An afternoon at the Ryegate town beach one year after the Ticklenaked Pond alum treatment
Last May, the town of Ryegate worked with contractor Aquatic Control Technology to apply alum and aluminum sulfate to targeted areas of Ticklenaked Pond with funding provided by an Ecosystem Restoration Grant. This treatment was the culmination of more than 10 years of work by the Ticklenaked Pond association, watershed residents and farmers, the Town of Ryegate, and the Watershed Management Division implementing many projects to reduce phosphorus loading from the Ticklenaked Pond. The water clarity of the lake improved dramatically during the course of last summer and while the heavy June rains seem to have reduced clarity a bit this spring things are still much improved, and so I decided I should take an afternoon off with my 4 year old son to enjoy some fishing, swimming, and playing on the playground equipment at the Ryegate town beach.
While my son Jonah and I weren’t successful in catching any fish, a discussion with the local fisheries biologist Jud Kratzer suggests that the fishing at the pond remains as good as always for perch and bass – and that the increase in water clarity has made the fishing more enjoyable. Undeterred by the lack of fishing success, Jonah and I decided to jump in for a refreshing swim and I was able to enjoy the clear waters of Ticklenaked Pond. On this Thursday afternoon, we weren’t the only ones to enjoy the waters, as I watched at least eight other families come and go for a quick swim, paddle, or picnic at the beach, which in previous years had to be closed due to cyanobacteria blooms that tended to occur around this time of year.
I was also thrilled to hear recently some good news on another challenge for the dedicated Ticklenaked Pond Association – the discovery of Eurasian water milfoil 4 ½ years ago. The Ticklenaked Pond Association sprang into action as soon as they received this information and with grants and support from the Aquatic Nuisance Control program hired local divers to pull plants from the pond for a number of years to control the infestation. We had concerns that the improved water clarity in the pond after the alum treatment might allow the already dense patches of Eurasian water milfoil to expand rapidly but after 50 hours searching this spring, Ticklenaked Pond Association members have only found three or four Eurasian milfoil plants and a couple of floating pieces. This is a major improvement over the heavier infestations of milfoil in the previous year.
I would like to think after all this hard work and the good news that we can just sit back to relax and enjoy the swimming, but I know that work to protect all of the public and private water quality investment will continue—work with new and existing landowners to emphasize the need for shoreland buffer plantings, addressing stormwater runoff, and keeping up with driveway and septic system maintenance. We will also work with farmers to support their efforts to do cover cropping and nutrient management planning and to address nutrient runoff from barnyard areas. We will continue surveying for invasive species and support aggressive control efforts, but for one afternoon it is nice to just relax and enjoy the pond.
When I get back into the office I can get in touch with the amazing volunteers of the Ticklenaked Pond Association, watershed landowners, and farmers, and the Town of Ryegate who made much of this possible. Having such a nice day at the pond emphasized the need to keep the pond healthy and to ensure that the town beach remains a place that so many people can enjoy.