When residents of Brackendale say, “the white house with the pond and the bridge,” everyone knows where that is.
A recent project to restore that pond in front of Norm Halvorson's home, just up from the Brackendale General Store, symbolizes the best of Squamish: family helping family, neighbours helping neighbours, and local companies pitching in to get the job done.
For decades, kids have played around the pond, and adults use it as a landmark.
Recently Halvorson, 85, and a band of others began working on rehabilitating the pond back to its original, clear-flowing days, by freeing it of a ton of invasive weeds.
Brackendale Creek runs into the water feature that is home to fish such as salmon and trout, which couldn’t move through it well when it was choked up by the grasses.
Some of the many locals involved in the pond's rejuvenation include the Halvorson family and the staff at Cascade Engineering, John Hunter Co Ltd. West-Barr Contracting and members of the conservation organization, Squamish Streamkeepers Society.
A local Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) official advised on the project as well.
“We all played on the banks of that pond; we fished trout on the pond. We’ve had families stop by and watch fish catch pollywogs… or feed the ducks. It is such a tranquil, welcoming place,” said Norm Halvorson’s daughter Nancy Knox. “Dad had initially enhanced it when he bought the property in 1965 and he had made it into a pond,” she added.
“It is unique because it is stream fed and it maintains its temperature… whether it is summer or winter.”
Mike Nelson, principal consultant and senior aquatic ecologist with Cascade Engineering, explained to The Chief that for the last decade sediment has accumulated in the pond and it became choked with reed canary grass.
Once a year the Streamkeepers had been cutting back the grass in the fall so that fish could escape, but the grass was increasingly winning the battle.
Beyond getting fisheries and provincial authorization, the first hands-on part of the project for Nelson was netting off the creek and ensuring the trapping and moving of the fish, which was done by hand, primarily by Carl Halvorson.
Crews removed the grass and dug the pond down about two metres, Nelson said.
“That is probably a depth that is too deep for the reed canary grass,” he added.
“We are hoping that will stop it from re-invading.”
Shrubs and trees are being planted on the south bank to provide shade to keep the creek cool.
Nelson said that all ponds naturally become filled in over time. In this pond’s case it slowly became shallow enough for the grass to take over.
In another few decades, the project will have to be redone as sediment again increases.
In addition to helping the fish, the work lets the pond be more visible from the road and allows more passersby to enjoy it.
“It is always fun to do these jobs — to see a private landowner, the Streamkeepers and other people all pull together and get it done,” Nelson said.