NORTH LIBERTY — A project is underway to restore the health and vitality of Crescent Pond, a Johnson County wetland that lost much of its water when a 1986 flood blew holes in a county road that maintained the impoundment.
“The project will benefit the environment and people who enjoy outdoor recreation,” said Al Weaver of Cedar Rapids, a member of Friends of Crescent Pond, a group of conservationists and outdoors enthusiasts leading the effort.
The breaches in that road, Green Castle Avenue NW, prevent water from filling Crescent Pond, severely restricting the ability of waterfowl and other birds to nest and breed in that area.
Chronic low water levels in Crescent Pond also limit bird watching, paddling and waterfowl hunting in an area that once was popular with recreationists, Weaver said.
The friends group is securing in-kind contributions and raising $40,000 to donate to the Department of Natural Resources to repair the breaches and install drainage control structures to regulate the pond’s water level and ensure the repairs are permanent.
Weaver said the $40,000 will purchase four large culverts known as Wisconsin tubes and stop blocks to control the flow of water through them.
“It will improve nesting habitat for waterfowl and other wetland species,” said DNR wildlife biologist Tim Thompson, who manages the Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area, which covers more than 13,000 acres along the Iowa River.
Thompson said the DNR has long contemplated the repairs, but never had funds available for the project.
“If we were doing it ourselves without the friends, it would still be a long way down the road,” he said.
Many bird enthusiasts became familiar with the vacated Green Castle Road last summer when two swallow-tailed kites, extremely rare visitors to Iowa, showed up at the pond.
In only a modest exaggeration of the scope of the attraction, DNR employee Tom Billerbeck, who first spotted the magnificent birds, said: “Most of the birders in Iowa saw them.”
Billerbeck said sandhill cranes have for several years been observed on or near Crescent Pond.
“We saw the pair with a young one last summer,” he said,
Weaver said two of the most substantial in-kind contributions have come from Charlie Rohde of King’s Material, which is donating riprap to armor the repaired road to prevent future erosion; and from M and K Dust Control, which is donating labor and equipment for the extensive excavations entailed in the project.
“Somebody needs to step up and do the right thing for wildlife habitat. This will be a great asset for everyone,” said M and K proprietor Fred Meyer.
People wishing to make donations to the project can do so through the friends’ Go-Fund-Me page.