Protesters delay elimination of Southport school pond

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 11:30am

A Southport selectboard decision to fill in the pond at Southport Central School drew about 20 protesters to the pond early Monday morning, Jan. 18.

Word spread through Facebook, emails and phone calls on Sunday that a construction crew was to show up Monday morning to begin the work of eliminating the pond.

In an email to Boothbay Register on Friday afternoon, Selectman Gerry Gamage wrote: “We have decided to fill the pond back in rather than keep spending money digging out the cattails on a regular basis. Our plan is to level it off flush with the ball field and build a rink similar to the one at the Boothbay Fire Station.

“In 1978 I was part of a ball field committee that was charged with improving the ball fields. It was the decision of the committee to dig out the pond and use the fill to build up the fields. At that time there was an uproar by concerned citizens that (the pond) was a risk for our children to drown in. So we planted junipers and (put) a fence around the perimeter of the pond to protect the children. I was charged with checking the depth of the ice to determine when it was safe for skating. A yellow flag was flown from the monument flagpole to alert people when it was safe. Since that time we have pumped the pond dry and dug out the cattails and debris so that it was clear to ensure safe skating, on three occasions. It now seems prudent to fill the area back in to its natural state and build a skating rink.”

The protesters included schoolchildren, parents and concerned island residents. They carried signs which stated their concerns about losing the pond as an outdoor classroom source and the wildlife that live in the pond, such as turtles, frogs, dragonflies and water bugs, and the ducks and other birds that use the pond for swimming, eating and more. A Facebook group, Save the SCS Pond, was started by Tracey Hall. Hall has led several outdoor classroom sessions at the school over the years.

According to Jenny Bennett, Bruce White, Leigh Sherrill and other island residents who contacted the newspaper this morning, the selectboard decided to hold off on the work and discuss the matter at its 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20 meeting outside the town hall.