Neighbors Came Together to Save the Pond—Now You Can Help Determine Its Future

Volunteers Claudia, Jeremy, Annette and Alice

Volunteers Claudia Kirkpatrick, Jeremy Roberts, Annette Anderson and Alice Tomkins on the island

Come to the Pond Meeting with City Council Member Harris this Monday, October 19th at 6pm in the Clunie Center to help determine McKinley Park Pond’s future.

The McKinley Park Pond, an idyllic spot for many of us who grew up in East Sacramento, now struggles to survive. Neglect, pollution, and maltreatment of wildlife have colluded to worsen its chances. Some people noted the decay, or noted the ducks with crooked wings, saw and smelled the sludge-like water, but didn’t see it for what it was: a local landmark choking to death.

Then Judy McClaver stepped in. An R.N., McClaver knew the ducks’ wing deformity was caused by malnourishment. She began to lobby the City to halt the pond deterioration. Here she came up against another problem: bureaucratic passivity and funding problems. Not one to linger while officials dithered, she got to work on her own.

She educated her neighborhood association, East Sacramento Preservation, and went daily to the pond to assess its needs, remove debris, to do what she could. She used a boat to get to the island in the pond, an island tangled with overgrowth and bamboo. The entire pond environment was dying, choked by pollution, neglect, mistreatment. The more she saw and learned, the more urgent the mission became. It was as if she had taken to heart Emerson’s words—“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

Once she raised awareness, others came. Since last May she’s had a team of citizens who help patrol and administer first-aid to the pond and the untended island in its midst. Every other Monday Claudia Kirkpatrick arrived to help with pruning, weeding, watering, digging, planting.

Kendra ready for another load

Kendra Asbury ready for another load

The bamboo had to be removed, a daunting project for a hot summer. Jeremy Roberts came out two to three times a week in August. “He definitely helped move the project along faster,” McClaver says. “He used a mattock to dig out the bamboo below the surface to about a foot down to remove the rhizomes. It was hot, dirty, hard work.” Joe Mangello, Dave Edwards and Joanne Edwards volunteered for this a day in May.

Thanks to East Sac Hardware, the mattock was kept good and sharp.

Greg Lim helped with irrigation and volunteered to remain on board to help again when McClaver determines the best method. Lim also serves on the City Pond committee with McClaver.

Alice Tomkins, Linda Brown, Annette Anderson, Kendra Asbury, Mary LaCalle, Margie Kirk, Liz Rizzo and daughter Elizabeth all helped gather bamboo debris and piles of roots from the island to the boat, rowed it across the pond to a trash trailer, loaded it into the trailer and rowed back to the island for the next haul. “Each day a trailer was completely filled,” says McClaver. This strenuous work was done in the hardcore heat of Sacramento Summer.

Volunteer projects can be fun and rewarding when you’re decorating for the fall festival or stringing up Christmas lights on a brisk morning. But schlepping bamboo and garbage while baking under our relentless summer sun is something else again. Judy McClaver and her team of volunteers soldiered on through the heat and filth to help restore health to a living landmark. Park picnickers and playground users may not fully appreciate what these workers do, or why. Officials may feel pressured by them. Most people ignore them. But we know who they are and what they do. We are profoundly grateful to Judy McClaver and her team, and we thank them.

Judy and volunteers will be at the meeting. East Sacramento Preservation also requested that City Fire and Police representatives attend to help the community understand the safety risks. Come and participate.


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