Missouri Conservation Department workers waded through the mud and the muck Friday to remove thousands of fish from a pond being drained to make way for a new $6.2 million nature center project in Cape Girardeau County Park North.
Most of the fish were crappie, but workers also hauled hundreds of catfish from the one-acre pond between the park entrance and a lake.
Conservation Department workers put the fish in 50-gallon and 75-gallon metal tanks and relocated them to the park's lake.
The transfer worked out well, said Brad Pobst, a fisheries biologist with the Conservation Department and one of about nine workers who helped relocate the fish.
The two-hour operation involved pulling a huge net -- 700 feet by 25 feet -- through the muddy pond. Once the net was dragged to shore, the biologists scooped out the flopping fish and dumped them into handheld nets that they used to carry them to the tanks.
Nine grass carp were hauled out of the pond too, but they were given away to an onlooker rather than relocated to the lake. "If he decides to fry them up that is a legitimate use of fish also," said Conservation Department official A.J. Hendershott.
Conservation Department officials said they didn't want to put carp into the lake because they eat too much of the vegetation, which ultimately decreases the fish population.
Pobst said they caught probably 75 percent of the fish in the 15-foot-deep pond. Those remaining are mostly small crappie which will be removed with dip nets once the water level in the pond is at 3 or 4 feet.
Pobst said it could be the middle of next week before Conservation Department workers go back into the pond to haul off the remaining fish.
Moving water too
The Conservation Department began draining the pond on Thursday, siphoning the water into a pipe that runs under U.S. 61 and empties into the lake at Cape Girardeau County Park South.
It could take a week to drain the pond, Conservation Department officials said.
Hendershott, education supervisor at the Conservation Department's regional office in Cape Girardeau County Park North, said draining the pond and relocating the fish clears the way for the contractor to begin work on the nature center project.
The Conservation Commission awarded a $4 million contract last month to Coil Construction of Columbia, Mo., to construct a nature center, build a new entrance road in the park, provide landscaping and parking, and erect a handicapped accessible fishing pier at the Cape Girardeau County Park North lake.
The new entrance road will run close to the drained pond, which the Conservation Department plans to turn into a marsh.
Groundbreaking tentatively is set for early April although an exact date has yet to be set, Hendershott said. Gov. Bob Holden may attend.
Construction is expected to take up to 18 months with completion of the nature center by late 2004, Hendershott said.
The entire project could end up costing $6.2 million, but that depends on securing private donations and grants for added improvements such as specialty gardens, a trapper's cabin and two mobile nature centers that would be housed in a semitrailer and a modified conversion van.
335-6611, extension 123
THE NATURE OF THINGS
A few facts about Cape Girardeau's nature center project:
Location: Cape Girardeau County Park North
Description: 20,000-square-foot center that will be built largely with recycled materials, including a steel roof made partly of recycled car bodies.
Contractor: Coil Construction of Columbia, Mo.
Construction cost: $4 million for a nature center, landscaping and parking, and a fishing pier at the park's lake.
Total cost: $6.2 million if specialty gardens, two mobile nature centers and other amenities are added and funded through private donations and grants.
Building completion date: Late 2004
SOURCE: Missouri Conservation Department