Cuddy Park Water Quality Monitoring Activities

Introduction

Cuddy Family Midtown Park, or “Cuddy Park”, is a municipal park located in Anchorage, Alaska, between Denali and A Streets, south of 36th Avenue and north of Tudor Road, adjacent to the Z. J. Loussac Library. The park covers 19.5 acres and provides opportunities for speed-skating in winter, walking trails in summer, picnicking, gathering for social events and a wheelchair-accessible playground. The Municipality of Anchorage purchased the first parcel of property for a midtown park in 1987 and additional properties were added in 1988 and 2000. The park was first opened in 1995 and the playground was installed in 2013. During the same time period, the Municipality of Anchorage (MoA) determined that a need for flood control in the midtown area could be addressed if 11.5 acre-feet of water storage was made available to absorb flood flows in high water periods. HDR Engineering and the MoA raised the possibility of combining the park effort with the flood control project. The proposal was accepted and Fish Creek, with a course that historically runs through what is now midtown Anchorage, was “daylighted” within Cuddy Park, forming three separate ponds; actually part of a slow-moving waterway, that provide for the required flood control measure. It was anticipated during the planning of the ponds within Cuddy Park that waterfowl-human interactions might present a problem and measures were put into the plan to mitigate excessive waterfowl congregation at the ponds. Unfortunately, funds ran short for installing natural vegetation barriers that would discourage contact between waterfowl and humans and deter waterfowl nesting. Over time, waterfowl presence at the Cuddy Park Ponds has increased, creating the current situation.

Water Quality Summary

The presence of many birds in a small area with low rates of water exchange has made this a water quality issue. Fish Creek is already on the list of impaired waters for fecal coliform and the waterfowl overpopulation at the Cuddy Park Ponds has caused a thousand-fold increase in the bacteria levels in the ponds.

Recent Actions

Through funding from the ACWA grant process, the Municipality of Anchorage Department of Parks & Recreation planted 100 birch and redtwig dogwood trees, more than 250 shrubs and iris plants, and 13,000 square feet of sod in order to form a vegetative border around the perimeter of the main pond at Cuddy Park in late summer, 2016. The intent of the revegetation was to discourage waterfowl from long-term stopovers at Cuddy Park Ponds by creating a barrier of vegetation between birds and humans, preventing the birds from easily approaching humans who would feed them. As the waterfowl spend less time at Cuddy Park ponds, the amount of fecal matter in the ponds will subsequently decrease. Additionally, the new vegetation will slow excessive erosion and sedimentation to the ponds, further improving water quality. Another FY17 ACWA grant recipient, the Anchorage Waterways Council, conducted a survey of outreach efforts and observation of human-waterfowl interactions at Cuddy Park in order to assess the effectiveness of the multiple outreach efforts conducted in 2016 to inform the public about the problems associated with human feeding of wild waterfowl. The ACWA grant actions have already shown an encouraging result; the fecal coliform level in August 2015 was 1,800 cfu/ 100 mL and the fecal coliform level in August 2016 (after the surveying and revegetation actions) decreased to 200 cfu/ 100 ml. The fecal coliform levels will continue to be monitored to see if the encouraging results so far are part of a long-term trend.

Contact

Jeanne Swartz
555 Cordova St
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 269-7523
Email: Jeanne.Swartz@alaska.gov