PORTLAND — A popular skating pond near Deering High School will continue to double as a drier wildlife habitat in warmer weather.
“There is absolutely room for both things,” city Parks Director Ethan Hipple said Monday, a day before a public meeting on pond management was held at the high school.
Ludlow Pond, which sits off Ludlow Street behind some high school athletic fields, has been used as a skating pond for nearly 85 years, according to Hipple.
Water flow to the pond area is controlled by a drain near the sidewalk on Ludlow Street. In 2015, it remained stuck in the closed position, preventing the typical draining after winter, Hipple said.
Eventually, city staff cleared and dredged the bottom to unclog the drain.
“It turns out some people really like it that way,” Hipple said of the year-round water supply.
At the same time, maintaining the pond if filled all year could be expensive, Hipple said. While Ludlow Pond is not on the scale of nearby Capisic Pond, it could be prone to the same kind of invasive growth that choked off open water in Capisic Pond.
Work to dredge the bottom and restore 4.5 acres of open water on Capisic Pond cost the city almost $1.5 million two years ago.
Hipple said draining Ludlow Pond still keeps the area as a wildlife habitat, but also allows city crews to cut down vegetation in the fall before refilling it for the winter.
The bottom needs to be clear in order for ice to remain stable and strong, he said.
The city has also planted trees near the pond and plans to add a wildflower meadow, Hipple said. In warmer weather, the pond also serves as a spot to collect and filter stormwater.
The city hosted its first public meeting in June 2017, and City Councilor Kim Cook said continued contact from her constituents led her to seek another meeting to update residents on what has been and will be done.
Though now bordered by athletic fields, Ludlow Pond was once part of the much larger Presumpscot Park that included a horse racing track until it was bought by the city in 1934.
Hipple said the area has been reduced in size as Deering’s fields grew, most recently in the 1980s. Its traditional uses will continue.
“We feel strongly it is not an either/or solution,” Hipple said. “There is a place for winter recreation and we have to maintain a certain way, but that does not mean we can’t have a wildlife area.”
Water flow to Ludlow Pond in Portland’s Deering Center is controlled by the city. In the winter, it is used for ice skating, but will continue to be drained in warmer months.