Chattanooga has moved closer to launching a major cleanup of East Lake Park pond and says it wants to address residents' concerns about how that will take shape.
A recent letter sent to Mayor Andy Berke from attorney Christopher Jones calls for the city to refrain from removing any ducks or geese as part of the cleanup. Jones said he represents people and families who visit the park to observe and interact with the waterfowl.
In May, Chattanooga water quality specialist Jennifer Norton told the City Council that excessive algae, lily pads and geese have caused an ecological imbalance at the park.
"The pond is in disarray," Norton said. "It needs to be restored. We need education for [people to] stop feeding the ducks and the geese and see what that looks like long term."
Marissa Bell, a spokeswoman for the mayor's office, said in an email that the Public Works Division's Water Quality Program is currently gathering feedback from citizens concerning needed improvements by means of a community survey, which can be accessed online at www.chattanooga.gov/ eastlakepark.
In all, the makeover — which includes community-driven park layout changes for educational spaces and other improvements — has been estimated to cost $600,000. The Lyndhurst Foundation jump-started funding for the project through a $200,000 grant in November.
"The project will ensure the park space is usable and available to residents, visitors, and wildlife for years to come," Bell said.
In May, the City Council voted 9-0 for Public Works to begin negotiations with consultant CDM Smith to provide a pond assessment and conceptual renderings of possible enhancements and outdoor classroom spaces.
The pond makes up about 1.75 acres of the park's 18.5 acres, Norton said.
Prominent businessman and developer C.E. James donated land for East Lake Park on May 25, 1896, according to Chattanooga Public Library archives. The park was dedicated on July 4 of that same year.
The park briefly hosted the Oxley Zoo in the early 1900s, but officials shut it down because of unsanitary conditions and the poor health of the animals.
Chattanooga stocked East Lake Park pond with waterfowl in the 1940s to draw more visitors.
Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@times freepress.com. Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.