LAKEWOOD, Colo. — A pond in Lakewood's Bear Creek Greenbelt is now home to a collection of plant-filled floating islands that are helping prevent harmful algae blooms.
Lee Blair, natural resources specialist with the City of Lakewood, said the 12 free-floating islands are part of a pilot program in the park's western pond, which is sometimes called Horseshoe Pond. The program was created to improve water quality and wildlife habitat.
Blair explained that each island has about 38 planting holes. Sedges, which are grass-like plants, and rushes, which are flowering plants with stem-like leaves, were placed in each hole and their roots trail in the water below. Those roots help remove excess nutrients, which prevents algae blooms that suck the oxygen out of the water, he said. Algae blooms are not uncommon across Colorado in the summer — in 2019, officials in Lakewood said they found toxic blue-green algae in Horseshoe Pond.
Blair said these artificial wetland habitats are made of recycled materials and injected with foam to stay afloat. A fence surrounds the island to keep geese off, but a small edge on the sides is available for creatures like snapping turtles and small birds to rest. In addition, the fence allows pollinators to access the flowering plants on the islands. Underneath, fish can hide and rest among the roots, Blair said.
While it's a pilot program, Blair said he is hopeful that it will be successful so the city can adopt it across more local waterways.
Lakewood's Parks and Public Works departments partnered with Bear Creek Watershed Association for this project.