Near the middle of Washington County Community College’s campus sits a small manmade pond that has been there since the area was a sprawling family farm. In recent years, the pond had become overgrown and fairly choked by vegetation, reducing its ability to support native species. Rose Binda, biology instructor and the students of the adventure recreation program have been working together to restore the pond over the past year and a half, and the results have been spectacular.
The students utilized low-impact techniques such as clearing trees and overgrowth from around the pond and installed a pump to circulate the water, along with introduction strains of bioremediation cultures to “eat that slurry”, as Binda described it. The methods were effective and dramatic. “If you would have told me that within a year’s time we would clear from the edges of the pond to the twelve feet or so in the center, I would never have believed it,” said Binda. “We doubled our dissolved oxygen levels, which is incredible.”
The encouraging response from the pond has led to an effort from Adventure Recreation program director Scott Fraser to work with state biologists to stock the pond with brook trout and rainbow trout this summer. The college is crafting fishing regulations to allow for fly-fishing in the pond using only barbless hooks and catch and release tactics.
Students have planted native berry bushes around the pond, along with native wildflowers for pollinators and milkweed. Binda said that while milkweed can take up to 8 years to grow, once it’s grown, “insects will be on that 24/7.” Milkweed attracts bees “of every stripe”, butterflies, and moths. “The milkweed plant is its own ecosystem because of all the life it is capable of supporting,” said Binda.
A box for wood ducks is already present by the pond, along with a few beehives. Students will be putting in a bat box and roosting boxes that can be used as nest boxes for canopy dwellers like tree swallows. Additionally, Binda aims to have some housing for native bees that don’t want to be in a hive or in the ground. She is hopeful that next year the students will put in barn owl boxes in the nearby woods.
“It’s just a beautiful spot. You stand there and can look down to the river,” said Binda of the pond. The college has recently finished building a gazebo by the pond, enabling visitors to sit and admire the wildlife and the view.
Though Binda does expect there will be some predation of the incoming fish and the existing abundant frog population by kingfishers and blue herons, she said, “any day you can have a blue heron wading in your pond outside your classroom window is a good day.”