By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
On Oct. 30, about 15 people filled the basement of the Central Park Nature Center to discuss plans for the future of Central Park Lake. Those in attendance were from the county conservation department as well as those who have a vested interest in the life of the lake.
This was the second meeting of the Central Park Lake Restoration Committee, led by Mimi Wagner, a landscape architect. She is helping the committee develop plans and ideas to improve the lake and park practices. Through past water quality conditions and park practices, plans are underway to improve such practices at the park.
A survey was handed out to those in attendance. It addresses such issues as the lake’s water quality, protecting the lake from future pollution, reducing the amount of pollutants reaching the lake and using conservation practice to help keep the lake off Iowa’s Impaired Waters list.
Much of the contaminants that are entering the Central Park Lake are due to the park’s sewer systems, geese congregating at the park, dump stations in the camping area and the conservation director’s residence.
“The dump stations are not up to par,” explained Larry Gullett, conservation director. “We need a new septic system.”
He said they have applied for a grant for this phase of the project.
Wagner said the goals of the project should include removing sources of pollutants and develop conservation practices to treat run-off.
“This is a starting point,” said Wagner.
One of the ways to reduce pollutants is to reduce the geese population at Central Park. John Klein, Jones County Conservation ranger, said this could be done through a multi-prong approach.
“We’ll manage the goose population,” said Klein, “not eliminate the geese. That would defeat the purpose of Central Park. We could manage the population to acceptable levels.”
Klein said now, the amount of geese at the park is unacceptable. Through a process called “addling,” Klein explained their department, in cooperation with the Iowa DNR, could test the eggs in the nest and coat them with a vegetable oil that prevents oxygen from reaching the embryos. He said the eggs would not hatch, controlling the geese population.
“The DNR are on board,” he said. “We’d have a biologist on site to help walk us through the whole process.”
Klein said this process would not show immediate results. He said it is a three- to five-year approach.
Klein said they also could also capture and relocate the geese here at the park.
With the mild winter we experienced last year, Klein said many of the geese stayed put because they had food and water sources. He said the geese population Central park has now are not migratory birds, but residential birds.
In changing the park’s water quality, everyone agreed that it is not just the park that has to change, but adjoining landowners as well.
“We need to bring the water quality to a level that it needs to be,” Klein said. “It’ll be time-intensive.”
Storm water runoff entering the lake is also an issue. Wagner explained developing a lake buffer around the edge of the lake would help. She said this would filter up-hill run-off by planning trees, grasses and flowers in the path.
Producing a bio-retention area to help infiltrate the run-off water from the roof of the Nature Center is another practice to reduce pollution at the park. Wagner said this is a shallow basin planted with native plants that can adapt to wet and dry conditions.
“You can have any look you want here,” she said, “from wild plants to a formal-looking garden.”
Installing vegetation filter strips throughout the park to filter the run-off from parking areas, roads and upland mowed areas is another practice the county can put in place. This is similar to the lake edge filter mentioned, but is used for parking areas. Wagner explained these filter areas could catch up to 50 percent of the run-off before it enters the lake.
“It’s slowing the water down,” she said.
With the surveys handed out, once the results have been complied, everyone will have a better understanding of where the committee sits on this project.
“The hardest part will be to sell this project to the public,” Wagner commented. She said the committee and conservation department needs to educate people about the process and its benefits.
“Other lakes have done these same ideas and have had favorable results,” Wagner noted.
At their next meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 6:30 p.m., the committee will review the survey results and prepare a design concept of Central Park, showing the conservation practices they will implement based on the survey results.
“Central Park belongs to you,” Klein told those at the meeting. “This project is for the future of Central Park. You define what the plan is.”