Post navigation

Prev: (03/30/21) | Next: (03/31/21)

What the duck! Capitol Hill waterfowl question Seattle Parks over anti-duckling measures at Volunteer Park lily ponds

No anti-duck mesh — yet — on the north pond (Image: CHS)

Ducks hate this mesh (Image: CHS)

Capitol Hill area waterfowl are outraged over a new effort by Seattle Parks to improve the Volunteer Park lily ponds which, apparently, “were never intended to serve as duck ponds.”

New mesh wire has been securely installed to block the spaces of the lily pond fence that surrounds the northernmost of the twin Volunteer Park ponds. Seattle Parks hasn’t responded yet to our inquiry but it sounds like new mesh will also be added to the southern pond.

“The two small ponds at Volunteer Park were never intended to serve as duck ponds,” a Seattle Parks representative from the office of Superintendent Jesús Aguirre wrote in a response to a community member’s email complaint about the anti-duck mesh shared with CHS. “But over the years, ducks have used the ponds, and the duck population has increased dramatically.”

This is where it gets dark. Content warning: sad duckling details from the city —

In previous years, ducklings have often been unable to exit the water—the pond walls are too steep—with the result that many of the ducklings have died. Subsequently, crows and other wildlife have fed on the dead ducklings in the ponds. (We’ve heard from many park users disturbed by that sight.) The large number of ducks using the ponds has also damaged the ponds’ filtration systems.

Beyond the crow slander, the Seattle Parks department representative says the goal is to save duckling lives.

“We are working now to find a better, more-permanent strategy to prevent ducklings from being trapped and dying, as they have been in previous years, and to prevent further damage to the park’s infrastructure,” the representative writes. “In the meantime, as a temporary solution to keep the ducks out, we’ve put mesh around the existing pond fencing.”

Volunteer Park regulars and duckling lovers are questioning the effort.

“Parks staff just installed chicken wire over the lily ponds in VP,” the original email complaint about the duck wire sent to Seattle Parks reads:

During our long COVID isolation the ducks and their broods have provided a wildly popular community destination and gathering place, offering entertainment and embodying hope. People young and old flock to the ponds to check on them all season long. In 2020, at least six broods grew up in and around the lily ponds. Why is this action necessary? Why no public notification? This will cause a firestorm if SPR fails to explain and justify covering the water. We care far more about the ducks than growing lilies in the ponds.

“Please, remove the wire and free the ducks! We can’t stand the idea of driving them away,” it concludes.

Another community member in the email thread pleaded for a more duck friendly solution. “I do understand the problem of artificial feeding creating an attractive nuisance, leading to overpopulation and an overtaxed pond filtration system,” she writes. “Wouldn’t a simple, less draconian response be worth testing?”

Volunteer Park’s lily ponds are surprisingly busy. CHS reported on this 2010 duckling move to the Arboretum and a 2013 effort to remove “unsustainable koi” from the ponds. That Seattle Parks effort was also highly controversial. Parks along with the Volunteer Park Trust added the $46,000 fencing around the ponds in recent years after decades of kids getting soaked from falling into the wet muck.

Meanwhile, construction to replace the park’s amphitheater with a new $3 million outdoor stage is underway nearby.

So far, Seattle Parks, appears unmoved by the pushback. A check of the ponds Tuesday showed the mesh still securely fastened in place on the northern pond.

For ducks and the humans who love them, the message is, you’ll need to find a different Seattle park.

“We understand this is frustrating to community members who want to observe the ducks and ducklings,” the parks rep said in her reply. “We encourage you to visit the Arboretum and waterfront parks where ducks and other waterfowl are raising their young throughout the city.”

 

SUBSCRIBE AND KEEP CHS PAYWALL-FREE -- $1/$5/$10
We love providing community news on CHS free for thousands of readers. What sustains the effort are voluntary subscriptions from paying supporters. If you are enjoying CHS, SUBSCRIBE HERE and help keep CHS available to all. Become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with no paywall. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.

 
Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

19 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Russ
Russ
1 year ago

Stop the lockouts – solidarity with our pond-less duck neighbors

FreeMarkets
FreeMarkets
1 year ago
Reply to  Russ

Of course, I saw a duck injecting heroin and another sleeping in a makeshift tent surrounded by trash. We need to invest in treatment and mental health facilities for our avian neighbors.

Edward
Edward
1 year ago

The duck sweeps just push ducks into other parks. A pair now live in Tashkent park (which doesn’t even have water?).

NIMBY
NIMBY
1 year ago

Not in my backyard.

Patty
Patty
1 year ago

Maybe City Council will offer the ducks free legal representation?

Mimi
Mimi
1 year ago

I’m going to miss those ducks.

Jacob
Jacob
1 year ago

I saw some ducks walking down 18th yesterday which was odd. They were pretty polite, made eye contact and said what I thought was hi with some quacks. Now I’m wondering if they were complaining. Their bills were muddy as though they’re been digging in mud.

rebeccabush
rebeccabush
1 year ago

I spend a lot of time watching these ducks, and I’m not sure how the mesh really stops them from getting into the pond since they can fly in and out. The mesh would help keep the ducklings (who are actually small enough to fit through the fencing) safe from wandering away from their parents. We’ll see what happens this summer. That being said, there have been a ridiculous amount of ducks in the ponds this last year.

klaas
klaas
1 year ago
Reply to  rebeccabush

Agreed, putting wire mesh will only prevent the ducklings from being to walk out: the parents fly in to nest. The wire solution is only going to make the problem worse. Casual observation shows this is the case.

RWK
RWK
1 year ago

Just a little quibble….the ponds are “south” and “north,” not “east” and “west.”

JerSeattle
JerSeattle
1 year ago

Don’t we have a moratorium on evictions? Save the ducks! Let them have the pond!

Kyle
Kyle
1 year ago

This action is particularly ridiculous given the work to restore the Olmsted character of the pond fencing at great expense & work. Not only is the mesh an eyesore, it flies in the face of many who supported the restoration & advised on the Olmsted principles to apply in considering the pond fencing.

Mark
Mark
1 year ago
Reply to  Kyle

Good point. This egregious Parks Department anti-duck action is disrespectful to all who support Seattle’s Olmsted legacy of respect for nature and quality design. The Parks department worked with the Volunteer Park and Olmsted groups for years on the fence design. In addition to retaining the Olmsted character, the width between bars is specifically designed to let ducklings pass through so they do not get trapped inside or outside, so they have a safe place to go in case a feral cat or coyote comes stalking around. By slapping chicken wire on it at the last minute without asking anyone, the Parks department destroyed both the carefully planned Olmsted character of the fence, but also eliminated duckling access to safety from predators. Maybe that is their plan. If predators eat all the ducklings because they cannot get into the pond, eventually there will be no more ducks in Volunteer park.
What this sad story reveals is not that Volunteer Park has a problem with ducks, but that Seattle has a problem with a Parks Department that does not respect or understand Seattle’s Olmsted Park and “City Beautiful” design legacy.

Dardanelles
Dardanelles
1 year ago

Great – I’ll just buy a 2 million dollar house near the Arboretum, no problem

Bruce
Bruce
1 year ago

This is why I subscribe to CHS. Please keep us updated on this drama. The duck ponds helped keep me sane during this past pandemic winter.

Krissy
Krissy
1 year ago

An overburdened filtration system and the difficulty of getting out of the ponds are problems that can be fixed. Why is the solution to lock the ducks out? I bet people would be willing to volunteer to help upgrade the ponds to address these issues. I know I would! Ducklings make everyone happy! Can we protest? Petition? Save the ducks!

Borntobewild
Borntobewild
1 year ago

Another example of politically appointed speciesist government employees ignoring the wishes of the public and sweeping the homeless ducks from a public space to avoid taking the time it takes to provide a basic safe home. What next, anti sqirrel tree guards? Bunny traps? Under-tatooed hipster relocation program?

Laura
Laura
1 year ago
Reply to  Borntobewild

There have many years of poor management of these ponds regarding our wildlife. For example, in 2017, I and other citizens watched as the water quality in the ponds and lack of an exit strategy for duck families caused a tragedy. Multiple families of ducklings died of malnourishment – as a direct result of filthy water and no way out of the ponds. Yes, I and a guy from Dept. of Fish and Wildlife caught 17 malnourished, bedraggled ducklings and took them to PAWS wildlife…none of them survived. It took a ridiculous amount of effort to convince the Parks to make simple, humane changes for the following Spring…clean the water, put in ramps, and educate the public about the harm caused by feeding the ducks (i.e. wing malformation d/t inappropriate diet, over population, dirty water). As I expressed to several Parks staff– so long there is water in these ponds and in the reservoir we are inviting the waterfowl that live or migrate through this region into this urban park. It is as much their habitat as it is our city park. At the time we were assured the Parks were looking into an “Elegant solution” to the ponds – one that allowed the ducks to enter and exit – and allowed for a long term sustainable solution.
FOUR years later…. is the elegant solution? Hardware cloth (wire fencing)? This is a last minute, desperate, inhumane measure.
How does this approach fit in with the City’s participation in the Urban Bird Treaty?
What is the Urban Bird Treaty City Program?The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started the Urban Bird Treaty City program in 1999. The City of Seattle was officially designated in 2017. The program’s goals are:
·        Protect, restore, and enhance urban/suburban habitats for birds
·        Reduce hazards to birds
·        Educate and engage urban/suburban citizens in caring about and conserving birds and their habitats

or with the Capital Hill Connections project?
https://seattleaudubon.org/our-work/conservation/urban-conservation/capitol-hill-connections/
It doesn’t take too any visits to the park to observe how much the duck families enrich our lives. We need to fight for that humane, sustainable, and elegant solution for the Volunteer Park ducks. For a start, take down the wire fencing, put up the signs that educate the public, and commence protecting the ducks freedom to come and go from the ponds.