It was one of the most polluted waterways in Anchorage, but today the pond at Cuddy Park has turned around.

Cherie Northon with the Anchorage Waterways Council credits a number of factors for that success, but said the biggest one is that people have learned to stop feeding the ducks.

In July 2014, Thom Eley, also with the Waterways Council, measured fecal coliform levels at the pond at 18,000 colonies per 100 milliliters of water. Eley described those numbers as “unheard of.”

The problem? Ducks and geese were congregating at the park in huge numbers and leaving their droppings behind.

The birds had no reason to move on since people were constantly feeding them.

“We considered it a human-caused problem because of the additional food that was being offered,” said Jeanne Swartz with the Department of Environmental Conservation. “And the fact that (the birds) have no natural predators, there was no reason for the ducks or geese to ever leave.”

In 2016, people with an interest in the park got together to address the problem and came up with a variety of solutions that included a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to fund them. The money went to the Waterways Council for signs, outreach and education. Other funding went to Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department to put up fencing and plant vegetation native to Alaska around the water’s edge to separate people and water fowl. Both measures made a big difference.

Eley with the Waterways Council said in 2017, a year after the signs and fencing were put in place, the fecal coliform levels had dropped dramatically.

And they continued to drop.  

By September 2018, the levels were down to just 22 colonies per 100 milliliters of water.

 

Jeanne Swartz, with the DEC calls that an incredible success story. She said geese and ducks still visit the pond, but they don’t tend to stay or nest there as they have in the past. She said there are other benefits, too.

“People are much happier when they are dog-walking or visiting the park because they don’t have to be concerned with so much goose poop,” said Swartz. “And we just have a healthier environment. Healthier for us, healthier for the birds, even healthier for the dogs.”

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