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A not-so safe haven

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Ashley Pond fountain getting overhauled

By Carol A. Clark

Parks Division Manager Dick McIntyre and his staff are working on improvements for the fountain at Ashley Pond.

The fountain provides a safe haven for area ducks and geese that rely upon the fountain to maintain a circle of water in the middle of the pond where they can safely escape predators such as coyotes. Below normal temperatures across New Mexico led to ice freezing at the fountain, putting the ducks in danger and with a need for a new shelter on a temporary basis.

Also, ducks cannot swallow food without water so the local Duck Buddies rounded up 13 of the 15 ducks and all three geese that live at the pond and transported them to the former animal shelter on Knecht Street after the fountain began freezing over in January. They are now at the Airport Basin Site. The remaining two ducks not captured had been observed as being able to fly and should be able to escape from any predator.

Park staff is working on a permanent winter home for the fowl at the horse stables near the arena on North Mesa. The area has water and space to create a small sunken pool that could be heated, which could be constructed over the summer, McIntyre said.

Possible short-term improvements to Ashley Pond that could take place this spring, prior to a Capital Improvement Project application, include:

• The purchase of a de-icer water circulator. This circulator platform will be placed on the surface of the pond and should not be harmful to the ducks. This will most probably require a new electrical connection, the work and cost of which will be contracted out;

• different fountain nozzles, which are currently owned by the county will be tried. These nozzles will change the pattern of the spray, which is only cosmetic in nature. This will take place once park staff can get out on the pond to make the change; and

• since in the short term the county is not able to dredge the pond due to the prohibitive cost, staff will check into the cost of a diatomaceous earth and sand filter, which can be utilized on a temporary basis to determine if it clears the water to any degree; and

• the fountain comes with colored lights, which are used currently.

“We don’t yet know the cost for all of these short term improvements but they will be accomplished out of the existing Parks Division budget,” McIntyre said. “We’ve got requests out for price quotes now.”

The Capital Improvement Project application is expected to be prepared for consideration in May, he said. It may include items such as construction of a new bulkhead to allow vegetation in the pond and for utilizing the clay bottom. Also, on the improvements list are pond cleaning and a new pond liner.