BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT - Members of the Bartlet Mall Commission have voted to seek permission to ask residents to stop feeding the birds, and for public services crews to cut back on lawn-mowing efforts.
The goal is to reduce the amount of waste runoff that is evidently polluting Frog Pond, the centerpiece waterway of Bartlet Mall.
“The volunteers of the Bartlet Mall Commission are working to bring frogs back to the Frog Pond (so named in 1645),” Walt Thompson, chairman of the commission, commented after a recent meeting.
Feeding the birds is a popular pastime at Bartlet Mall. People are often seen throwing bread to ducks in the pond.
But the quality of the water in the pond, a natural “kettle hole” that was formed by glaciers thousands of years ago, has been suspect for years. The pond is in a steep gully with no natural way to drain and refresh itself.
“There are materials in the water and sediment of the Frog Pond which appear to be harmful to people” and other living things, Thompson said. He said the commission is seeking methods to reduce waste runoff so that wildlife and vegetation can return.
Commission members say they will ask the city to not cut the grass on the steep hillsides like along High and Greenleaf streets. Members say this will allow runoff water to better diffuse into the soil before it gets to the Frog Pond. Mowing will continue as usual in the flat areas of the Mall.
Also, the panel wants to reduce waterfowl fecal matter in the water by asking for funds from the community (with approval by the city) to post small signs asking passersby not to feed the ducks or gulls. The hope is that there will be fewer birds attracted to the park.
Mall members say the Conservation Commission does not get involved in remediation project such as this.
And the municipal Health Department does not have jurisdiction over the Frog Pond because it is not designated as a swimming area, they say.
“This means that the Bartlet Mall Commission searches out possible solutions on its own,” said Thompson.
Requests will be forwarded to appropriate city officials in coming weeks, commissioners say.