The once-murky waters of Mirror Pond are now gone, replaced by heavy equipment prepping the popular Manito Park feature for a $265,000 renovation.
Crews with Ditches Unlimited began digging earlier this month to deepen the pond from 2 feet to about 5 feet, a step intended to prevent the algae growth that has given the water body its cloudy appearance in recent years. The Spokane Parks Department has also been working with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to find a new home for animals living in the pond.
“Any native wildlife that we see, we’re required to salvage that wildlife and relocate it,” said Nick Hamad, a landscape architect with the Parks Department overseeing the project. “We’ve done that with a dozen turtles, and moved them to Cannon Hill pond.”
Hamad said crews also discovered a mallard unable to fly that was relocated to Cannon Hill, which has its own duck pond roughly four blocks to the west on Spokane’s South Hill. Fish found living in the pond were all non-native species and have been disposed of according to Fish and Wildlife rules, Hamad said.
Dredging and excavation of the pond should be completed by the end of the year, he added.
The Friends of Manito, a nonprofit supporting supporting activities in Spokane’s second-largest park, contributed $50,000 toward the project after fundraising began several years ago, said Isaac Curtis, the organization’s president. The group will continue to raise money to support renovation efforts.
“This project’s a long time in coming,” Curtis said. “We’re certainly happy to see it get started.”
Work is not expected to affect the popular Holiday Lights at Manito Conservatory event, when strings of festive lights are hung from plants in the park’s central greenhouse. That free event is scheduled to begin Dec. 13 and run until Dec. 31, except for Christmas Day, and access should not be affected by work at the pond, Curtis said.
The Friends of Manito are documenting the work through videos and photographs, and invite the public to share their own stories and remembrances about the pond in hopes of commemorating the new Mirror Pond in the spring, Curtis said.
When the pond reopens, it will feature a new treatment wetland that will naturally filter the phosphorus and nitrogen that cause algae blooms, Hamad said. To parkgoers, the feature to the south of the pond will appear as cascading waterfalls, he said, and the wetland will be safe for wildlife.
Mirror Pond, also known as Manito Pond and Duck Pond, was not always intended for year-round use. A natural feature when the park was known as Montrose Park prior to 1903, the pond would often dry up in the summer months before a concrete retaining wall was installed in 1974, according to a history compiled by the National Register of Historic Places.
The pond has long been a popular ice skating destination on the South Hill. It’s not an approved use by the Parks Department, but that hasn’t stopped hockey players and amateur figure skaters from lacing up on cold winter afternoons.
The pond will not be ready for skaters this winter, but Hamad said tentative plans are for the pond to reopen in April.
Ditches Unlimited was selected by the Spokane Park Board in October to receive the contract for the work, bidding the lowest of four firms seeking the contract.
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