Mindowaskin Park Pond Restoration and Education Project

Project Purpose:

 

As part of a voluntary effort by the Township of Westfield to improve water quality of the Mindowaskin Park Pond, and provide enhanced wildlife habitat as well as generally improving the park’s ecosystem services that it provides for the community, a $900,000 restoration and refurbishing project is being undertaken by the Township in celebration of the Park’s centennial anniversary in 2018.  As part of the pond restoration, the Township of Westfield has also entered into a Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program contract with USFWS and NJ Audubon.  In line with the Partners agreement, USFWS will be providing some native woody vegetation and nest boxes to the project and NJA is providing technical assistance, as well as, some labor and coordination for post-dredging vegetation installation.

 

Although a Partners agreement is in place with USFWS and NJA, and funding for the engineering plan design, permits and construction aspect to the restoration is complete, with physical dredge/construction starting Fall 2016, the Township of Westfield is seeking additional funding support for the project, particularly to acquire additional native plant materials not covered by the Partners agreement, as well as, creating and installing interpretative educational signage that would be relevant to the associated with the project. 

 

Therefore, the Township of Westfield is respectfully requesting $10,625.00 (which equates to 1.2% of the total project costs) from CWRP to support the purchase of additional native plants, particularly herbaceous and aquatic species and large caliper native trees and shrubs to add to riparian restoration activities, as well as for the creation and installation of a few permanent interpretive educational signs for the restoration area.

 

Signage would consists of individual signs on topics that may include: importance of maintaining riparian buffers to improve or protect water quality; importance of riparian and aquatic habitats and the species that use them specific to the site and region; importance of promoting native plants on the landscape for healthy ecosystem services including improved water quality, water infiltration and pollinator use; identification of common non-native and/or invasive plants and animals relevant to the region and their impact is to the natural world and what one can do to address them; and understanding a watershed and minimizing our impacts to the land via engaging in water-wise management and conservation techniques.  All signs will list all project partners and major restoration project funders and include their associated logos.

 

Brief Description:

 

Located in the center of Westfield, Union County, NJ, Mindowaskin Park is a 12.6 acre public open space that supports numerous passive and active recreation activities for the general public.  The property also offers habitat for both migratory and resident birds as well as fish, amphibians, reptiles and small mammals.  The center piece of the park is Mindowaskin Pond.  However, over the years the pond has succumbed to excessive sedimentation and increased water temperatures leading to degraded water quality. Both the excessive sedimentation and increased water temperatures were identified to be the result of years of bank erosion from lack of stream-side vegetation combined with the outfall from an upgradient shallow 500-foot long exposed concrete flume that discharges stormwater runoff directly into the pond.    

 

With the sources of the water quality issues identified, and in an effort to revitalize the park, the Town of Westfield is voluntarily restoring and refurbishing the pond and it's wildlife habitat. This will make for a better recreational and educational experience for visitors as well as enhancing the beauty and environmental quality of the region overall.

 

The first phase of the project includes dredging the pond to its original bottom removing sediments that have built up over the years. The agreed upon dredging method will be mechanical dredging, involving draining the pond and using traditional excavation equipment to remove and stockpile the sediments outside of the perimeter for dewatering. Following dewatering the dredged material will be trucked off-site for disposal because there is no open space around the pond to spread or grade the sediment. 

 

The overall restoration will include improvements to the pond’s edge to address erosion and other issues with the perimeter treatment using native vegetation and replacement of the hard edge where necessary.  These riparian plantings will not only provide suitable wildlife habitat for migratory birds and pollinators, but they will help improve water quality by limiting erosion, maintain cooler water temperatures, and help discourage Canada geese from utilizing the area.

 

Although the USFWS will be providing the town with small bare-root or small containerized native shrubs and trees for planting along the pond and flume area, it is expected that based on their small size that there will be some mortality for some of the woody plant materials provided.  Additionally, USFWS is not providing any native herbaceous or aquatic plant materials to the project as part of the Partners agreement. 

 

Based on this information, funding is being sort to obtain larger caliper native trees and shrubs to place within the riparian zone along with the smaller woody plant material supplied by USFWS.  By incorporating larger caliber trees along the pond and stream banks there would be immediate thermal pollution reduction, not to mention that the larger vegetation has a better chance for survival by beating any deer browse or being accidently destroyed or uprooted by human activities.  Larger trees have an immediate aesthetic appeal to the general public rather than bare root, or small containerized trees that need tree tubes or fencing for protection.  Thereby their size and general appeal helps to gain community support of the project and helps the public understand and have “buy-in” to the overall activities performed to improve the ecological services the pond provides to the community. And with community understanding and ‘buy-in’ comes opportunities to have conservation practices replicated throughout the community.

 

Additional funding is also being sort to acquire herbaceous perennial native plants (plugs or containerize plantings) that will, like the larger caliper trees, also provide immediate cover as opposed to use of broadcast seeding that may take some time to germinate or properly establish.  By incorporating this native herbaceous layer of wildflowers, grasses, sedges and rushes into the restoration, the plantings will not only help immediately with sediment reduction, stream bank stabilization and provide critical habitat but they too will also be more aesthetically pleasing and help the public understand and have “buy-in” to the overall activities performed to improve the ecological services the pond provides.

 

Since interpretive educational signs play an important role in educating visitors and in influencing their behavior on site, as well as the message they bring home, funding for creating and installation of the signs associated with the project and its objectives is also being sought.  

 

The overall project once completed provides a unique opportunity for a highly populated region in New Jersey to showcase the importance of community investment, planning, and commitment to restoring and improving long-term vital ecological services that can be a basis for sustainable development, and retaining natural resources for nature as well as a growing population.

 

Resource Values/Project Outputs:

 

Improved Overall Water Quality of the pond through sediment removal, native vegetation buffer installation, stormwater filtration, thermal pollination reduction, bank stabilization, soil erosion control, aeration and improved surface water infiltration

 

Improved Wildlife Habitat through invasive vegetation removal, improved water quality and installation of native vegetation and nesting structures.  A variety of species will benefit, including fish, macroinvertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, beneficial insects, and birds.  Birds will especially benefit, since parks in urban/suburban areas in northeastern New Jersey provide critically important stopover areas for foraging and resting migratory birds on the Atlantic flyway. 

 

Increased Educational Opportunities will be made possible by not only the installation of interpretive signs for general visitors, but the restoration area will be accessible to school and community groups as a destination area for field trips, school/research projects or volunteer opportunities.   Please note that the pond restoration is in line with actions identified in the NJ Wildlife Action Plan for this region, specifically it will be to provide the public with the information about the importance of maintaining and improving riparian habitats in the region, Identify and maintain wetland connections and buffers; and find and care for wildlife corridors.

 

Mindowaskin Park is flanked by a church and a school, the township municipal offices and borders a main thoroughfare into a high-profile town center. This project has the opportunity to be a model site for the state, educating, inspiring and illustrating how a community can enhance and restore water quality and important aquatic and riparian habitats.

 

Permit Status:   Dam Safety Permit Approve by NJDEP March 15, 2016, Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit Approved Feb. 1, 2016 - -All permits for project obtained and approved by NJDEP

 

List of Partners: USFWS, New Jersey Audubon, Friends of Mindowaskin Park, Town of Westfield

 

What is requested from the CWRP/Contribution:  $10,625 for plant materials and interpretive signs – that equates to 1.2% of the total project cost

 

Point of Contact: James H Gildea, Town Administrator

 

 

Project Location Map:  Note: Work Plan Designs available upon request.

 

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