West Park

Stopped. Watched. icon

The new storm water detention pond looks, perhaps inevitably, like a backwater section of Gallup Pond: unsightly wind-blown and pond-scummy organic matter clogging the down-wind corner, with a small amount of wind-blown trash on the bottom. Some places look to have algae blooms, and there are no signs of vertebrate life in the water. Still, the red wings like it (blackbirds, not hockey  players), and if you don’t look at the pond too directly, it looks nice. [photo 1] [photo 2] [photo 3]

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  1. By TJ
    April 27, 2012 at 7:06 pm | permalink

    Don’t be such a pessimist! There are ducks nesting on or nearby, and maybe red-wing blackbirds (both vertebrates). Toads were calling last month, the females laid eggs which hatched into tadpoles (I’ve seen them on a few occasions, most recently Monday). Toads are also vertebrates, of course. I suspect the pond scummy appearance is due to all the pollen and tree flowers that have been falling lately.

  2. By john floyd
    April 28, 2012 at 12:21 am | permalink

    OrTJ, I wrote what I saw. I would love for the decaying leaves, cattail stalks,algae, and pond scum (plus the pollen) to be merely seasonal. My experience of other low/no flow ponds doesn ‘t bode well for this one, however. Flows large enough to keep this pond clean do not seem to occur outside of storms.

    I had imagined that some fingerling fish would be in the pond, for fish eggs are carried by duck’s feet (that’s how golf course ponds, e.g., get fish). Alas, I saw no minnows. Whether not enough ducks have used the pond, or the pond won’t support even minnows, I don’t know.

    Gallup Pond is nice at a little distance, but its backwaters (e.g. by the dock) are not attractive by August – really, by early July.

    Once the cattails fill in, most of this topic will go away.

  3. By Kate
    April 28, 2012 at 7:02 am | permalink

    There are tons of tiny tadpoles in there. I took five 3rd graders there and we found hundreds in the shallow eastern end, many of which were hiding under leaves. I would love a trash barrel nearby so that we could more easily clean up all the windblown plastic we also encountered.

  4. By kittybkahn
    April 28, 2012 at 12:34 pm | permalink

    Call me crazy, but I liked West Park the way it was before the ‘improvements’. Still don’t understand why they were necessary. Someone enlighten me please.

  5. April 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm | permalink

    It was to improve storm-water management. (Please don’t bring up that whole swirl concentrator thing or the Maple Ridge flooding.)

  6. By johnboy
    April 28, 2012 at 12:40 pm | permalink

    Will someone please remind me as to why, in Ann Arbor, mosquitoes / West Nile Virus are not a problem when it comes to open air swamps (oops! excuse me, I mean “swales”). I like the idea of letting the rain go into the earth near where it fell but are not these retention basins best enclosed and underground. But I am sure the kids will enjoy it.

  7. April 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm | permalink

    I assume that the open water is properly maintained by Park staff, with readily available biocontrol measures used against mosquitoes.

  8. By John Floyd
    April 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm | permalink

    Such as fish, to eat mosquito larvae?

  9. April 28, 2012 at 2:59 pm | permalink

    Actually, it is a form of Bacillus thuringensis.

  10. By johnboy
    April 28, 2012 at 5:45 pm | permalink

    Viviennne – Than You for the answer. I didn’t know it was that simple. However, I am afraid that you have much more faith in the Parks staff than I.

  11. April 28, 2012 at 7:15 pm | permalink

    I suggest that you phone the city and ask what measures are being employed. Maybe they would appreciate the input.

    I’m sympathetic to the point. Mosquitoes are an extremely efficient vector of a number of really scary diseases, including equine encephalitis and West Nile. I would hope that the city would have a program in place. I know that Washtenaw County was coordinating such programs when West Nile first became an issue. I think there were also some aerial spraying programs at one point.

    Here are a couple of links: [link] [link]

  12. By George Hammond
    April 30, 2012 at 1:28 pm | permalink

    re vertebrates in West Park:
    a muskrat lives in the pond now. I’ve seen it several times harvesting grass from the side near the ball field, and then swimming across the pond to the wooded side south of the boardwalk. It probably has a den in the bank under the trees.

    Swales, such as in the southwest section of West Park, are designed and constructed to slow down water flow and allow it to soak into the ground, and also to drain and dry out fast enough that mosquitoes can’t complete their life-cycle there. In the northwest section near the bandshell I think some of that is swale, but there also seems to be a steady trickle of water that is more permanent. As long as the water stays in motion, it won’t be used by mosquitoes: they need still water.

    The pond with the boardwalk is not a swale, it’s intended to hold water longer, and might need treatment for mosquito control. If it does, the BT product that Ms. Armentrout mentioned is generally reported to be cheap, safe for everything except flies (mosquitoes are flies), and effective.

    The pond certainly could support minnows, but I hope no fish are added to it. They will eat the frog and toad tadpoles, and the aquatic insect predators (like dragonflies and diving beetles) that do a better job on mosquitoes. The poles and flagging put up last summer to keep out geese (which eat the aquatic vegetation that was planted) kept out all but a few ducks, so I suspect fish haven’t arrived yet.

    I think a big part of the pond’s murkiness is due to soil runoff from the park slopes nearby, where the grass has not filled in very well. I hope that as the turf develops (and the weather has been good for that), and the vegetation around the pond does too, the water quality will get better.

  13. By John Floyd
    April 30, 2012 at 6:15 pm | permalink


    How would a muskrat get to West Park? Through the sewers? It’s hard to imagine them walking up Chapin after a trek from the river. Sort of “Make Way for Muskrat-ings”.

    I hope you are right about the runoff, with its potential abatement as the grass grows, but this body still looks like a Gallup Pond backwater to me.

  14. By Dan Ezekiel
    April 30, 2012 at 8:47 pm | permalink

    I saw the West Park pond muskrat too and was amazed. I asked Dave Szczygiel how it could have gotten there, and he suggested storm sewers, but said they also hike overland. I saw a runover dead muskrat in the middle of Sunset Rd. near Forsythe the other day, which supports the hiking idea, as there is no body of water close by.

  15. By George Hammond
    May 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm | permalink

    Muskrats might move in the storm drain system, and can also move overland for at least a mile, strictly at night. They are very vulnerable on land, so only leave their home wetland if they have to, either because of over-crowding (they are territorial) or the habitat changes and is no longer suitable. I once saw one walking through a front yard on Division Street near Hill in the middle of the night.

    Despite the name, muskrats are more closely related to lemmings and voles than to rats. They are mainly herbivore, eating roots, stems, and shoots of aquatic plants, especially cattail tubers. Once in a while they’ll eat crawfish, mussels, and other aquatic animals. The one in West Park is grazing on the grass around the pond — I’ve seen it out a couple of times, swimming with a bundle of grass in its mouth.

  16. By TJ
    May 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm | permalink

    Thanks, George, for the great zoological insight!

    Saw the muskrat this morning, moving grass around. Tadpoles are still small and without legs.

  17. By George Hammond
    May 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm | permalink

    Had a delightful moment walking over the pond this evening. There was a family of mallards (9+ ducklings!), the muskrat, swallows or chimney swifts swooping low overhead eating bugs, and tree frogs calling from the trees and bushes.

  18. By Susie
    May 17, 2012 at 9:10 am | permalink

    Saw the muskrat, at least 10 ducklings, and three adult mallards – a male and two females – on the pond yesterday evening.

  19. May 17, 2012 at 9:27 pm | permalink

    Love mallards. Must go.

  20. By Rod Johnson
    May 18, 2012 at 7:40 am | permalink

    When I saw Vivienne’s comment, I could not help thinking “Love Mallards” is a great band name. I hope someone is putting together that band right now.

  21. May 18, 2012 at 9:24 am | permalink

    It would be a band with an attitude, if it kept true to its mascots. I love their smugness.

  22. By Anna Ercoli Schnitzer
    May 18, 2012 at 9:48 am | permalink

    Just back from a lovely early morning stroll through West Park. Although no muskrat came out to greet me, I did see a mama Mallard with a dozen little ones (I counted only 11 but a more knowledgeable park visitor corrected me); two male Mallards crazily chasing a female; a beautifully-colored swallow dipping over the water; a grayish hummingbird checking out the flora; numerous birds singing loudly whose identity I could not ascertain; and about a dozen human beings walking by, several accompanied by their canine companions. I also met Ed who was tending Project Grow; he was very friendly and invited me back when the produce was ready to be harvested. He contributes what he grows in the garden to the homeless, he says, and also teaches folks how to build the attractive garden boxes. I recommend a visit to West Park; with its new configuration, it has become an inviting place, completely different from the sort of scary, isolated venue I remember from fifteen years or more years ago.