What’s Up with Paradise Pond?

16 Nov

Students, staff, and visitors to campus have certainly noticed that Paradise Pond is looking a little under the weather these days, but the apparent destruction of our iconic landmark is actually meant to improve the condition of the pond over the long term. The drawdown project, started in mid-October, is part of a larger maintenance endeavor that includes installing erosion and sediment control devices, reshaping the dike embankment, and repairing the dam. You might be wondering why this extreme makeover is even necessary!  As a moving and powerful body of water, the Mill River carries sediment into the pond and erodes its upstream banks every day, and while this phenomenon is perfectly natural, it doesn’t bode so well for a highly maintained campus that sees nearly constant recreational use.  If we want to keep our athletic fields from being eroded away and enjoy some occasional afternoon kayaking, regulating the natural erosion and sedimentation is chief.

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This year’s maintenance will take roughly two months, and we can expect to see Paradise Pond back to its old self by January 2013. The pond will remain drawn down eight feet below its normal elevation so that construction workers have more direct access to the walls of the dike and to the dam. The dam will have flashboards repaired and replaced, and some new monitoring equipment will be installed. Prepping for new landscaping in the spring has already begun with the removal of stumps and other less-desirable features. The installation of a new turnaround will provide better access for emergency vehicles.

In addition to Paradise Pond, the Botanic Garden pond has also been drained for repairs. Don’t worry though, all the goldfish and frogs were saved prior to the excavation and donated to local homes (I was worried). This project aims to solve some drainage issues that caused negative impacts on the small pond’s ecology. While these various projects seem disruptive and unsightly right now, rest assured that the Smith College campus will return to its former beauty in time for our favorite end-of-the-year events!

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