The Block Island Times

Trying to protect Block Island’s only waterfall

By Lars Trodson | Jan 11, 2014
Photo by: John Willis This photo shows the waterfall at the north side of a culvert built more than 100 years ago. Island resident John Willis has proposed building a walkway over it to help preserve this unique island structure.

There’s a little piece of hidden Block Island history that John Willis would like to preserve. It’s a domed brick culvert, perhaps more than 100 years old, built underneath Old Town Road. Last summer Willis jumped down into The Mill Pond and snapped some photos, one of which shows the small but unique cascading waterfall located at the north end of the culvert.

Willis appeared before the Town Council on Monday to make a plea. Clear away the brush so that the culvert can be more clearly seen, and build a walkway on the south side of Old Town Road so that people will have a safe place to walk. The culvert, he said, was in pristine condition. “There’s not a brick out of place,” he said.

“What a magnificent improvement to the town this would be,” Willis told The Block Island Times when he dropped off his rendering of the walkway and photos of the culvert at the paper’s office. Willis said he had gone to Town Hall to do some research, but no one was able to tell him just exactly when the culvert had been built. By the arched style of the brickwork, it was guessed to have been built in the 1880s. Willis said that the late Merrill Slate told him he used to play in the culvert as a child.

Willis said he had also talked to Town Councilor Chris Warfel about an idea: installing a small turbine under the waterfall to generate electricity for a light that could brighten that section of Old Town Road.

“This isn’t even a big expense,” said Willis. The council seemed amenable to the idea of protecting the old culvert and its unique waterfall, but no official vote or action was taken toward the idea.

This photo shows the brief stretch of Old Town Road as it looks today. The culvert runs underneath this section. (Photo by: Kari Curtis)
This sketch  by John Willis, illustrates the idea he has for a pedestrian walkway.
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