Monday, July 19, 2010

Manchester’s Clarke Pond Targeted for Restoration

By Kate Kirby
Gordon College News Service
July 17, 2010
(This story appeared July 27, 2010, in The Gloucester Times online and print version.)

When locals noticed flooding by Clarke Pond, conservation ecologists devised a plan to preserve the compromised salt marsh. Located on the Coolidge Reservation in Manchester-by-the-Sea, the 12-acre coastal salt pond is projected to undergo renovation this September. The alterations, though minor, will help restore the ecosystem and enhance local recreation, say local authorities.

To reduce the flooding, The Trustees of Reservations, a Massachusetts based land conservation organization, in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Restoration Center and the Mass. Department of Fish and Game, have developed a project that will improve hydrologic capacity. 

To increase the hydrologic capacity and reduce flooding, the group has plans to install a larger pedestrian bridge that will nearly double the width of the channel connecting the upper and lower sections of the pond. The replacement of the current granite culvert will improve tidal flow and improve crossing conditions for those who utilize the trails for recreational purposes.

“Our goal is to improve tidal connectivity which will facilitate the outflow of storm water,” said Franz Ingelfinger, restoration ecologist for the Division of Ecological Restoration at the Mass. Department of Fish & Game. “Increased tidal exchange will improve the turnover of water which will improve the water quality.”

Recognizing that the pond was restricted from tide flow, Ingelfinger, who worked for the Trustees of Reservations at the time, said he initiated the project to enhance the ecology of the pond, which is home to a diversity of flora and fauna. He said the ecosystem services that the watershed provides include: water filtration, nursery grounds that support commercial and recreational fishing, and important foraging and resting areas for breeding herons and egrets, as well as a number of migratory shorebirds.

“A number of similar projects have been conducted throughout the gulf of Maine,” said Eric Hutchins, Restoration Coordinator for the NOAA Restoration Center in Gloucester, and partner in the project. “Culvert replacement projects have been implemented in Essex, Newbury, Rockport, Gloucester, and many others are planned throughout the region.”

Hutchins said that in the case of Clark Pond, and many other waterways on the North Shore, modified hydrologic conditions, poor infrastructure, and increased development are to blame for salt marsh deterioration.

“Salt marshes were one of the most altered ecosystems starting with the first colonists,” said Russ Hopping, Ecology Program Manager for The Trustees of Reservations. “They were seen as productive areas, altered for agriculture and then became prime real estate.”

Nowadays, Hopping said that coastal systems like Clark Pond are in the frontline of feeling the impacts of climate change. Predictions of sea level rise and increased storm severity would exacerbate waterways already jeopardized by washout and erosion.

“We need to continue making our systems more resilient,” he said. “That will help to mitigate the effects of climate change.”  

Along with the projected ecological benefits, project leaders hope to maintain the natural aesthetic of the crossing to enhance the recreational aspect of the reservation.

“The crevasses between the stone blocks make the existing bridge unsafe,” said Hutchins.  “The new bridge will be a wooden span with guardrails and extremely safe for the public to access.” 

The tidal restoration project, including design, engineering, permitting and construction will cost $164,500 all of which, save $3,000 for construction services, has been obtained from public and private sources. Primary funders for the project are the FishAmerica Foundation, the Mass. Department of Ecological Restoration, and the NOAA restoration center in partnership with the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment.

“Our coastal resources are a treasure,” said Ingelfinger. “These projects are low hanging fruit in gaining back wetlands that we’ve lost.”  

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