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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Feeding ducks at Manito Park still a problem

Stephanie Hughes shares an umbrella with her daughter Cecilia, 4, as a pair of ducks swim past them on April 16 at Manito Park in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Stephanie Hughes shares an umbrella with her daughter Cecilia, 4, as a pair of ducks swim past them on April 16 at Manito Park in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland)

The Mirror Pond at Manito Park still has a duck-feeding issue.

It’s not as bad as it was before the big duck roundup in 2008 when Parks Department staff corralled and relocated 35 domestic ducks that were living off bread handouts in the pond.

“We knew it would take time to change the tradition of feeding the birds here,” said Stephanie Hughes, vice president of the Friends of Manito, a nonprofit group that raises money for projects at the park. “There are so many other things to do at the park. I wish people would do those instead of feeding the birds.”

It’s the amount of poop left behind by the ducks and geese – referred to as “the load” – that’s a problem said Manito Park horticulture supervisor Steve Nittolo.

“We just can’t clear up the water here as long as people continue to feed the birds,” Nittolo said. “Improving water quality in the pond is our main focus.”

The Friends of Manito are fundraising for a big Mirror Pond restoration project and, in support of that, Nittolo is applying for a $300,000 grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office. That grant would go toward landscape restoration around the pond, using fabric and boulders to keep the shoreline in place, as well as planting for shade to discourage algae growth and restoring paved paths.

A $47,500 grant from the state Department of Ecology will pay for the installation of an automatic water level control this summer.

The pond bottom is not lined so it requires regular topping off with tap water.

“That system is man operated right now,” Nittolo said, while walking around the pond on a rainy morning. “Keeping the water level will help us in the long run.”

Recently installed underwater terraces planted with water quality improving aquatic plants were a limited success.

“The turtles ate many of the plants,” Nittolo said. “We are replanting and putting in a better fence.”

Dave Lennstrom, president of Friends of Manito, said restoration of the Mirror Pond will take place in phases over the next couple of years. Phase one is already funded by $60,000 from Friends of Manito and $60,000 from the Parks Department.

“Phase one includes placing boulders and columns around the shoreline and some landscaping,” Lennstrom said. “We hope we can begin that this fall.”

Park visitors may have noticed a new boulder structure located northeast of the pond, just off the parking lot. Lennstrom said Friends of Manito will engrave the names of its biggest donors on the rocks.

“We have a plaque in our meeting room, but this is a much more visible place,” Lennstrom said.

Among other projects at Manito Park, Nittolo said the main entrance at the Gaiser Conservatory will be closed for restoration this summer.

“This is the part where the tall trees are,” Nittolo said. “The conservatory will remain open during the construction, but you’ll have to enter from either of the wings.”

At the Nishinomiya Tsutakawa Japanese Garden, visitors will once again be able to cross the small creek at the eastern end of the koi pond.

“The stepping stones we had got very slick when they were wet,” Nittolo said. “We had problems with people falling.”

A new path has been created by a Japanese garden designer and will be installed soon.

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