Legacy grant boosts Quarry Hill pond project
Only six months ago, leaders at Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester were scraping together funds for a temporary repair of the park's artificial pond.
Today, as recipients of a $200,000 state Parks and Trails Legacy Grant, they're looking not only to fix the pond permanently, but to enlarge it by about 75 percent.
"We use that pond for almost everything we do," said Roberta Tolan, executive director at Quarry Hill. "To be able to make a permanent fix and make it even better … we'll just keep the pond for future generations."
The 320-acre park, at 701 Silver Creek Road N.E., attracts some 100,000 visitors per year.
The pond was beset by a number of threats.
Eroding hillsides north of the pond were gradually filling it with silt. The pond had lost up to 4 feet of depth in some areas, in just the 30 years or so since it was developed, Tolan said.
Meanwhile, the plastic pond liner had been punctured at several spots on its banks by burrowing muskrats. Those holes, just like an overflow drain in a bathtub, let water escape and prevented the pond from staying full.
Shallowed, the pond became susceptible to algae blooms and became an inhospitable, oxygen-poor environment for fish, though the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources stocked the pond once again last spring.
The city, on Quarry Hill's behalf, applied for a $356,000 Legacy Grant, and was awarded $200,000. Now, the park must raise another $120,000 to get work rolling this spring.
The $500,000 pond project will coincide with city work to reroute a drain path running north and south through the park to Silver Creek, and a half-mile extension of sewer lines from neighborhoods to the north.
The two city projects together will cost about $750,000.
The work is being synchronized with the pond project "so we don't have to go back into that valley (for a construction project) again," Tolan said.
The drainage project is closely aligned with the pond. It will reroute the drain path from the east side to the west side of the pond, and it will add inlets and outlets to the pond, allowing fresh water to pass through.
The creek appears to have been re-routed once before, in the 1930s, said Barb Huberty, who oversees the drainage project for the city. The new route follows the natural alignment, she said.
Work in the pond area is scheduled to finish by June 11, before summer educational sessions start, Huberty and Tolan said.