Three years and about $2.5 million dollars later, the Central Park Lake restoration project is nearly complete.
In their effort to help restore the water quality at Central Park Lake, the Jones County Conservation Department took on an expansive project with the goal of getting the lake removed from the state’s impaired waters list, due to algae, pH levels and bacteria.
The department purchased 79 acres above the lake to act as a buffer zone for the lake, installing a wastewater system, establishing three wetlands and a pond to help hold back sediment that had been allowed to build up in the lake previously, necessitating the project. From there, the lake was dredged and fish habitat features, like trees and rock piles, and added rocks around the edge of the lake to help protect the shoreline.
The goal, Jones County Conservation Director Brad Mormann said, was to ensure that the steps to improve the quality of the lake last as long as possible.
While improving the quality of the water and the fish habitats was important, the department took the opportunity to make as many improvements as possible to the lake area as part of the project. The area around the lake was also given a facelift, with a redone boat ramp, a new restroom, paddling and fishing access, a new parking lot and ways to make the area accessible to everyone.
“Before this, we had very little (Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, it was just grass along the shoreline,” Mormann said. “We didn’t have to tackle the access pieces, but we wanted to because we wanted people to have more access…It’s a public resource, and we want all of the public to be able to enjoy it.”
Work on the lake itself finished last spring, and since then, the focus has been refilling the lake, which was completed last September. With the restocking of the lake with bass, blue gills and catfish, fishing has returned to the lake. Though the latter two fish may still be on the small side, Mormann said, there are still fishing opportunities in the park’s west side pond.
Memorial Day weekend, the final step will be complete as the beach opens. There’s still some signage and a bit of landscaping to be done in the beach area, but mostly all that will be left is waiting for the grass seed to finish growing. While Mormann is excited for the community to get out and experience the revamped lake, foot traffic is asked to stay on designated turf areas while they’re waiting for the new planting to finish.
As the department puts the finishing touches on their largest project ever, there are lessons that can be taken from the undertaking, even though the scope of the project is a rarity. The biggest lesson was the partnerships that were developed, not only between different organizations, but the public and private side, which should make future smaller projects go easier.
With this project moving on, there are plenty of things conservation is looking forward to, including looking to restore the Fremont Mill Bridge in the park and continue work on eradicating invasive species in the park.