By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The city finally said “enough” with its long-troubled pond in front of the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center.
The city is in the process of eliminating the pond because of costs involved with making it structurally sound and to get rid of invasive plants that have taken over its shores.
City officials said an initial cost of between $250,000 and $350,000 would be needed to correct structure problems with costs of up to $20,000 for annual maintenance, which would include preventative measures against phragmites and cattails, aggressive, non-native plants which have taken over the pond’s shores.
The pond fill-in began on March 16 and the city hopes to have it completed by April 15.
The pond had a rocky existence since it was built alongside the FCPAC in 2001 — including why the pond was built in the first place. Original plans for the center did not include a pond.
At the time, FCPAC construction foundation soil conditions did not meet the Soil & Materials Engineering Inc.-required specifications, so it was decided to dig clay from the site to relieve the situation.
Then, the city faced the issue of obtaining soil or clay from another outside contractor, which would have been costly at the time, according to a Recreation Department release. The city hired A.J. Etkin Construction Co. and Skanska U.S.A. to map out a different plan.
“They recommended to the city administration that the necessary materials could be found on-site, while at the same time adding a very nice water feature to the FCPAC project,” the release said. “It was agreed upon to move forward in this direction.”
Once the pond was constructed the city began to experience multiple ongoing problems.
First, it began to lose significant amounts of water on a daily basis so leaves and bentonite — an absorbent clay — were placed into the pond to reduce the water loss.
In 2009, the pond retaining wall and steel handrail concrete foundation began to sink and pull away from jogging track. The jogging track asphalt also began to deteriorate and sink.
Next, the city the contracted SME Inc. and Grunwell-Cashero Co. Inc. to complete the pond and retaining wall restoration at a cost of $67,000.
Over the years the pond edges became surrounded with phragmites and cattails, both very aggressive and non-native plants.
In 2013, the city consulted with SmithGroupJJR for a restoration concept, which proved to be extremely costly for the city to move forward. In the plan the city would have needed about $15,000 annually to prevent the regeneration of the cattails and giant reeds.
Last year, the pond concrete foundation began to once again sink and pull away from the jogging track, which also was deteriorating. The city than consulted with Lakeshore Global on securing a price to fill in the pond, which was again too expensive to complete, the release said.
Also in 2014, the city consulted with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for a landscape architect to review options to restore the pond.
Along with the cattail and giant reed issue, the architect warned the city that the configuration of the pond and site soil conditions were not optimal for long term success. Fixing the issue would require a $250,000 to $350,000 initial cost and an annual maintenance cost of $20,000.
“Given the pressing budget issues before the city it was decided filling in the pond was preferential to trying to save it,” a Department of Public Works release said.
Efforts than shifted to the ongoing combined sewer overflow project near Crowley Park for a solution to the pond filling.
“The city was made aware of excavated soil … that could be utilized to fill in the FCPAC pond at no cost,” the Recreation release said.
The filling of the pond is underway by the CSO vendor with the public works department providing the on-site grading and removal of the pond’s specialized landscape boulders. The overall cost to the city will be less than $10,000.
After the pond is filled, the city will plant autumn blaze maple trees with plans for other landscaping materials and additional park benches.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)