Melrose's Ell Pond gets culture, horticulture
By Daniel DeMaina / email@example.com
Melrose - Last Saturday, Melrose’s most famous body of water got a little makeover.
Volunteers and members of the Ell Pond Improvement Council spent the morning readying two holes for local artist Lisa Tiemann’s mosiac stepping-stones, which will serve as footrests for residents sitting on the two stone benches overlooking the pond from the Knoll.
Tiemann’s creations feature images of turtles, a nod to the painted turtles that still call Ell Pond home and the spotted turtles that once populated the pond.
“My interest is to put my art toward serving environmental causes,” Tiemann told the Free Press last month in an interview. “I think everybody has to look at how they, in their small corner of the world, can treat the world better, the earth better. For me, it was through my art.”
Dave Dickerson, president of the Ell Pond Improvement Council, said Tiemann approached him about creating a piece of artwork for the area around Ell Pond and he suggested turtles as a possible motif.
“It’s a really active area for them [turtles],” he said. “It went really well because I guess Lisa’s husband and somebody else dug the holes on Friday. That went pretty well. We had a pretty good turnout. It was really just mixing concrete and placing the two pads.”
Tiemann said books by artist and naturalist David Carroll, a New Hampshire resident and turtle expert, helped inspire the mosaics she created for the pond. She lent some of Carroll’s books to Michelle Casale, a recently graduated Melrose High School student who interned with Tiemann and helped her with creating the mosaics (“‘Education outside the classroom:’ Melrose senior internships leave the schoolhouse behind,” Free Press, May 28).
“These books were a great inspiration to me and thinking of all the life that was in that pond,” Tiemann said. “This is kind of honoring [the turtles], and perhaps a way to sit on these benches and contemplate the pond in a new way.”
Dickerson said enough volunteers showed up on Saturday that they were also able to undertake some invasive species control — targeting non-native and invasive plants that could throw the Ell Pond ecosystem out of whack.
“They kind of crowd out native plants and monopolize the ecosystem,” he said. “The one that we worked on on Saturday was bittersweet, a vine that strangles trees. We had a bunch of people cutting down vines. There are other types [of invasive species] there as well, but that was the one we worked on.”
Overall, the ecosystem is “pretty good for an urban pond,” Dickerson said, pointing out as an example the list of over 130 birds that can be seen around the pond — including rarities such as bald eagles and the Prothonotary warbler — and the large mouth bass found in the pond.
On the other hand, Ell Pond still faces the challenges presented by nearby antiquated storm drains and sewage systems, Dickerson said, which can lead to sewage mixing with storm water runoff and seeping into the pond.
“That’s more of a case-by-case basis — it’s more of a problem for swimming,” he said, pointing out that swimming was banned in Ell Pond in 1951. “For a small little park, it does serve an important ecological function.”