchors were inserted 25 feet into the bedrock and 450 cubic yards of concrete were lain. Sixteen-hundred tons of accumulated sediment and other material were removed as part of the work. A 42-inch slide gate and ductile iron pipe for the low-level outlet were also installed, as well as newly fabricated dual aluminum stoplog channels, with extruding aluminum stoplogs for spillway control. DCR awarded the $1.2 million construction contract to Charter Environmental of Boston. Design and permitting of the project, done by DCR, cost an addition $100,000. The design and permitting cost was approximately $100,000 and the construction contract value is $1.2 million. 

Open year-round and from dawn to dusk, Hemlock Gorge is a 23-acre reservation along the Charles River. The park is dominated by the steep gorge, the river, its surrounding stands of Hemlock trees and Echo Bridge, a huge granite and brick structure that spans the river and gorge. Built by Boston Water Works, the bridge was the second largest masonry arch in the United States at the time of its building. Atop the bridge, one is afforded spectacular views of the river and neighboring lands. From a platform beneath the bridge’s central arch, visitors have long enjoyed testing the echo that gave the structure its name. 


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