On the mend at The Mount: Gardens restored after flash flood damage


Photo Gallery | The Mount's gardens are restored after flash flooding

LENOX -- On the eve of the July 4 holiday weekend, The Mount has significantly recovered from last week's flash flooding that devastated parts of the well-landscaped tourist attraction.

Grounds crews at the Edith Wharton Restoration and workers from Webster Landscaping Inc., a landscape design company in Sheffield, have spent the past seven days removing several tons of gravel from The Mount's French flower garden and other sections of the sprawling estate washed out by 5 inches of rain. The rain fell within a few hours from severe thunderstorms on June 25.

"I almost cried when I saw the damage," said Greg Costello from Webster, who worked on The Mount's garden restoration project in the early 2000s.

The Mount's executive director, Susan Wissler, said she was amazed very few perennials were destroyed by the deluge and debris.

"Our gardens were in peril of suffocating ... but thanks to back-breaking work, the gardens are back to fine form and splendor," Wissler said.

Wissler estimates storm damage costs at between $60,000 and $80,000, which also includes fixing the gravel road to the Edith Wharton mansion and the repair of flower beds and landscaping around the author's home.

The Mount has launched an emergency fund campaign to help offset the unforeseen expense that has quickly raised $25,000, buoyed by a $10,000 donation from the Berkshire Bank Foundation.

Meanwhile, taxpayers for several towns hammered by the June 25 monsoon-like rain may have to foot the hefty price tag for repairing roads, culverts and other infrastructure crippled by the storms.

Communities such as Lee, Lenox and Richmond may face bills of up to $10,000 or more, according to municipal officials in those communities. However, federal aid is unlikely and the potential of some state reimbursement money is uncertain, said state officials.

The Massachusetts Emer-
gency Management Agency reported this week the commonwealth has yet to meet the $9 million threshold to qualify for funding from the Federal Emergency Manage-
ment Agency to help pay for the storm damage.

"At this point, we're not realistically close to that number, so it doesn't appear there's any assistance on the federal side," said MEMA spokesman Peter Judge.

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli was more optimistic about state aid, provide all affected towns in the county have plenty of photos of their damage and can account for every penny spent on repairs.

"I am hopeful, as long as we get all the information from the towns and we can get it to [House] Ways and Means," he said. The legislative committee could recommend the state aid in a supplemental budget bill, if one is put before the entire Legislature.

Several communities re-
port they are still tallying final costs since repair work will continue for another week or two. In Richmond, Town Administrator Matthew Kerwood said every gravel road in town was impacted by the storm as were lower Swamp Road and West Road.

"The same exact areas of those two roads damaged last Wednesday [June 25] were impacted in 2009 [by thunderstorms,]" Kerwood said. "The work done their five years ago was done again."

In Lee, Devon Road reopened to through traffic on Wednesday, after the heavy rains wiped out a huge culvert that left a gaping hole splitting the road in half.

Lee Public Works Super-
intendent Christopher Pompi said the estimated $45,000 cost includes the installation of a new drainage pipe under the road and shoring up the embankment around the culvert.

"We preserved a stone wall which we thought might fall into the brook," he said.

If no state aid is forthcoming, Pompi said the town may have to dip into its road paving funds for fiscal 2015 that began Tuesday to cover the emergency repairs and cleanup.

To reach Dick Lindsay,
or (413) 496-6233.


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