Nonprofit forms to support projects at Nashawannuck Pond

In 2022, members of the  Nashawannuck Pond Steering Committee  drop onion bags filled with barley straw in strategic locations along Nashawannuck Pond  in an effort  to prevent cyanobacteria blooms in the water

In 2022, members of the Nashawannuck Pond Steering Committee drop onion bags filled with barley straw in strategic locations along Nashawannuck Pond in an effort to prevent cyanobacteria blooms in the water File photo

By MADDIE FABIAN

Staff Writer

Published: 11-17-2023 12:50 PM

EASTHAMPTON — As the Nashawannuck Pond Steering Committee faces a number of ongoing and upcoming projects to maintain and preserve the pond, a nonprofit organization has formed to financially support the committee.

As a nonprofit, The Friends of Nashawannuck Pond, Inc. will have more leeway to access a wider range of grant opportunities and to fundraise more effectively than the city committee can.

“The fundraising they can do as a municipality, it’s pretty limited,” said President Amy Marsters, adding that the committee has received Community Preservation Act funding, but because other groups also apply for the funding, “we can’t count on it.”

During her six or so years on the Steering Committee, Marsters said she has seen “what a struggle it is for fundraising and the enormity of work that it takes to maintain the pond.”

Annual maintenance and operating costs for the pond total around $10,000, which covers routine tasks like invasive plant monitoring, herbicide treatment, and the barley straw project to prevent the growth of cyanobacteria blooms.

But year-to-year, there are sometimes larger projects that the committee needs funding for, and right now, that project has to do with the pond’s “shoreline stabilization,” which has to do with protecting infrastructure around the shoreline and preventing the loss of sediment.

In 2001, four retention walls — made of wood and rocks — were installed to stop sediment from entering the pond.

“Being that they were put in in 2001, Mother Nature, perhaps a little vandalism, whatever, means they need maintenance restoration,” said Beth Tiffany, treasurer of the Friends.

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Just to get a quote for the project was $10,600, so the new nonprofit will focus much of its efforts on obtaining funds through grant applications and fundraising.

The committee organizes the annual WinterFest event, which will continue to raise crucial funds for the pond’s maintenance. As a separate organization, the Friends will lead efforts to obtain grants and donations.

While the Steering Committee will always have an account with the city, the idea is that eventually, all funds will be transferred to the Friends, which will cover all costs associated with the pond.

Those looking to join the nonprofit or find more information can contact Amy Marsters at friendsofnashpond@gmail.com.

Cyanobacteria

In other pond news, the Connecticut River Conservancy released a report on its 2023 cyanobacteria monitoring, which indicated that Nashawannuck Pond, for the second year in a row, did not test positive for cyanobacteria blooms.

Cyanobacteria are single-celled organisms that, when grown out of control, can quickly wreak havoc on an ecosystem and post health threats to people and pets.

In 2022, in an effort to control cyanobacteria blooms at Nashawannuck Pond, the Steering Committee introduced a preventative method involving onion bags stuffed with barley straw, an idea that came from retired neurologist Allison Ryan, who has been an active volunteer in the effort to control aquatic invasive plants in the Valley for 25 years.

“We know that, theoretically, it works,” said Ryan, qualifying that cyanobacteria are highly sophisticated and therefore are not 100% predictable.

However, she said, “The effect of barley straw decomposing under appropriate conditions is effective to keep most species of cyanobacteria that we’re concerned about locally under control.”

In Westhampton at Pine Island Lake, which has previously been affected by blooms, barley straw was introduced this year, and results showed that the lake did not test positive for cyanobacteria.

In other locations where barley straw was not used, ponds still tested negative for cyanobacteria. Those included Great Pond in Hatfield, Lake Warner in Hadley, and Triangle and Magnolia Ponds in Northampton. Ryan said factors including record breaking rainfall made the water less stagnant and could have contributed to this year’s results.

Meanwhile, at two smaller ponds in Hadley — Swimming Pond and Kayak Pond — cyanobacteria blooms were “off the charts positive,” said Ryan.

Next year, the Connecticut River Conservancy will follow roughly the same protocol testing cyanobacteria at the same ponds, while also expanding the barley straw project to include the smaller Hadley ponds.

Maddie Fabian can be reached at mfabian@gazettenet.com.