A Brief Overview by Bill Lawyer - July 2013
When the Town of Rye Acquired the 62 acre Rye Town Park property in 1908, it contained a number of bungalows, semi-permanent tents, and other structures suitable for use during the summer months. There are no records of any pond existing on the property at that time.
The topography and underlying bedrock determined, nevertheless, that there would be a natural vernal pond and wetlands at the pond’s current location. Rainwater flowed there from the north, west and southern directions. During heavy rains or storms, there was an outflow stream that delivered water to the sound via a small “valley” on the southeastern end of the pond. During the fall, winter and spring there was enough precipitation to support an active population of wetland flora and fauna. Lacking a steady inflow of “upstream” water, vernal ponds dry out in the late spring or early summer.
At some point after 1909 a formal, oval-shaped reflecting pond was created. Historical post-card photos show this pond being in existence at least by the mid-1920’s.
In the plans of the park’s landscape architects (Brinley & Holbrook), the proposed pond was referred to as the “Crystal Lake.” A few years later storm drains were constructed along Forest Avenue, which directed rainwater run-off more directly to the pond.
Photos of the pond show people walking along paths enjoying views of the water. The lake/pond was used in winter for informal ice-skating and ice hockey.
Because of the seasonal nature of the flow of water into the pond, however, it frequently filled up with sediment and decomposing plants and algae.
In the 1980’s, the Rye Town Park Commission decided to “shrink” the pond to create additional space for overflow parking. They filled in much of the pond, leaving only a small portion of the southern end, along with the waterfowl gazebo.
Unfortunately, the outcome was that the rainwater continued to drain downhill, making the proposed parking area too damp and muddy for that use.
And the remaining duck pond became a putrid, polluted “toilet.” The condition of the pond was one of the main reasons for the formation of the Friends of The Rye Town Park in 1991. They sought to restore and upgrade the park’s facilities and grounds, including the pond. While many improvements were made over the years, upgrading the pond was held off until enough funding was available.
Thanks to a Grant of nearly $500,000 from a New York DEC grant, along with $150,00 from private donations were raised by 2003. The DEC funding was part of a nation-wide effort to improve water quality through the federal Clean Water Act. The DEC funding was awarded on the condition that the renovated pond be designed and created to manage the flow of rainfall through the pond and out into Long Island Sound. This included restoring the pond to its original size of about one acre, but creating two separate pond areas, intersected by a “peninsula.” Native plantings were to be established to help remove the high levels of nitrogen that was contributing to the serious decrease in the oxygen levels of the pond and Long Island Sound. A low-wattage “bubbler” was to be installed along the east side of the pond and a trickling waterfall on the west side to help add oxygen to the pond water.
Work began in 2004 and was completed in 2005. For the first few years the pond functioned well, as designed. However, after several hot, dry summers the water levels declined and the pond became clogged with algae and duckweed. In addition, stocking the pond with domestic ducks had greatly increased the nitrogen level of the pond, adding to the growth of algae. And during cold winters the domestic ducks had to be rescued when the pond froze.
Following the lead of the Central Park Conservancy, the park staff and Friends purchased higher-powered aerators to replace the bubbler, and they added a circulator to oxygenate the water on the southern part of the pond. Each fall and winter the Friends of Rye Town Park hires landscape workers to cut back the dead vegetation, to stop it from decomposing and adding to nutrient overload. Even so, on dry, hot summers algae blooms continued to cause problems.
In 2011 the park determined that we needed a professional pond management contractor, to fine-tune the treatment within the limits of DEC regulations. In response to an rfp, we hired the Pond Lake Connection Company. They carry out water quality testing and use a variety of biological and chemical products to reduce algae while protecting life in the pond. Native wildlife, such as turtles wild waterfowl and macro invertebrates helped as well. So far the pond’s quality levels are in the acceptable to good range.
Finally, in 2015 the Friends of Rye Town Park worked with a local wildlife group to find homes for the pond’s domestic ducks, leaving only the mallards, which were not dependent on the public for food.
Pond developed from marshy area – about 1 acre (43,000 sq ft). Used for skating in winter;
Pond and fenced area reduced to 11,000 sq ft – became known as the “Duck Pond.”
Town of Rye submits grant application to the NY DEC to “expand the duck pond to its original size, and thereby to expand its capacity to serve as a natural drainage and retention basis to reduce nonpoint source pollution from the park.”
February, Grant Proposal denied
Town of Rye resubmits its proposal
February – Grant award announced - “$489,675 to restore Park Pond to its original size of 56,000 square feet and improve fish and wildlife habitats by planting native vegetation and using water oxygenation techniques. The goal is to reduce nitrogen levels in the pond, which flows into the Sound.”
October – Contract for grant signed by Town of Rye
Project Management and Design: Chris Cohan – Design & Management; Rita Wong – Design; Sven Hoeger of Creative Habitat – Plantings Design and Management.
July – Town of Rye receives executed contract; Letter from DEC stating that “the Town of Rye is permitted to initiate construction.”
February – bids received for construction and landscaping of pond project: awarded to Real Life Land Improvements (they subcontracted the fencing work);
May – Work begun
October – Most Work Completed
Final Grant Payments Received; project completed except for DEC Required Five year monitoring.