PORTLAND — Capisic Pond Park once again went under the microscope Monday night, as officials and consultants met with park neighbors to discuss plans for bringing new life to the city’s largest body of fresh water.
Monday’s meeting, led by City Councilor Ed Suslovic, presented environmental data and gathered feedback on some preliminary recommendations.
The city and its consultants are trying to come up with a solution that balances the need to protect the pond as a wildlife habitat with public desire for more open water.
The pond is choked with cattails and is slowly being filled with silt. While it encompassed more than six acres of open water in the 1950s, the pond now includes only about two.
Based on analysis of the area’s wildlife, terrain, sediment and other data, the city’s consultants are recommending dredging the pond to create four acres of open water with an average depth of three feet.
About 10,000 cubic yards of material would be removed by the dredging, according to consultant Zach Henderson, of the environmental engineering firm Woodard and Curran. Some of the material would be used as fill to create more room for shrubs and low-growing plants along the pond’s western shore.
The cattails would not be eliminated.
“Cattails are not an evil nemesis, but a blanket of cattails is not good,” Henderson said.
The consultants are also recommending the installation of an elaborate filter to trap garbage that sometimes flows into the pond from a storm-water outfall near Rockland Avenue.
To improve water quality further, the consultants recommended creating a half-acre retention pond near the outfall. The retention pond would hold storm water until pollutants and sediment could settle, preventing them from entering Capisic Pond.
That suggestion drew sharp criticism from residents at the meeting, who were concerned that the smaller pond would become an eyesore or a health threat.
“If kids play nearby, will they get sick?” said Andy Graham, who has lived on nearby Macy Street since 1979.
Suslovic echoed the residents’ concerns. “Will this pond smell? Will there be trash on the surface? Will it be a benign body of water?” he said.
The consultants admitted that the retention pond might be unsightly, especially when storm-water outflow was high. But they stressed that this was a better alternative than allowing dirty storm water to flow into Capisic Pond, as it does now.
Residents also voiced strong opinions about a suggestion to build walkways and informational signs that would guide visitors throughout the park.
“We don’t need to see ‘people junk’ in the park,” said one resident. “Let’s leave it alone.”
Graham agreed, saying, “One of the problems with adding man-made things to natural areas is that they become less natural.”
Suslovic tabled the discussion of the retention pond, walkways and signage, asking the consultants to come back with alternatives that would be discussed at a future public meeting.
In the meantime, a “placeholder” budget for other parts of the project will included in the city’s capital improvements plan, said Director of Public Services Mike Bobinsky. Capital improvement budgets for the coming fiscal year are due next month.
Suslovic said there was no guarantee the pond restoration work would receive capital funds next year, but that it might be eligible for funding through the city’s storm-water management system.
He noted that his work on the Capisic Pond restoration began two years ago, and that he was optimistic the project would make progress over the next two.
“I think we’ll be pretty far down the path, if not with shovels in the ground, then pretty close to that,” he said.
Capisic Pond in 1969.
Capisic Pond in 2011, showing the growth of cattails.