Recent news stories have describe the extent to which the ecological condition of the duck pond has degraded. Although these pieces highlight the current condition of the duck pond, further assessment reveals an even more troubling picture. The duck pond’s water level is not only low, but it seems that we are in the middle of an increasingly severe drought. Whether the severity of the current situation is due to anthropogenic forces or natural cycles, the latest drought illustrates how drastically some vulnerable ecosystems can change. Moreover, the duck pond also suffers from an increasingly dominant cluster of invasive flora and fauna. The City of Shreveport is aware of these problems and is working with Louisiana Environmental Solutions, a subsidiary of Phillips Energy Partners, to develop a plan that will restore the duck pond to a healthier, more natural state.
The “duck pond” is a very vague term, but it is generally thought of as the body of water located to the east of East Kings Highway between Shreveport Barksdale Highway and East 70th Street.
The duck pond and other such bodies of water in the area were formed by hundreds of years of erosion and weathering during which natural forces gradually shaped the area. Once a filled flood plain, this area’s potential was unlocked when Captain Henry Miller Shreve cleared the Great Raft of deadwood from the Red River. Using his personally designed steamboat named the Heliopolis, Captain Shreve cleared the 150 mile logjam that caused the river to flood this area, draining what is now eastern Shreveport. Because of Cpt. Shreve’s actions, many bodies of water, like the ones on the map, were disconnected from the river. Since 1839 when Cpt. Shreve’s completed his work, the only way the water in these basins have been able to be recharged is through precipitation; the effects of a lack of precipitation can be seen today.
In addition to the extremely low water level, another significant issue the duck pond is facing is the relentless encroachment of invasive flora and fauna. Among the most damaging are the nutria (Myocastor coypus), Chinese Tallow Tree (Sapium sebifera), and mimosa (Albizia julibrissin). Invasive species of plants and animals are harmful to native ecosystems because they disrupt the natural balance needed to promote biodiversity. Invasive species can also have a significantly negative economic impact. As an example, the nutria, which is native to South America, has very few predators in Shreveport. It is well adapted to eat the vegetation that grows here and has even been seen eating bread. These rodents not only fill a niche otherwise occupied by native animals, but they also exhibit destructive feeding and burrowing habits. Overall, many would agree that their existence in our area is more harmful than beneficial.
The last significant problem we will try to address is one of litter. The Bayou Chapter of the Ozark Society will provide a number of volunteers to help with the project; they clean the Duck Pond quarterly so should be able to offer a good amount of experience.
Their quarterly cleanup focuses on removing as much litter as possible. Litter impacts water quality, harms wildlife habitat, and wastes resources. In addition to the aesthetic problems that litter causes, there is the more serious issue of the effects on wildlife. In this case, the animals most adversely affected by the litter are the ducks that live in the area. Litter comes in many forms, ranging from small cigarette butts to large shopping carts and abandoned crawfish traps. Plastic bags, glass, metal, Styrofoam, tires, and derelict fishing gear are all examples of trash that often ends up in our rivers, lakes and in our duck pond. Sharp glass, strangling plastic, and cigarettes that animals mistake for food harm the local wildlife.
Compounding the problem, studies show that approximately 1 in 5 people are intentional litterers. They feel no sense of responsibility and expect that someone else will pick up after them, an “it’s someone else’s job” attitude that is typically not the case. Also, liter begets liter. Once an environment is littered, people are more likely to continue the behavior. Hopefully this project will raise people’s awareness of the harmful effects of littering; litter abatement and educational projects are crucial to the upkeep of our natural areas and the reputation of our city.
The City of Shreveport understands these problems that face this popular park and is determined to solve them. Because of the large area that the park covers, Louisiana Environmental Solutions will focus on the main portion located between East Preston Avenue and Shreveport Barksdale Highway. The plan being developed will have three main stages to address the three main problems we have identified:
1. Remove all of the trash from in the pond and the surrounding area.
2. Eliminate as many invasive species of plants and animals as possible and reintroduce native plant and animal species. We will also develop a long-term plan to keep the ecosystem healthy.
3. Refill the Duck Pond to the normal water level.
If other details can be worked out, we might also remove a significant portion of sediment that has settled at the bottom of the Duck Pond, make a few minor architectural changes, and install an aeration fountain. In addition to the Bayou Chapter of the Ozark Society, we are closely working with The US Fish and Wildlife Service to identify what plants and animals should be removed and the correct plants and animals to reintroduce.
We know that this is a big project and will take much effort, that’s why we are reaching out to a host of organizations. Although we have a strong team, we need to have as much community support as possible. The volunteer portion of the project will start November 5th at 8:30 am. There is much work to do. The work is also labor intensive so come ready to get dirty. If you have ever enjoyed the Duck Pond, are concerned about the environmental quality of our city, or are simply looking for a way to give back we would appreciate any help.
If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me at Daniel.Gehrig@H2Operation.com. Thanks you for your help and hopefully we can work together to make Shreveport a better Shreveport!
Thank you Daniel! Sounds like a great idea!