Invasive Plant Removal Takes Place At Hawley Pond
Those driving by Ram Pasture in the days following the Fourth of July may have noticed a unique-looking boat cruising around Hawley Pond.
Maureen Crick Owen, president of the Newtown Village Cemetery Association and a local selectman, told The Newtown Bee that work began on July 5 to remove an invasive plant called the European water chestnut.
“A lot of people think Ram Pasture and Hawley Pond is town property, but it is not” she explained. “It is one hundred percent owned by Newtown Village Cemetery Association, so besides owning it, we maintain the pasture — and the pond is under the ownership, too,
The invasive plant was brought to Crick Owen’s attention after the article “Three Invasive Plants Spotted On The Rise In Newtown” ran in The Newtown Bee’s Fall 2020 Home & Garden publication.
Newtown resident and Western Connecticut State University biology professor Tom Philbrick had spotted the aquatic plant last year when he was traveling on Elm Drive.
The invasive plant has rosettes of triangular-shaped leaves that float on the surface of the water while its stem and roots live below the surface. The European water chestnut bears unusual-looking fruit called caltrops, as well as flowers that begin blooming in July.
After the article was published, Crick Owen reached out to Philbrick to consult with him on how to best handle removing the invasive plant from Hawley Pond.
Originally, the Newtown Village Cemetery Association applied for a grant through the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to dredge the pond, but they heard in April that they did not receive it.
The cemetery association then shifted its sights to another solution: Have a specially equipped boat go out on the water and dig up the plant.
The Newtown Village Cemetery Association hired C&D Underwater Maintenance — owned by Jeff Cordisco, Carl Wise, and David Kullgren — which specializes in underwater weed removal.
According to the group’s website, cdseaweed.com, “C&D Underwater Maintenance can pull, skim, and collect aquatic vegetation from your water using our new Eco Harvester. Our exclusive Eco Harvester can clean large areas quickly and efficiently. We are the only weed removal company in the area who has exclusive rights to the patented Eco Harvester technology.”
That specialized equipment makes a world of difference when it comes to time and efficiency compared to the process of manually harvesting invasive plants.
“It pulls them up, hopefully from the roots, and they will remove the material offsite,” Crick Owen said, adding that it was recommended that the work should wait until the pond was covered to get the best result.
“Now that’s not to say some might not come back next year, but it would be very minimal, we hope,” Crick Owen said.
She assured that the removal of the European water chestnut would not harm any of the wildlife at Hawley Pond and that there are no chemicals involved.
When C&D Underwater Maintenance came out on Monday, it was discovered that the pond also had milfoil, another invasive aquatic plant. What was expected to be a three-day project is now estimated to be roughly five days of work.
Since the DEEP grant was not approved, removing these invasive plants will be paid for solely from Newtown Village Cemetery Association’s funds.
“While it is owned by the cemetery association, it is very much a landmark for the town of Newtown and it’s a beautiful thing in the center of town,” Crick Owen said. “We are fortunate that we have it and we are thrilled that we do. And we are glad that we had the funds available to take care of this.”
The Newtown Village Cemetery Association is a 501(c)(13) tax-exempt corporation and can accept donations, but it does not have a means to accept them online. Those interested in supporting the group can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alissa Silber can be contacted at email@example.com.