Documenting the Diversity of Dallas/Fort Worth Urban Wildlife Since 2005
The Dredging of Woodlake Pond
Dateline – June 22, 2008
Woodlake Pond in Carrollton, TX is, depending upon how you look at things , either a small lake or a relatively large pond. And, while I’m not sure exactly how such distinctions are made by the experts, I do suspect that the lake/pond ambiguity may best explain the strange juxtaposition of the two words in the place’s name.
Woodlake Pond and the surrounding parkland are a part of the City of Carrollton’s greenbelt system. The lake is man-made, and has been around since at least the mid 1980’s (and probably much longer). It is located on the southeast quadrant of the Josey Lane – Peter’s Colony Blvd intersection in the north-central part of the city.
The lake is fed by Furneaux Creek, and is contained by a small earthen dam that runs for a couple of hundred yards along the pond’s southern end. A concrete spillway controls the lake’s water level by returning the overflow back into Furneaux Creek as it continues to make its way on to the Trinity River just a few miles to the west.
Woodlake Pond has been important to me for many years now, mainly because of the large number and wide variety of waterfowl and other urban wildlife that are attracted to its waters. At one time or the other I have observed Mallards, American Coots, Lesser Scaups, Northern Shovelers, American White Pelicans, Ring-billed Gulls, Great Egrets, Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, Canada Geese, Red-tailed Hawks, Willets, Nutria, Red-eared Sliders, Carp, and various pan fish. Further, most of these animals are well acclimated to the presence of people, a fact that makes them unusually amenable to observation.
The lake has long been a great habitat for these animals, as well as a nice area for simple recreation, but in recent years it had become more and more evident that there was a serious problem developing at Woodlake Pond.
The waters of Woodlake Pond have been, for as long as I can remember, extremely shallow. I can still remember how surprised I was the first time I observed a Great Blue Heron standing in only ankle deep water somewhere near the center of the pond. And over the years, sediment carried into Woodlake Pond by Furneaux Creek had accumulated to the point where it was beginning to choke off the lake.
According to the City of Carrollton’s web site, a study of the lake’s condition revealed that if something was not done to rectify the situation, the lake would soon fill with accumulated silt, transforming the pond into a marsh, and likely making the area largely unsuitable for the wide variety of wildlife it currently supported.
In 2004, possibly in an effort to avoid the even more confusing name of Woodlake Pond Marsh, Carrollton voters approved $2.25 million for dredging operations. Shortly afterwards the environmental impact analysis and design work began.
The actual dredging work began in the spring of 2007, and this is when I first became aware of the project. Unfortunately it took me several more months to arrive at the idea that documenting the dredging operation might make an interesting article for my website. And as a consequence, I didn’t start recording photographs, etc until the work was nearly complete.
I really wish I had been more on the ball with this, and I am disappointed that I was unable to to a more thorough job of recording the project’s progress. Nonetheless, I was still able to take a few interesting pictures of the work in progress. And going back to my pre-dredging photograph archive,has allowed me to put together some telling before-and-after shots.
After the dredging work was completed, the lake/pond quickly filled up once again. The water was deep, fresh, and clean, but something very important was missing—the birds. Today, the few water fowl that remain are mostly Mallards and Mallard hybrids. Gone are the American Coots, the Ring-billed Gulls, The Double-crested Cormorants, and a number of other rarely observed species.
It is not clear to me whether it was the dredging activities, or the resulting change in habitat caused by the deeper water (or a combination of both factors) that drove the birds off. My hope is that their absence is not permanent, and that one day the birds will return to Woodlake Pond. Only time will tell.