|After encountering several delays, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' fishing pond project is nearing completion. The DWR expects complete construction at the site next month. The grand opening of the fishing pond in Helper is slated May 25, with a special day of activities planned for the unveiling, particularly for local youth.|
It won't be long until the residents of Helper will have a hometown fishing spot that they can walk to. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' kids fishing pond in Helper is well underway and construction will be finished next month.
The grand opening is slated for May 25, with a special day of activities planned for the unveiling, particularly for kids.
"We are planning on having a good grand opening," explained Lewis Berg, aquatics manager for the DWR. "That day, there will be free equipment and bait for the kids to use, along with some adult volunteers who can teach kids to fish if their parents can't."
The pond site is being leased from Ross Gigliotti in a 20-year deal. The project is developing somewhat differently than originally conceived. The pond is located on the old state highway south of the old Balance Rock Motel next to the Price River. The property was purchased from the railroad by Gigliotti last year.
Many years ago, when the railroad was still running steam engines, a pond was constructed on the property as a retention facility to settle out sediment. Then the water was pumped across the river and put in a tank to fill the boilers of the steam engines that were traveling up and down the canyon in those days.
After the steam trains stopped, the pond fell into disrepair. But for a long time, the pond still contained water.
"I remembered how much fun it was to have that pond there with water in it when I was a kid," said Gigliotti in an interview at the time the project was proposed. "We used to fish on it in the summer and skate on it in the winter. "
Years later, the pond was drained and sat with Chinese elms and weeds growing in it. Then Gigliotti, who owns property adjacent to the site, purchased the pond from the railroad.
When Gigliotti heard about a project in Murray that the DWR was doing with some vacant property and a fishing pond, he came to the realization that something similar could be done at his site in Helper. Wanting "to do something for the community," he approached DWR who liked the idea right from the beginning.
DWR officials received the support of Helper city, then went after funding from the habitat council to make the project happen. The funding came and the project was begun.
The project was initially expected to be finished in fall 2001. However, various delays like fixing a water and sewer lines near the pond that the new usage could impact took place and final construction could not be started until last month.
The site is very different from what it was a year ago. Originally, only the trees near the dam were to be pulled out. But in the end, all the vegetation had to be removed.
"As work progressed, we discovered if we left any of the trees in it, it would destroy the seal of the pond and we would be continually losing water around them," pointed out Berg last Friday.
But an inspection of the site shows a first class fishing hole shaping up.
The dam has been reinforced, based on an engineering study conducted last year, and the entire pond has been upgraded.
Almost all the bentonite - the material used to seal the pond so that water loss is reduced - had been put in at the site last Friday. The spillway into the river was under construction, but the concrete needed to be put in place.
The pond will have a paved path around it, with fishing stations that are handicapped accessible attached to the dam area.
"A couple of those will have roofs for shade," commented Berg.
The parking area needs to be constructed. When completed, the lot will have room for about 10 cars.
At present, there is no money to cover restroom construction. Money for the restroom facility was not included in the $172,000 the DWR secured from the habitat council and the county's restaurant tax committee turned down a request for funding based on the fact that the land, while being leased for 20 years from Gigliotti, was privately owned.
Other funding for the project came from various sources, including the members of private groups who contributed time and materials.
"I'd say people like Bass mas-ters, scouting groups and private individuals put in $50-$100,000 worth of time and materials to make this a reality," commented Berg.
Bass masters is also in the process of securing some trees and boulders that will be placed on the floor of the pond without penetrating the seal.
"We will begin filling the pond around May 1," pointed out Berg. "Once it is full, we will be planting some bass and bluegills. But the mainstay of the pond will be rainbow trout."