Submitted a Perth Amboy resident.
Ask any resident of Perth Amboy for directions to Willow Pond, and the likely response will be a blank stare. Tucked away behind a strip of fast food outlets, convenience stores, and ball fields, Willow Pond remains a well-kept secret—a quiet urban oasis, known only to a lucky few.
Still, the pond could get a bit more attention soon, because its long-term survival might be at stake. Saved by activists from development in the 1980s, then cleaned of debris and used as an outdoor ecology classroom by Perth Amboy students, the pond was once a healthy freshwater wetland—a stopover for migrating birds and home to several species of freshwater fish. But after several years without proper maintenance, the pond’s waters are lifeless and its shoreline is now choked with vegetation (see above photos).
One big culprit at Willow Pond is a tall reed named phragmites. The plant is a hardy grass that often grows nine feet tall or more. It has aggressively taken over the shores of Willow Pond, forming a dense mat of vegetation that crowds out most other plants and obscures the view of the pond. As the reeds die in ponds such as this, the huge mass of decaying plant matter in the pond feeds the growth of bacteria, which use up the pond’s supply of dissolved oxygen. Eventually, the oxygen-poor environment can no longer support fish—or even the bacteria that created it. Left on its own, the pond will continue to infill with growing phragmites, sediment, and dead plant matter.
Several members of Perth Amboy’s “Green Team” visited Willow Pond recently to observe the pond’s condition. Some members of the Perth Amboy community are already having conversation with various stakeholders that will hopefully lead to action to rehabilitate the pond, Perth Amboy’s only freshwater ecosystem. Returning the pond to a healthy state would also make it available again as an outdoor classroom.
The first step is to raise money to begin work on the pond. It will take an estimated $5,000 to have the phragmites cleared from much of the pond’s shoreline, and to have the pond’s aerators fixed so that higher levels of oxygen can return to the pond’s waters, making Willow Pond a suitable habitat for fish onc e more. With time—and a lot of hard work—this hidden gem in Perth Amboy could thrive again.