MARQUETTE - A pool and a pond - they're both filled with water, but the similarities pretty much end there.
After several years of planning, the former Shiras Pool at Presque Isle is expected to soon begin its transformation into a wildlife habitat.
"The bigger picture is the Presque Isle environment needs bog and forest," said Andrew Bek, executive director of the MooseWood Nature Center. "The pond area, it'll be a transition zone between bog and forest."
This is an artist’s rendering of the proposed pool-to-pond project at the former Shiras Pool at Presque Isle in Marquette. (Lisa Niemi drawing)
The former pool, complete with a twisting water slide, will be transformed over a number of years, hopefully starting this fall. The first phase begins with the removal of concrete from the pool facility, followed by excavation and landscaping and finally the construction of paths and boardwalks to allow the surrounding community the chance to explore what will be a native environment.
The center has been working with engineers at AECOM to do engineering work for the project. An artist's rendering was also completed by Lisa Niemi.
Although Bek said a large snapping turtle has already taken up residence in the pool, the reworked habitat will provide not only a new wetland area, but also a demonstration bog and a butterfly and bird garden, all planted with native species and providing a habitat for a variety of animals. The planting of a variety of fruit-bearing trees around the pond will also attract birds and other wildlife to the area.
"It'll be a place for the pollinators," Bek said of the butterfly garden.
The pool-to-pond project has an estimated cost of about $250,000, and has recently received some interest from the Shiras Institute, which may soon allow the project to begin moving forward, MooseWood board chairman Scot Stewart said.
The plan is to make the site wheelchair accessible so that anyone who is interested can observe the plants and animals living around the center. Stewart said the center is waiting to hear the status of a grant for the purchase of a motorized device that will lower wheelchair users close to the water, allowing them to participate in activities that require exploring the wetland with nets and other devices.
One of the challenges of changing the pool into a pond is the removal of the concrete, which is a foot thick. Stewart said removal of the concrete will allow excavation of the pool's basin, which will help make it deeper to discourage algae growth. Removal of the concrete will also help create more natural sloping of the ground, which will make the new pond a better environment for a variety of frogs, toads and other amphibian species.
Since the pool was taken out of use in 2007, Stewart said there has been an increase in the number of bird species using the area beyond the usual mallards and geese.
"We're starting to see an increase in some of the more desirable waterfowl in there," he said.
After reintroducing the native species to the area, the new wetlands and pond will provide a place for area kids to combat "nature deficit disorder," or the tendency for today's kids to grow up detached from the outdoor world, Bek said.
"This will be a place for kids to go outside," he said.
Those who visit the new pond will be able to learn about native species, what invasive species are and how environments in the Upper Peninsula function, Bek said. In addition to a boardwalk and pathway around the pond, there is also a plan to put an observation deck at the top of the current slide structure.
Bek said MooseWood is seeking donations from the community as well as the Shiras Institute. Those interested in supporting the project can make a donation to the MooseWood Pool-to-Pond fund at mBank or by sending a check to MooseWood Nature Center, P.O. Box 773, Marquette, Mich. 49855.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.