The Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies at Hood College has partnered with Friends of Baker Park to help plan a complete renovation of Culler Lake in Baker Park.
According to Peter Brehm, president of Friends of Baker Park and a services and support specialist in the Hood College Office of Information Technology, Culler Lake was constructed in the late 1930s and is a de facto storm water containment pond. Due to budget restrictions, it has not been properly maintained since at least 1980. As a result, more than 1,000 dump trucks of silt accumulated in the lake, deteriorating water quality and the lake’s aquatic environment. In addition, the lake’s central fountain was crumbling along with the lake’s retaining wall on its eastern edge.
The renovation project includes building three gravel wetlands to remove excess nutrients from the water and allow sediment to settle, two of which will include boardwalks to allow lake visitors to see storm water mitigation at work; rebuilding the central fountain and the eastern retaining wall; and installing an upstream hydrodynamic separator that uses centripetal force to remove solids and sediment from storm water flowing into the lake.
The project will be completed in two phases. Phase I, improving the quality of the water in the lake, is currently underway and involves draining, dredging and re-contouring the lake to include a shelf around the lake’s edge that will be planted with native aquatic plants. The shelf, required by state law, creates a shallow area along the lake edge to help prevent people from drowning if they fall into the lake. Also, the gravel wetlands will be installed with plants to help remove excess nutrients and allow sediment to settle out of the water. Water flows into the lake through the wetlands. Because of the pervious rock walls surrounding the wetlands, the water becomes calmer, allowing sediment to settle out into the gravel bottom of the wetlands. In parallel, plants in the wetlands also act to soak up and remove excess phosphorous and nitrogen nutrients.
Phase II focuses on the lake’s educational, recreational, and transportation components. Explanatory signage will be added, and there will be lighting and possibly a boardwalk added on the lake’s northern edge plus a lake pavilion on the lake’s western edge. The mixed-use path along the south side of Culler Lake that eventually connects the western and eastern edges of Frederick City will also be widened and rebuilt, connecting to a new entrance plaza to be built at the West College Terrace entrance.
Drew Ferrier, director of the Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies, said the center has been involved with this project since 2014 when members of the center started collecting data and analyzing water quality. The center will also be raising native fish to stock the lake and is giving advice and support on the project. In addition, experts from the center are helping to determine which plants to put in the lake and providing GIS mapping for the lake’s entrance plaza design. The center will continue monitoring Culler Lake water quality after construction is complete.
Hood College has been installing tools to comply with best management practices on campus that will be instrumental to the success of the Culler Lake Renaissance. The most recent addition is the rain garden constructed at the base of the Whitaker Campus Center parking lot. About half of Hood College drains into Culler Lake. The infrastructure that Hood has installed holds back water from immediately entering storm sewers, resulting in a decrease in sediment, solids and nutrient-filled run off entering the lake. This will decrease the sediment and nutrient burden that the lake will need to accommodate, ultimately leading to a healthier lake water environment.
The lake restoration project was made possible with funds from several grants and donations: $2.1 million from the City of Frederick, $300,000 in state bond funds, more than $100,000 from individual donors, approximately $75,000 from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and contributions from the Community Foundation of Frederick County, Delaplaine Foundation Inc., the Baker Foundation and several Frederick garden clubs. Members of the Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies also collaborated with Friends of Baker Park in writing the grant proposals for the Chesapeake Trust and state bond funds.
Pictured above: an original rendering of the completed Culler Lake project.