FAIRHOPE — City officials said the duck pond in the North Beach Park needs work, including filtering water flowing into Mobile Bay, but council members rejected proposals for work totaling …
FAIRHOPE — City officials said the duck pond in the North Beach Park needs work, including filtering water flowing into Mobile Bay, but council members rejected proposals for work totaling almost $500,000.
The Fairhope City Council voted Monday, May 23, to apply for a $250,000 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for improvements at the park located north of the Fairhope Municipal Pier. The original proposal presented to the council was for work with an estimated cost of $493,460.
The grant would provide half the funds for the project, leaving the city to pay about $246,730 under the original plan, Jessica Walker, community development director, said.
Walker said the grant program is intended for projects that include the renovation of outdoor recreation facilities.
"The proposed project that we're presenting to you tonight is the Fairhope Duck Pond restoration, North Beach," Walker said. "It includes diverting stormwater runoff from the adjacent residential areas, adding a new sidewalk around the perimeter of the ponds, adding a new prefab bridge and additional amenities, including picnic tables, benches and gazebo."
She said that by adding features such as the sidewalk and gazebo, the city could be eligible for the grant.
Mayor Sherri Sullivan said the filtering system at the pond site is inadequate to clean the water flowing into Mobile Bay. The grant could pay for some of the environmental improvements while also improving the appearance and recreational aspects of the park.
"The duck pond is a beautiful area," Sullivan said. "We know that we don't necessarily like all the Canada geese down there that create a nightmare for us, but it is a beautiful area. It is an area that people take pictures in. When you take families to visit the pier, you drive down there. The filtering system, when it was put in, was put in with things like old lift station pumps and different things. It's just never been what it needed to be to filter that water going into the bay."
Richard Johnson, public works director, said adding features such as a gazebo and sidewalks help make the city eligible for the grant that could help pay for pumps, filtration systems and silt removal.
"We have an existing condition that needs to be addressed, but this grant has to have a specification of increasing the recreational opportunity of the area the money's being spent on," Johnson said. "We could boil this down to let's just muck out the duck pond, replace the pumps and the filters and the outfall and do some stormwater and, as our grant advisor says, if this comes across their table as a stormwater project, you're not getting it."
City council members said, however, that they had not intended to pay $250,000 as the city's share of the costs. Councilman Jack Burrell said the pond needs to be cleaned up, but some of that money could be better spent on other projects.
"I guess when I think about this duck pond, I think that it needs to be cleaned up and I've always envisioned us making it look nice and making sure that the pumps work and I see all this on there," Burrell said. "There's excavation work and landscaping and things like that, trash cans, picnic tables. I guess I never thought of this as an area of town that I wanted to put a quarter of a million dollars into right now."
Councilman Kevin Boone said that while the final totals for the pond project may be less than estimated, the council has to make plans based on the information now available.
"This number is the number that we have to work with and this number, at this point in time with all that we have to do with what I consider a lot more serious issues involved in the city that we have to take care of, I think this is not the right time to do this," Boone said.
Two residents also objected to the amount proposed for the pond.
"The city seems devoted to building unnecessary and out-of-character projects throughout our city," resident Ken Neimeyer told council members. "The Disneyland approach is not what Fairhope was founded on and building sidewalks where no sidewalks are needed rather than going with the natural terrain."
Council members voted to apply for a grant of up to $250,000 with the city's share of the cost to be $125,000. They told Walker and Johnson to reduce the project plans in the application and send the proposal to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.