Sludge dredging starts in Sugar House Park to cut down on pond problems

SALT LAKE CITY -- The pond in Sugar House Park is undergoing a major rehabilitation project, as crews remove thousands of cubic yards of sludge.

According to Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation, digging up a quarter century-worth of dirt will make the pond safer and more enjoyable.

On Thursday, crews pushed and picked up piles of sediment with heavy equipment. They started work on Monday, and have already put quite a dent in the pond.

As an excavator hummed and beeped, runners like Stephanie Davis trotted by.

Davis said she's training for a marathon, and often comes to Sugar House Park to run laps around the 1.3-mile loop.

She agreed that the pond isn't always the prettiest feature to run past.

"I see all the geese and a lot of things going on there," Davis said.

"A lot of things" refers to the smell that sometimes wafts up, the muddy shallowness and the green algae that tends to spring up.

Not to mention, the pond's been a breeding ground for bird botulism.

As soon as she drove into the park on Thursday, Davis said she noticed the piles of sludge.

"I saw a lot of dark dirt and I thought, 'Wow. The [geese] have been taking care of that soil!'" she said, with a chuckle.

Dirt as dark as, well, bird doo-doo was dredged into messy mounds at the northwest end of the pond.

Wayne Johnson, Salt Lake County Parks and Rec Associate Division Director, said the pond was last dredged in 1992 or 1993 -- meaning it's currently filled with 25-years worth of sediment carried in by Parley's Creek.

The 18,000 cubic yards of material will now be carried away completely, and Johnson indicated hauling away the soft sludge will rid the pond of most of its nasty problems.

"A compelling reason for doing this, is to improve the water quality that's in the pond, reduce the Avian Botulism that comes along also," he explained.

Not only will the project return the pond to its original six-foot depth, but the project will allow the county to re-install a handful of fountains.

"Once upon a time, there were five fountains in here," Johnson said. The fountains aerate the water, which improves water quality and curbs algae growth.

Johnson said they'll also rehab the grass and irrigation system around the pond.

All the material, Johnson said, is being hauled to the Salt Lake City Model Airport near Magna. He said it'll be used to fill the land around the site, making it easier for people to retrieve downed model planes.

A 2016 voter-approved bond is funding the $500,000 project. Johnson said crews expect to take 15 days to complete the dredging.

The entire pond project should finish sometime during the spring.