The aerators, or fountains, in the upper Northstar Pond have put residents at odds recently, as those living near the North Davis park can’t seem to agree on whether they want to keep them on or off.
Some neighbors of the pond want to keep the aerators flowing because they help thin out the “pond scum” or algae that collects on the surface, not to mention the less-than-pleasing smell that can accompany it.
Those residents also have said the algae that floats on the water deters the wildlife that used to regularly call the pond home.
Other neighbors, however, have complained in the past to the city’s Public Works Department that the noise the aerators make when churning up the water in the pond — the mechanism that assists in keeping the algae at bay — is too loud.
And according to North Davis resident Susan Peaders, who lives near the pond, the city has acquiesced to the few complaints it has received in recent years to switch off the fountains.
“Why do a few people have to ruin it for the rest of us? Oh, I forgot, it’s Davis,” Peaders wrote in a letter to The Enterprise last month.
“This time of year the pond is usually busy with geese and other migrating fowl as well as the regular blue herons, egrets and other wildlife that reside in the agricultural waterways,” she wrote. “I have not seen anything on the pond for weeks other than the smelly scum.”
Some pro-aerator people, like Peaders, have heard that a lawsuit was filed against the city by those complaining about the fountains’ unacceptably high noise levels. Though city officials acknowledge the complaints, they have dismissed any rumors of a lawsuit.
But after nearby residents circulated a petition asking that the fountains be turned back on — collecting about 74 signatures from those who missed the misting aerators — it appears the city has found a compromise.
According to David Luckscheider, who inherited the dispute in April as the city’s new parks manager, as of late September the city started running the aerators for seven hours a day, from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
But cooler temperatures lately have prompted a cutback to about four hours per day. Algae is most prevalent during the warmer months, Luckscheider said.
“(The aerators) have been reduced, (but they’re) currently not on right now because we’re doing checks for oxygen levels,” Luckscheider further clarified Monday.
He also said the aerators alone don’t clean up all of the algae in the pond anyway. So, parks officials plan to investigate additional ways to address the situation this winter.
Among other things, the city will look at mechanically harvesting the pond weeds, implementing various biological solutions and replacing the existing aerators with more efficient machines.
Regardless, residents simply want the aerators on, for as long as possible.
Karen Froyland, who lives near the pond, shares Peaders’ frustration over the management of the fountains and appears to be tired of the back-and-forth between aeration schedules.
She said Monday that too many residents enjoy the pond for the city to turn the fountains off.
“We all love the sound,” Froyland said. “You have people sitting out there eating lunch, on cold mornings out there having their coffee. It’s wonderful.”
Robin Blake, a Davis resident who takes care of an elderly person living near the pond, walks around the park regularly. She also enjoys the aerators.
“It’s soothing, not loud,” Blake said while out walking near the pond. “I think running water is very soothing. They’re off sometimes, but (when they’re on) I think it’s pretty.”
Luckscheider said the city is working toward finalizing a regular schedule for aeration.
— Reach Tom Sakash at email@example.com or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash