El Dorado Park Duck Pond Won’t Reopen Until Next Year

By Jon LeSage

It’s bad news for ducks, geese, and families that love to go have a picnic at the El Dorado Park West Duck Pond.

The work won’t be getting done for nearly another year for the popular duck pond, located at the section of the park on Studebaker Road and next to the El Dorado Park Golf Course. The fences may be staying up until the upgrade gets done by October 2024, according to a city staffer in Parks, Recreation & Marine.

The El Dorado Duck Pond Project website provides more details on the extension of the project. As of September 2023, it was set to wrap up in Spring 2024, but that will likely go to Fall 2024. The City’s contractor completed dewatering the duck pond again in August 2023 due to yet another unexpected rain storm from Hurricane Hilary. Other work scheduled to follow included repairing damages to the pond, installing the pond liner, and doing concrete work. The contractor was also working on rebuilding the pump house.

The Parks, Recreation & Marine staff person didn’t know anymore details on the construction work, and encouraged to check back later on the El Dorado Duck Pond Project webpage. As you can see in the [page 6] photo, there’s a lot of work to be done. The sidewalks and bike paths around the pond are dirt paths for now, and there’s likely more work to be done on the drainage and irrigation systems.

Los Angeles Engineering, Inc., the construction contractor, had received a $5.5 million contract in December 2021 to begin work on repairs to the pond  –  including waterline, landscaping and sidewalk improvement, dredging the pond, draining, relining and the installation of a new irrigation system. It all started in September 2022 with the Duck Pond initially expected to be refilled in September 2023, the habitat was restored in October 2023, and the construction competed before the end of this year.

Challenges came up that extended out the completion until late next year. Funding gaps, heavy rainfall, bird nesting and an outbreak of the avian flu stalled out much of the work.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) in October 2022 confirmed eight cases of avian flu in Los Angeles County, including three Canada Geese and a Black-crowned Night Heron in Long Beach, three Canada Geese in the City of Los Angeles, and one Canada Goose in Cerritos. Other sick and dead birds were also found in the area, according to health officials.

No new cases of this devastating bird flu, known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1, have been reported. The avian flu began in February 2022 and affected more than 47 million wild birds and poultry, health officials said. The risk to the general public’s health from this H5N1 virus is considered to be low.

The domestic waterfowl, which includes Graylag Geese, Pekin Duck, Muscovy Duck, and Mallards, were relocated to El Dorado Park Area 2 and Area 3 in early October 2022 by the city. Those going over to these other sections of the park could see about 90 or more of them near Model Boat Lake in Area II of the park, north of Spring St. Another 60 or more of them might have been seen close together next to Main Lake in Area III, north of Wardlow Road, in late 2022.

City Extends Funding in March

The City Council voted to increase funding for the duck pond project by an additional $1 million during its March 7 regular session. That will go to contractor Long Angeles Engineering to complete the costly maintenance repairs.

The construction crew had discovered more work needed to be done on the pond and surrounding area, which had been built during the 1960s. Maintenance problems have been worked on for years with aerator fountains and irrigation pumps known for failing and needing replacement; and flocks of ducks and geese fouling up the pond with waste. Another problem has been illegal fishers leaving line, hooks, and trash behind.

Another challenge that extended the timeline is that bird nesting, along with severe rain storms, had put more unexpected delays in the way.

The goal of the duck pond project, which is being done in partnership with the Long Beach Water Dept., is to provide a new reclaimed water system to the adjacent golf course reducing the use of potable water. A new treatment system will be installed that will provide filtration and disinfection of any water distributed through the irrigation system.

Other objectives include repairing leaks and other deficiencies, improving public access, and converting the pond into a recycled water reservoir. It will also upgrade the current conditions of the degraded walkway surrounding the pond. Measure A, which was approved by voters in 2016, provides much of the funding for the project along with other state and federal funds.

The City also said that a qualified biologist was hired to perform regular bird nesting surveys and provide advice and recommendations to the city to ensure the most well-informed decisions. As the water drawdown continues, any remaining wildlife will be moved out of the area and relocated, according to the California Department of Fish & Wildlife Streambed Alteration Agreement.

Jon LeSage is a resident of Long Beach and a veteran business media reporter and editor. You can reach him at jtlesage1@yahoo.com.

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