Filled ‘Casting Pond’ raises spirits of residents, anglers, yacht modelers

Look here and you’ll get the story about the Westmoreland Casting and Model Yacht Pond’s restoration. Will the “Milk Carton Races” come back? Read this story and find out ‚Ķ

Neighbors come to see the water spray into the Westmoreland Casting Pond as it fills for the first time in five years.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For half a decade, the Westmoreland Casting Pond and Model Yacht Basin was dry.

And, for a time, it looked as if this unique water attraction, on which construction began 70 year ago in Southeast Portland, would simply be filled with dirt and forever lost.

But on September 29, we were on hand to see this historic pond refilled. Neighbors who watched the water spraying into the Casting Pond all said they were pleased, but for differing reasons

When he was a lad of 12, Fred Rigutto says he watched a vacant field being turned into a casting pond by an army of WPA workers ‚Äì and he’s glad it will again be filled with water.

Saw history being dug by hand
“I’d say it was 1937 when I saw them start to dig the pond,” recalled lifelong neighborhood resident Fred Rigutto, as he took a break from his morning walk.

“I must have been 12 years old. It was a WPA project. Some workers would dig, others would shovel dirt onto piles, others put it into wheelbarrows, and others shoveled it into trucks and drove it away. They kept a lot of people working here.”

Rigutto smiled as he recounted seeing the pond filled for the first time, watching casting contests and model boat enthusiasts captain their yachts. “In the winter, they’d drop the water level, it would freeze, and we’d go ice skating. It is truly unique. I’m glad they kept it; I don’t know of another like it in the country.”

Neighbor, and pond advocate, Neal Paddison dreams of running his model watercraft here once again.

Boater’s passionate dream restored
Neal Paddison couldn’t hold back his smile. He said he was born and raised in Eastmoreland, and now lives in Westmoreland, only blocks from the casting pond.

“We formed a neighborhood of people who were determined not to lose the casting pool.” Paddison explains, “I was appointed to the citizens committee working with Portland Parks & Recreation to develop a new master plan for the park.”

But his hobby, Paddison told us, “really, it’s my passion, is building radio- controlled model ships. The Pond is a ‘dream venue’ for model boating. The beautiful park setting, a calm, reflecting pool; you can’t beat it. There’s enough room for electric and steam craft to be running on one side of the pond, and model sailboat clubs to race on the other end.”

From a practical standpoint, Paddison added, the smooth concrete bottom allows captains to safely retrieve distressed watercraft wearing hip waders.

Teddy Roosevelt credited
“When they first lost the water supply,” Paddison related, “they talked about making this historic Portland landmark into a soccer field. The pond was completed in 1939; it will soon be 70 years old. I don’t know of any other urban casting pond, anywhere.”

Paddison said President Teddy Roosevelt was an avid fly fisherman. “We’r e told he personally made sure this particular WPA project would be built here in Portland.”

Rights to transfer water solves problem
“We are filling the pond ‚Äì without drilling a well ‚Äì by transferring unused water rights from Eastmoreland Golf Course,” explained Jeff Milkes, SE Services Manager for Portland Parks & Recreation, as he watched water flow into the pond.

He added, “We had to coordinate with the state fish and wildlife department to assure the whole ecosystem wouldn’t be interrupted by our using water from Crystal Springs.”

This 15 hp pump draws 200 gallons of water from the Crystal Springs creek every minute. In the spring, they’ll install a 40 hp pump to draw out water for irrigation, saving the city thousands of dollars in water bills, and keeping the pond free of stagnation.

Future irrigation use pays for pond plumbing
Because it will be used as an irrigation retention pond, this move will save citizens hundreds of many thousands of dollars in payments for city water, Milkes said, as he introduced us to the park bureau’s irrigation specialist, Mike Carr.

The water is being pumped out of Crystal Springs Creek, Carr said. “We have a 15 hp pumping system with a foot [intake] in the creek. A 4″ line brings water to the new pump station at the south end of the pond. The water is pumped into a 3″ line that takes the water to the north end of the pond.”

The pond holds 2.8 million gallons of water, said Carr. At 100,000 gallons a day, it took less than a month to fill the pond.

In early in 2007, park officials say they’ll install a second pump system that will supply up to 400 gallons per minute to the park’s irrigation system. “We’ll draw from the south end of the pond, instead of using costly city water. During our driest weather, we’ll be able water the entire park in an eight-hour period.”

An additional benefit of this system is, according to Carr, the clarity of the water. “By pumping water in to one end, and out the other, the water won’t have the opportunity to stagnate.”

No ‘Milk Carton’ races scheduled for 2007
“As far as we’re concerned, we’d love to see events like the Milk Carton Races return to the park,” Milkes told us. But it appears it won’t happen this next June at any rate.

Unaware that the Casting Pond was being refilled with fresh water, Rick Jarvis of the Portland Rose Festival told us, “There are no plans to revive the Milk Carton Races because of the efforts being put into the 100th year celebration. We haven’t closed the door for the future; we love have as many community- and business-sponsored events as possible.”

Milk carton races or not, thanks to the dedication of neighbors and the diligence of the parks department, it looks as if a unique Portland landmark is back–to bring visitors to Westmoreland Park for many years to come.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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