Pondology news from the waterfront by Tim Matson



As announced last month the motives people have for digging ponds will be covered in this series, Ponds for Wonderful Things. Let's begin with recreation: swimming and skating, boating, and general recreation around the pond, like picnics, barbeques, camping, etc.

When I was a kid there were a couple of ponds in our neighborhood where young folks would skate, fish, and swim (if you weren't scared of the snapping turtles). A small dingy in one of the ponds was fun to row around and practice a few basics of boating. Like how to get aboard without tipping over.

Many decades later my own pond has been used in the same ways. It was a great place for my kids to learn to skate and swim, and these days it continues to be a swim and skate pond, and generally a cool place to hang out. It's a little small for much boating, although even a small pond can be useful for teaching kids the basics of canoeing and kyacking.

I used to stock and fish for trout, but the herons and kingfishers got most of the catch so I let the stocking lapse. Still, fishing is perhaps the top reason people have ponds across the country, especially for kids, plus a bunch of fly fisherfolks. States where bass are more popular (outlawed in private Vermont ponds) fishing is a huge pond feature.

Just a couple of the benefits of ponds mentioned above are often enough to win people over to pond ownership. And it's easy to expand on these recreational perks.

For instance, I mentioned that even in a small pond you can teach basic boating skills. Let's not overlook safety skills. A pond can be a place to teach kids to use
life vests and experience how they work -- in the water. Add a throw ring and you've enlarged further safety education. Kids who know about these things will be able to use them if the occasion arises, at your pond or elsewhere. Who knows, you might even train up a lifeguard or two.

To enhance swimming pleasures, add a sand beach, and maybe a swim raft. And for swimming and a boat tie-up, a "sittin' on the dock of the bay wastin' time" pier. These days you can get them in modular aluminum and wood kits so length and height can be adjusted, and the whole thing taken out in winter to prevent ice damage. For traditionalists, go for a classic wood pier. If you're lucky you may have a tree in just the right location, with the perfect branch hanging over the water, to tie on a rope swing for Tarzan leaps into the water. Or build your own swing tower. Be sure the water is nice and deep where you splash down. Before we move on from swim topics, I don't want to overlook a health benefit that dedicated pond lovers often enjoy. Mud baths. Who needs a pricey spa when you have an earth pond?

For skating, pond size doesn't matter. A big pond might be needed for hockey games, but you can learn hockey skills on small ponds. For sure, general skating doesn't require a big pond. Just thick enough ice! And a small pond can be great for figure skating. Let's not forget curling. Or ice fishing. One of my kid's best birthdays was a skating party with a campfire for marshmallow roasting (and feet warming).

A number of pond owners I know fret about algae, leeches, swimmer's itch, etc. that can spoil swimming. But not all ponds have those problems, and if they do, there are ways to eliminate or control them. Besides, it's good to remember that it's a natural pond we're talking about, not a swimming pool doused with chlorine. And speaking of bothersome critters, ticks are a problem in many rural areas. But if you keep the grass mowed short around your pond, it may be a relatively tick free
zone. And to really escape tick habitat, get in the water.

To enhance the recreation mode of a pond, people will build a cabin, sauna, bath house, etc, near the water. A tent or teepee with or without a platform can provide shelter and shade too. I've even seen an occasional RV parked near shore. Houseboats anyone?

July 1, 2017

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