A milestone in a restoration project aimed at cleaning Cool Pond in Severna Park was reached in May as the dredging portion of the effort was completed.
Cool Pond is located alongside Thomas Way off Robinson Road on a branch of Cattail Creek directly behind Severna Park High School. Many point to a heavy rainfall almost nine years ago, combined with stormwater runoff from the construction site for what is now the high school, as culprits for the pond’s increase in sediment, and reduction in depth and wildlife.
Lobbying efforts — including kids from the Cool Pond community holding signs with messages to fix their pond during a visit by Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman — and assistance from the Greater Severna Park Council helped to spur the awarding of a $48,000 county grant to the Magothy River Association to oversee the dredging and restoration of Cool Pond.
“I heard of this project early in my first term, and I was very pleased to support it with grant funding from the county,” Pittman said. “This project will not only restore Cool Pond but will have positive impacts on the watershed and the Cattail Creek Natural Area.”
Dustin Ferris, an environmental scientist with Millersville-based CSI Environmental, serves as the Cool Pond project manager. Ferris said the recent hydraulic dredging increased the depth of the central portion of Cool Pond by 2 feet and removed between 300 and 400 cubic yards of material from the pond.
“Dustin Ferris deserves a lot of credit for his eight-plus years of advocacy to get this project off the ground,” Pittman said. “I want to thank the Magothy River Association, the Greater Severna Park Council, the Department of Recreation and Parks, and all the other community partners for working with Dustin to make this happen."
Ferris expressed gratitude to Pittman and his staff for working with them to get the grant. He also said Erik Michelsen in the county’s Department of Public Works was a consistent help behind the scenes.
While the county grant covered about half the cost of the dredging, CSI Environmental owner Craig Stevens donated the labor, materials and other expenses that the grant didn’t cover.
CSI Environmental utilized three-dimensional geotextile and advanced polymer systems, where a dredge sucked up sediments out of Cool Pond. The sediments were then pumped uphill into geotextile tubes. The polymer coagulated on the sediment and fine organic particles were separated out of the water column, leaving behind the sand and organic materials in the geotextile tubes. Fueled by gravity, clear and clean water was returned to Cool Pond.
Paul Spadaro, president of the Magothy River Association, pointed out the lack of disturbance the project caused — no truck traffic, no smell, no excessive noise and no major disturbance to ecology in the pond.
Ferris, who is also a resident of the Cool Pond community, said lots of people used to fish at the pond and bring their kids.
“We’re hoping we get back there,” Ferris said. “I’m working with the county now to try and get some fish stocked in the pond to improve the ecosystem.”
Spadaro cited Cool Pond’s restoration as a harbinger of things to come, such as dredging that he expects to happen at Lake Waterford in the next year or two.
He also hopes to have the county and state pull together for a two-and-a-half-mile restoration project of Cattail Creek, which is one of the largest fresh watersheds in the county. Spadaro said Cattail Creek is not in the best health, but he noted that projects like Cool Pond also assist in improving that, as the pond water catches up with the main stem of Cattail Creek in an intermittent stream.
“Sometimes you have to go outside the tidal part,” Spadaro said. “If the water is polluted coming in, it’s going to stay polluted.”
Spadaro said keeping up with change is another challenge.
“There’s a lot of development in this area, in Severna Park, and they were all pretty poor arrangements, cluster developments, and we are paying the price,” Spadaro said.
There are still some disagreements over aspects of who is to blame for the degradation of Cool Pond over the past years. County officials say Cool Pond was created as a stormwater management structure, but Spadaro said Cool Pond’s history is as a natural pond and dates to the 1950s based on older maps of the area.
“It was definitely a result of when they moved the high school,” Spadaro said of what happened to Cool Pond. “Their state-of-the-art stormwater control blew out.”
Anne Arundel County Public Schools spokesman Bob Mosier said AACPS does not claim fault or liability in the issue.
“In 2019, the Department of Public Works confirmed that the pond was designed and built as a flood control/stormwater management structure, in accordance with stormwater management/floodplain requirements in effect at the time,” Mosier wrote in an email. “The department further confirmed that the sedimentation issue raised by the community was a product of the flood control/stormwater management design.”
Ferris said the residual solids will remain in the geotextile tubes until early June, when they will be sufficiently dry to spread across the field. He added that after spreading and grading the material, grass seeds and straw will be applied. Once the grass is established enough, the filter socks can be removed from the edge of the field and the project will be complete.
“We do hope that this project will serve as a demonstration for similar projects in Anne Arundel County,” Ferris said.
Spadaro praised the persistence and efforts of Cool Pond advocates over the years.
“Communities that push back, win back,” Spadaro said.