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The seamy underside of Botany Pond

The Class of 1996 presented the University with one of the more original senior gifts in U of C history: Duck Island, intended to provide the ducks that swim in Botany Pond-also home to water lilies and goldfish-with a marshy resting place. But when it came time to build the island, the facilities services department decided that it was the perfect opportunity to do a little-make that a lot-of work on the pond itself.

When work began in April, Botany Pond hadn't undergone a major renovation in about 40 years. For more than a decade, the pond had been leaking one million gallons of water per year, mostly into the basement of Ryerson Physical Laboratory, which had needed five sump pumps running night and day to stay relatively dry.

After the renovation crew drained the pond and removed 42 inches of muck, explains University planner Richard Bumstead, they were surprised to find that the original concrete liner was in good condition. But, equally surprising, they discovered not only walls topped by stepping stones, indicating the pond had once been separated into chambers, but an undocumented additional "pour" on the exterior wall of the pond. There were large gaps between the old liner and this additional pour, which senior project manager Kenneth Park guesses was done in 1959.

After bringing in specialists to epoxy the cracks, workers installed a new drainage system, put down a layer of wash stone, and then returned much of the pond's original muck, also replanting rhizomes from the lilies.

The crew then created a "land form" for Duck Island. After putting in two concrete rings to hold soil in place, the workers mounded muck around the rings. Once the dirt settles, Park says, the island will be planted with native marsh grasses. Though their new home isn't finished, Bumstead reports that a drake and a hen have already been sighted.-K.S.

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