August 10, 2014 01:09PM
By Dan Brechlin
MERIDEN — Harbor Brook will be exposed as part of the Hub redevelopment project in the coming months to create a natural watercourse flowing through the center of the city as it once did more than 40 years ago. It would be easy to forget that long-buried portions of the brook even exist underneath some of the city’s major roads and downtown properties. But there are actually two even more obscure subterranean brooks flowing into Harbor Brook at the Hub site downtown.
Jordan and Clark brooks are also part of the redevelopment at the Hub, but they’re talked about much less than Harbor Brook.
“There’s a really good reason nobody knows those two brooks exist,” said Dwight Needels, chairman of the city’s Flood Control Implementation Agency, explaining that the brooks flow almost entirely underground.
Unlike Harbor Brook, which extends more than three miles between Baldwin and Hanover ponds, Jordan and Clark brooks do not start and end in large, exposed bodies of water. They are also hardly seen from the road at any point.
Clark Brook can be seen briefly above ground behind the city’s oldest standing home, the Solomon Goffe House on North Colony Street. It then flows south, under the former Napier factory and the intersection of North Colony Street, Britannia Street and Kensington Avenue. The brook remains underground before a quick reemergence on the south side of Interstate 691, Needels said. Clark Brook then continues underground on the east side of Colony Street, appears just behind the former post office on Colony Street and makes a turn along Brooks Street toward the Hub where it meets Harbor Brook.
Jordan Brook is even less visible, Needels said. The brook begins “basically underneath the parking lot of Stop & Shop” at the intersection of East Main and Broad streets. It extends north past the Broad Street firehouse and west across Broad Street before heading downhill through the city. The brook cannot be seen until an area behind the post office on Center Street. Then it goes back underground until reaching the Hub.
“If you walk along Jordan Brook, you can hear it running through the drains even when it hasn’t rained in weeks and weeks,” Needels said. “There’s a lot of water in that brook.”
Jordan Brook gets its name from the Jordan River in the Middle East, according to the Needels’ research. A church stood next to the brook and baptisms were performed there, like the Bible says Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, Needels said.
Needels mapped both brooks, along with numerous other waterways in the city, using GPS equipment. Although he said his map is not 100 percent accurate, Needels is confident it’s close based on his tracing of the brooks through storm drains and research.
The Hub redevelopment plan calls for Harbor Brook to be realigned and shifted slightly to the east, toward the center of the Hub site. Ultimately, the Hub, a former commercial and industrial property purchased by the city, will be transformed into a park that can contain floodwaters in the event of a major storm.
Clark Brook will be extended slightly to the east to reach the new Harbor Brook channel and a headwall will be built where park visitors will be able to see where the brooks meet, Public Works Director Robert Bass said in a recent interview.
Similarly, Jordan Brook will have its own headwall, but Jordan Brook will be shortened.
Unlike many headwalls that are basic concrete, Bass said these will be aesthetically pleasing for those visiting the park with a stone face similar to the large pedestrian bridge that will connect State and Pratt streets.
Clark and Jordan brooks play a role in downtown flooding and have their own separate flooding issues, Needels said.
The Hub project will not alleviate the situation for either, only Harbor Brook. Flood retention work upstream near Falcon Field will also help alleviate flooding issues downtown by “slowing down Harbor Brook and its waters,” Needels said.
Clark and Jordan brooks “arrive relatively early to the Hub compared to the rest of Harbor Brook because they are shorter,” he said. “Their water rushes into the brook and fills up the channel. By slowing down the water from Harbor Brook at Falcon, it ensures the water won’t arrive at the same time as the other brooks and effectively delaying it.”
A separate flood control project calls for a Jordan Brook culvert to be realigned in the area of the post office, adjacent to a small church. The culvert, Needels said, likely dates back to the mid-19th century and some parts are “not in the greatest shape.” The culvert will not be addressed until after the work on Harbor Brook is completed, however.
Clark Brook will also need some flood control work in the long term. Similarly, it will not be dealt with until Harbor Brook’s bridges are fixed or replaced and the channel is widened and deepened.