By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
If you have followed the Parsons City Council meetings, you know the topic of the Pulp Mill Bottom pond has come up numerous times. The City has been trying to manage the overgrowth of lily pads, weeds, algae, and other unsightly vegetation making it nearly impossible to house a proper fish habitat. The lack of depth played a large role leading to this issue, due to the amount of sediment deposited in the pond from the 1985 flood. In a recent press release, City Administrator and Treasurer Jason Myers said, “Once all the sedimentation is removed, we will construct a fresh water source, install an overflow pipe, refill the pond, and stock it with fish.”
In addition to the City of Parsons and the Tygarts Valley Conservation District, a group of volunteers are mostly responsible for working on this project, one being Jake Kopec. He explained that the release of the water through a six inch pipe began around two weeks ago, once the proper permits were received. It was required to have these permits when releasing water into another water source. On Monday, the dredging began using heavy equipment to remove the sediment and increase the depth. “We’re hoping for maybe around 12 feet,” he said.
The banks are going to be built up and the side walls reinforced to assist in the holding of water. Once that process is complete, water pumped from the Shavers Fork River, with the assistance of the Parsons Volunteer Fire Department, to refill the pond. “We’ve got a couple water sources,” Kopec continued; that will continue to supply the pond once the initial refill is complete. Several ideas are circulating around other amenities to add to this area. The press release also stated plans for a walking trail to connect to the Allegheny Highlands Trail, picnic areas, fire pits, river access areas, fishing piers, a water theater, and an amphitheater. Kopec added, “I’m going to push for a catch and release pond until it grows in maturity,” and according to the press release that is the intentions of the city.
“It’s actually an old project that got a breath of fresh air,” stated Kopec. “The community wants this. Everyone that grew up here has a Pulp Mill Bottom Pond story,” he said. This area is full of folklore and tails of possible buried items, such as a cannon from the Battle of Corrick’s Ford. Additional grants are being sought to add to and complete this project which the area qualifies for being an area of historical events.
Wendell Hofer is another volunteer working on the project focusing strongly on the fish habitat. With a degree from West Virginia University in Wildlife and Fish Resource Management, he is highly qualified for this portion of the project. “I’m going to help with the habitat work within the pond,” said Hofer, which will include assisting with the restocking and management of the fish.
Being early in the process, it was difficult for Hofer to offer numbers associated with the fish intended to being stocked. This number, known as the carrying capacity, is dependent upon the final size of the pond. He did note that species to be considered include largemouth bass, channel catfish, and some variety of bluegill. On the lower side of the pond, a significant amount of sediment has already been removed. I was kind of shocked they took out seven foot of mud,” said Hofer. “I think this year, our main priority is to fix the pond and get the fish back in,” he added. The added depth will keep the water cooler which will decrease the likelihood of algae and lily pad growth.
Some areas of the pond will remain shallow to allow the growth of vegetation for younger fish, known as fry or young of the year, to safely grow away from the larger fish. Habitats will be strategically made and placed to accommodate the different species. For example, brush piles are preferred by bass and catfish favor holes, cave like structures, and rock ledges. It will be Hofer’s responsibility to determine how the habitat will be developed and laid out once the pond is ready for that step.
“I am hoping to create a resource for Tucker County residents to take advantage of,” said Hofer. He agrees that the pond is an underutilized amenity to the area and looks forward to the final project and the opportunities it will bring.
Conservation Technician Dan Elliot and his crew are mostly responsible for cleaning sediment and re-facing the breastwork of the dam. He gave large credit to James Nester, Sr. who put the Tygarts Valley Conservation District in partnership with the City of Parsons. “He deserves quite a bit of credit,” stated Elliot, “It’s going to be quite a nice project.” He stated that the pond is not being enlarged, “We are just utilizing the area that we have.” The pond will be an estimate of three quarters of an acre in size, though a better figure can be provided once the dredging is complete. “The footprint of the pond will remain the same,” Elliot confirmed. He expressed excitement for the plan of a path that will encircle the pond as well as an ADA accessible fishing pier. “I’m happy to be a part of this project,” he concluded.
James Nester, Sr. has been a part of the collaboration between the Conservation District and the City of Parsons. Projects such as Wamsley Run, the revamping of the Mill Race Park Slough, as well as the new main entrance are just a few of the partnership projects that have been completed. Nester said a little work was done on the pond last year from the banks, but it wasn’t enough to control the growth of the algae and lily pads, so a new plan was formulated. “It’s going to make a huge difference,” he said. As of recently, there has never been a drain in the pond to allow for the water to have constant circulation. This in addition to the typical wind direction depositing leafy litter into the water has made the pond practically inhabitable for fish. Nester also made note of the ADA compliant fishing locations that will make participation via wheelchair possible with ease. “This will be a great asset to the City of Parsons,” Nester said. “It’s been a good deal with the city.”
The dredging is expected to continue for the next couple weeks, though the progress is weather dependent. Once that portion is complete, the embankments will be addressed as the next step. Nester also said a waterwheel to aid in constant water flow has been discussed, “but that’s not in the near future,” he stated.
Mayor Dorothy Judy has been looking forward to the progress of the pond for quite some time. “I am so excited to get this done,” proclaimed Judy. “Then the kids and everyone can enjoy the pond.” She continued, “Fishing will be a great activity again and from the response of everyone, I think everyone is glad to see it being done.”