Nancy Bressler lives in the former clubhouse – converted to residential in the 30s – that sits just in front of Duck Pond, or Gardens Lake, in Larchmont, NY. The view she sees out her window every day – of people walking their dogs around the pond, of hawks and falcons swooping to the water, of neighbors fishing and riding bikes and stopping on the path to chat, of her favorite old turtle making its annual pilgrimage from the adjoining brook down to the pond to lay its eggs – reminds Bressler that this humble little pond is not just a pond. It’s part of important ecosystems, both in the natural world and in the town’s social life.
That same view also gives Bressler a front-row seat to the devastating progression of an ominous problem down at the pond: algae. Lots and lots of algae – far more than she remembers seeing when she moved into her home eight years ago. “I’ve just been noticing,” says Bressler, “as everybody’s been noticing, that there’s huge algae issues this year more than any other year in freshwater ponds in the area. Anecdotally, you can see that this has been a problem that’s been increasing, and this year it’s been the worst ever. The pond has been covered from about May on, and really hasn’t cleared up much at all.”
No wonder: Temperatures are soaring in recent years, as we all know. Duck Pond sits on the Mamaroneck-Larchmont border, just under congested Route 95, and serves as a catch-basin for storm water runoff. It likely also collects runoff from fertilizers used on nearby lawns. The result? A large mat of green algae that covers nearly the entire surface of Duck Pond, reducing surface oxygenation, slowly suffocating the life below, and creating an all-around toxic situation.
Give it some air!
Thankfully, there are lots of solutions to this kind of algae problem! As a first step, Bressler and other friends of the Duck Pond are raising just over ten thousand dollars, via their ioby campaign, to cover the purchase of a commercial grade aerator. Aerators work like big seltzer machines, pushing life-giving oxygen into the water from below, and disrupting anaerobic growth. The town of Mamaroneck is already on board, committed to covering the cost of electricity to run the aerator, as well as hookups and maintenance.
Breathing fresh air into the community
Working on this project has made Bressler ever more grateful to the responsive and supportive folks who work for the town of Mamaroneck, and also to her many neighbors who have already donated. “It’s been an incredible way to connect to people in the neighborhood,” she says, “and see who does care about it.”
The work, she hopes, will also hook the town on water protection in general, and on civic action. “It’s a beginning point,” Bressler says, “because what I’m hoping to see is that people care enough about this, that once we put the aerators in and they see a visible difference in the way the pond looks, that they’ll start looking around the brook and say ‘oh, we also have these invasive plants, and maybe we should do something about that too.’” Sophie and Sam, two grade school girls who love the pond, are a good illustration; they wanted to donate to help protect Duck Pond, so they baked cupcakes and sold them door-to-door, donating $32 to the ioby fund. “I love that story so much,” says Bressler, “because it’s not really how much you give, but how you give it, and how you care that really counts.”
Start with gratitude
One of the reasons that Bressler and friends of Duck Pond have been able to work so seamlessly with the town of Mamaroneck is that they started with gratitude – an excellent practice for any community organizer to espouse. Rather than go to the town and say ‘Duck Pond is disgusting! You owe it to us to do something about it!,’ Bressler actually held a reception at her home to THANK all those who had made previous water protection efforts – including a pond dredging and cleanup several years prior, to the tune of nearly a million dollars – possible. It was the beginning of an effective, upbeat, and lasting dialogue.
What a thought! Rather than complain, throw your town officials and representatives a party! Thank them! “I’m not really a political person by nature,” Bressler says, “I’m just civic-minded. But I find that the people who work at the town, they get asked for a lot, and they work so hard, and they have to listen to all the complaints, and it’s nice to know that all their hard work is appreciated. So I always wanted to come from that sort of positive point of view, that we appreciate that you have done so much. I think it creates a much nicer dialogue between your community and town leaders, who really do work very hard for… not the money! They’re doing it because they care.”
To make a contribution towards the new aerator system for Duck Pond, or to learn more, click over to the ioby campaign here. Just under forty days left to raise the remaining $7,000, and all donations will be matched!
Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? If you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’d love to help you get started today.
Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Round Two of Trick Out My Trip is ON! Through August 5th, we’re matching the first $100 of any donation received by our ten awesome finalists. These transport-minded citizens are doing amazing work in their cities across the country, from Cleveland to Detroit to New Orleans and beyond, helping their neighbors get from A to B more easily, comfortably, sustainably, and enjoyably! We think you’ll love learning about their work.