Bright orange backhoes have been paddling across the pond at Putnam Park, pulling up buckets of roots and mud. One very generous, anonymous resident made a donation to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to clear out the lily pads that take over the pond in the warm summer months.
“We have another 40 hours work,” one of the drivers of the floating cranes announced. He explained that the back hoe goes out into the pond, which is six to eight feet deep in most places, with a raked bucket. They search the bottom for the lengthy tubers that send shoots of lilies up to cover the surface, and lift them out to be hauled away by the DEEP.
Nathan Hale, 48, DEEP, is overseeing the job and said the tubers will stay on the park property but warned that they are not good for mulching.
Hale said that there is more work to be done but, “We have a small amount of money so we are doing as much as we can. The donation covered 60 hours worth of work.”
After the tubers are cleaned out, the water will be chemically treated to kill any remaining tubers. Hale said the chemicals that will be used are safe for anything that may live in the water, and that they are routinely used in reservoirs.
The process may look disruptive to species that live beneath the water, but Hale said that the lilies do more damage to the eco-life than the removal of the lilies will.
“They are some kind of lotus, and the local lore is that they were put in the pond by some ladies in the 1960s. They are an invasive species,” Hale said, adding that other plants, such as millefoile also live in the pond.
Removing the lilies in this way is not a permanent solution, Hale said, but it is the best they can do in the circumstances. Once the park pond is cleared, people will once again be able to kayak and canoe there.