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  • José Luis Villegas / <252>jvillegas@<252>

    David Garcia listens to music as he enjoys a peaceful Monday afternoon near a pond across from the Sacramento Zoo. The City Council is considering a $400,000 plan to drain, clean and upgrade the three ponds in William Land Park.

  • José Luis Villegas /

    Angel Foley and her dog Pickle walk alongside a pond in William Land Park on Monday afternoon. The pond is one of three that may receive upgrades sometime next year, after cuts to the parks department’s budget in 2008 eliminated funding for regular maintenance.

Ducks in Sacramento’s William Land Park will be relocated during $400,000 pond cleaning, revamp

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 4, 2014 - 10:26 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Jun. 5, 2014 - 12:53 pm

The ponds in Sacramento’s William Land Park are popular with people and ducks alike, but the city says they’ve become dirty and decrepit.

City staff has proposed spending $400,000 to drain and repair the ponds, which were built in the 1920s. The City Council will vote today on whether to include the spending in the city’s annual capital improvement budget.

“The ponds at William Land Park are in serious need of renovation ... and in a lot of places now they’re not meeting the health and safety standards of the city,” said City Councilman Steve Hansen, whose district includes the park. “You can see the deterioration: some old liner floating, some walls crumbling. It’s really time that we make this improvement.”

It has been 16 years since the biggest pond, known as Duck Lake, was drained and upgraded with a newer oxygen filtration system. Over the years, waterfowl droppings have fallen to the bottom of the ponds, creating a sludge that disrupts oxygen levels, fosters algae blooms and creates possible health concerns, as some algae produce compounds that can be poisonous to animals and humans, according to a report from the city parks department. As the ponds got dirtier, cuts to the city’s parks budget eliminated regular maintenance.

Ken Mennemeier, president of the Land Park Community Association, said the upgrades are badly needed to help maintain Land Park’s draw as a regional attraction. “The ponds are a huge amenity of the park,” Mennemeier said.

The city will hire a team of experts to find the best plan of action once the project is added to the budget, but the ponds will most likely need to be drained and the bottoms redone, said project manager Gary Hyden.

Duck and goose droppings can take years to cause serious problems, but combined with runoff water and stagnant conditions, they have caused the water to turn a greenish color.

“It creates a lot of problems,” Hyden said. “It’s really impacted the natural system.”

The waterfowl will need to be removed, probably through relocation, and a system must be put in place to make sure their droppings don’t accumulate again. The parks department has also recommended a maintenance plan through DBi Services, a private firm that would monitor water quality and apply products to mitigate algae blooms. These services would cost about $8,000 a year, according to the parks department report.

“If we don’t get money for routine maintenance, then it’s just a temporary fix,” said Shannon Brown, park maintenance manager for the city Department of Parks and Recreation. “Hopefully we’ll get additional funding for regular maintenance.”

The parks’ budget was about cut in half in 2008, Brown said. At that point, regular maintenance stopped. In the case of the Land Park ponds, that meant crews no longer monitored water quality or created monthly status reports on the ponds.

“When our budget in 2008 got slashed in half, all the preventative maintenance programs kind of went by the wayside,” Brown said. “We’re still climbing out of that.”

A similar but more severe problem is occurring at McKinley Park, and the proposed city parks budget includes $300,000 to fix the duck pond there.

In addition to draining the ponds and creating new bottoms, new aeration systems will help maintain the oxygen levels in the water. A new system will help prevent landscaping runoff from contaminating the water.

Repairs on the Land Park ponds will begin in the spring and take about three or four months to complete.

City officials say just fixing the ponds is not enough, though. Public education is key, so the waterfowl population doesn’t get out of control. People feeding the ducks, combined with others leaving unwanted waterfowl at the lake, has created a permanent population of ducks and geese.

“You have waterfowl that is migratory, that’s OK, but what’s happened over the decades is you’ve had people leave ducks … out there … and now there are too many duck droppings.” Hyden said. “Apparently, feeding these critters gives them a permanent place to live.”

After the ponds are refilled, the city will continue to monitor the duck population, and will take steps to control it – probably through relocating birds – if it gets too large, Hyden said.

Call The Bee’s Will Wright, (916)-321-1212.

Read more articles by Will Wright

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