A brief history of weed-whacking on the Pond (1940 - 2004)
Some of the Pond’s oldest residents describe the gin-clear waters in which they swam as kids. But at least as early as the 1940s, attempts were made to clear weeds choking some of the shorelines. The chief method was to draw down the water during the winter through an eight-inch cast-iron pipe installed in the late 1930s. The pipe ran under the dam; a large wheel controlled a gate valve that, when open, allowed the Pond to be lowered by as much as six feet. The drawdowns allowed residents to rake weeds from the shallow water - and let Mother Nature kill weeds with a winter frost. One resident used a truck to pull out large stumps left over from the enlargement of the Pond when the dam was constructed in the mid-1800s.
As more and more year-round residents moved in, the winter draw-downs became more controversial. An October, 1959, article in the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune reported that residents had voted 24-22 to continue the draw-downs, with the out-voted minority complaining that they feared loss water from the shallow wells on which most residents depended. Despite the complaints, draw-downs are said to have continued off and on into the 1960s. The last draw-down apparently was conducted in 1973. That one was for the purpose of repairing the dam, and took the water level down only 10 or 12 inches. Since then, the valve in the draw-down pipe rusted shut, and the pipe itself eventually collapsed and filled in. Drawdowns were resumed in the winter of 2005-6.
The next concerted effort to deal with the weed problem – which was increasing exponentially – came in the 1980s, when the long-dormant Foster’s Pond Corporation was resuscitated and became the vehicle for a number of studies and an action plan. The studies from that period are available here. The action plan was developed by residents volunteering to be on an FPC “Condition of the Pond Committee”. The plan was adopted by a newly-energized FPC, which bought and operated a used weed harvester. The purchase price (in 1982) was $10,500; the annual operating cost was $5,000 to $6,000. Pond residents were asked to contribute $320 for the initial year, and $100 per year thereafter.
The harvester, a platform mounted on pontoons and propelled by paddle wheels, featured a long, flat “snout” projecting down into the water, with teeth to cut weeds at their roots and a conveyor belt which brought the mown weeds to the surface and dumped them on the deck. Operators (all residents of the Pond) off-loaded the waterlogged weeds by hand into an aging dump truck, and deposited them at a community garden owned by the Foster’s Pond Improvement Association just off Willard Circle. The weed harvester operated for several years. While some residents complained that it did no good or even made conditions worse, most were satisfied that it kept large areas of the Pond open and removed tons of nutrient-laden material. But the operation was time-consuming and back-breaking, and could not be sustained.
In 1992, residents organized another approach to weed control, hydro-raking. A hydro-rake is essentially a backhoe (with an eight-foot wide rake, instead of a bucket) mounted on pontoons, with paddle wheels for propulsion. Any resident who wants his or her shoreline raked pays by the hour for the hydro-rake to claw weeds and muck from the bottom and deposited at a designated spot on the property. The property-owner is responsible for removing the deposit to an upland location (often their garden). Hydro-raking has been conducted every couple of years, usually with about 20 property owners participating and each requesting anywhere from one to eight hours of raking. A private contractor, Aquatic Control Technology, Inc. (now named Solitude Lake Management), has supplied the machine and its operator. For more recent information on hydro-raking, click here.
In 2004, a re-invigorated Foster's Pond Corporation began laying the groundwork for an integrated weed management program. For a detailed account of the implementation of the program - and up-to-date information on current weed-control efforts, click here.