Liberty Nature Preserve
SO...IS THIS THE POND?
Well, kinda yes, but mostly no. This pic was taken in February of 2005. It is a relatively small area of water, about 100 - 150 feet across. This frozen area is mapped out in the south-central area of the 10 acre block (Ref; the topo map below) and is noted as the "spring pond".
The story we were given by the owner is that this is a spring-fed pond area. I have always maintained reservations to the accuracy of this from the beginning; not that I doubt the sincerity of the statement, just the accuracy. It is no doubt a depression and a low spot that collects water. Later, in July, the area all but dried up....but....it appears to be a very thick collection of silt run-off and the huge cracks in the dried surface soil reveal wet muck below the surface. I'm no expert, but I maintain that at one time, many years ago, this depression was not filled up with silt and there may be a small spring down there. Well, we will find out pretty soon when John the excavator comes in and starts pulling soil samples from various areas in the pond footprint. If there is a spring, it should be an asset. If not, it makes no difference in the decision to proceed. Either way, we refer to this area as the "spring pond" or the "existing pond". When you go thru the photo album, you will see what I mean about drying up in the hot summer sun. ** UPDATE ** The "spring pond" area has been opened up and soil samples extracted. In the words of my excavator, John, "spring pond my a--"! (the good news is the soil is excellent for a pond...let the show begin!) .....sneak a peak behind the curtain of the first act (click here)
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS EXISTING POND AREA
We anticipate 2 potential building sites to pick from that both afront this area. We refer to them as #1 and #2 (slick, eh?). According to the laser elevations that Donna and I shot, we expect about 6 feet of water to cover the frozen pond surface shown in the pic above. I'll bet there isn't much more than 18" of water below the very center of this frozen area. That makes 7 - 8 feet of water. Now, bring in the bulldozer and the earthmover, start scraping and remove another 2 - 3 feet and we get about 10 - 11 feet; this is a very reasonable depth for a pond, and this is at the opposite end from the dam area (which is deeper, still). Now, consider scraping about 3 feet from an area of about 3 acres and we are talking "big dirt". Now, consider that this 3 acre area is only the eastern end of the pond which includes the entire eastern draw, opened up and deepened to an average of 6 feet or so. This will be the largest uninterrupted area of water surface. It will also serve as the area for a small boat launch and a sand beach. All this points to building site option #2 as the front runner. It will be located east and slightly north of the existing pond, looking west toward the dam site. The beach area will be just south of the building site, and the boat launch just south of the beach area.
OK, SO WHAT ABOUT THE WEST DRAW
Well, purchasing the 3.228 acre piece that contains this draw certainly plays a significant role. It allows us to do pretty much anything we want in this area. Contrary to the appearance of the topo map, the east draw is very wide and extremely gentle in slope. The west draw is a bit more narrow and defined by a greater slope. The property in between the draws will create a wide peninsula that runs back north and abuts the 3.228 Ac piece. This is designated as building site option #3. Preliminary studies and planning indicate that this west draw will be cleared out for about the first 100 - 150 feet north, but the rest will remain natural with trees. I'll bet the water will run another 200 feet north, flooding the existing timber and creating a super stump field. Da fish are gonna love this.
I GUESS THAT LEAVES THE DAM
Ah yes, the most important structure in the entire shootin' match. The dam is nothing more than a well planned pile of dirt. It really is an art form, and correct construction is critical. The beauty of the Liberty topography is that the dam site is a near perfect natural formation. It will lie across a valley created by both sides of the pond that have a perfect slope that drops about 25 feet from the top at both sides to the valley center. The distance from end to end at the top of the dam should come in around 300 feet. A core is cut parallel to the dam at it's center. A core is a trench that is the width of the dozer blade and about 6 feet deep. The core will run from one end of the dam to the other. It is basically a keyway to lock in the dam mass to the earth, creating a monolithic clay barrier stop any seepage. Now, scrape off the top soil in the pond footprint and stock pile it for use in topping the dam later. OK, time to start the real dig. The idea in the dam end of the pond is to start scraping for depth and using this soil to systematically layer and compact in the core and the resulting dam above it. The estimate is 4000 - 5000 cubic yards of soil will be moved in this area alone. I have requested a 20 foot wide top on the dam so a vehicle could be driven across it; John sees no problem. It fact, he thinks that there will be enough soil to do a very nice and gentle slope down-stream from the top, returning to the original grade behind the dam.....perhaps as gentle as 10:1 or 12:1. This will make grass establishment and maintainance easier to negotiate on a gentle slope. It will also create a much more stable mass.
WHAT ABOUT THE DEPTH AT THE DAM
As is often the case, the water is deepest in the area in front of the dam. If my elevations are worth the water they may hold, I expect about 13- 14 feet deep in this area. Even at 12 feet deep, this would be good.
SO, WHEN DOES THIS PROJECT BEGIN?
Well, as so many things in life are governed by it, our progress is also regulated by cash flow. This is why we expect a "5 year plan"; the first 24 months focused on access and pond construction. Including a number of contingencies as we proceed, a reasonably conservative plan for the pond is to prepare the 1800 ft drive to use as access for the equipment and clear the pond area this year, 2005. GPS Map of the pondsite clearing and the driveway as completed Fall 2005 (click) After creating the driveway and clearing the pondsite timber we'll spend the next 8 - 10 months pondering the results and making final decisions on "what goes where". This also allows us a little time to try to put a dent in the $ loan to get to this point. Then, sometime in 2006 summer/autumn, dig and complete the pond. This will also include committments for stocking with fish. The experts say to do it immediately when there is enough water. Speaking of enough water, John estimates that we have about 60 acres of drainage surrounding the Liberty pond and running into it. This is a decent figure. Although it is below the ideal run-off volume, it should be enough to support the water level. It definitely won't be so much as to create a huge rush thru the dam spillway when a gully-washer rain (known as the 10 year rain) occurs. If the engineering of the water in/water out calculations are close, our emergency spillway may rarely to never get used. This is a very good thing. I am still working on ascertaining if any field tiles feed the pond area from the surrounding farmland.
ARE THERE ENGINEERING ISSUES THAT COULD STOP THE PROJECT?
Yes, one big one. The clay content in the soil. The chance does exist that this website and the entire Liberty project may go on hold or even be abandoned. It all comes down to clay. Funny, huh? It kinda makes me think of the clay we used to play around with as kids in grade school in art class. Whudathunk how important that stuff (or it's cousin) would someday be. After the driveway is cored and the base rock is tracked into place with the dozer, John is going to bring in a back hoe for the big test. He will go to various areas in the footprint and dig holes and see what's down there. He will know by the look and texture of the product. How could I possibly have taken such a big risk? Well, it was calculated. Before we purchased the property, we got the USDA soil maps and studied the soil types in the pond area. They are listed as "silty clay loam"; this is a pretty good sign...not the very best, but do-able. I also went to the DNR website and pulled the drinking water well drilling data for the surrounding wells in the area. I was able to secure 3 wells, all within 500 - 2000 feet. These records contain the different soil types encountered during drilling, listing them with the depths at which they occurred. Every one had some kind of red clay, brown clay, or yellow clay for at least the first 30 feet of depth. This is a very good sign. Lastly, and likely the most obvious and promising indicator of pond-ability, there are already a number of ponds in the vicinity....many of them constructed by my contractor.
CAN SOME BAD SOIL STOP THE PROJECT?
During pond excavation, it is normal to occasionally run into areas that are compromised with sand or gravel. If it is not a large percentage of the pond area, they can be fixed by "borrowing" good soil from another area and packing it in. The governing factor for borrowing is the equipment time spent to do it, and time is money. We will see.....
...HAVE YOU CONSIDERED D.I.Y.?
Absolutely! I have been blessed with good "do-it-yourself" skills and I apply them in all my improvement projects. Purchase of some good used heavy equipment (or even rental) was definitely within my grasp, but the immensity of the project combined with the time and expertise required to execute knocked it off my radar. You see, I was also blessed with some common sense...I have even been known to "listen and learn" on occassion. My older brother Greg relates a story (or catastrophe?) about renting a big 'ol dozer to save money when he built his pond. After they spent big bucks and time pulling it out of the swamp for him, he handed the keys back and hired a pro. His advice: pay da man. The following pic is from my pal Jersey....another story of similar caliber. He relates that this happened with a pro at the controls! It may be my most valuable visual aid (if ya know what I mean).
Take a ride straight over to the pond construction pages:
Brainstorming the logistical stuff for pond construction
Gathering the hardware stuff to make it happen
Time to get serious about the big dig