WINSLOW — Four sisters who own a camp on the shores of Pattee Pond remember a much different time years ago, when the water was silty and slimy.

“We didn’t swim in August,” Carolyn Albert said.

Today, it’s a new day at the landmark pond. Armed with a two-year grant and dozens of local volunteers, a group that looks after the pond has been completing landscape work at key locations to prevent erosion and water runoff, keeping the water clear.

Brad Whitaker, president of the Pattee’s Pond Association , said his group’s projects are important because they will address problem areas on the pond’s shores. Landscaping work aims to stop or slow the flow of water, so soil isn’t washed into the pond, increasing phosphorus levels that enable algae to grow.

“The biggest problem with ponds in Maine is sediment,” Whitaker said. “It goes into the lakes and feeds the algae. The algae eat the dirt. We’re trying to prevent a green lake, like pea soup.”

Last week, volunteer crews were at Woodhaven, a property off Blue Heron Lane owned by Albert, Whendy Smith, Linda Daigle, and Kim Mackay. The sisters say the property, which has been in the family for 65 years, has also seen its shoreline eaten away by erosion, turning a sloping hill into a 2-foot drop.

With rakes and wheelbarrows, crews gathered Monday morning to spread mulch along the sloping hill, install rip-rap stones at the shore and place crushed rock beneath a raised deck at the rear of the camp. The workers have mostly completed the job, but finishing touches need to be completed this week.

Bill Lerman, owner of Camp Caribou at Pattee Pond, said he’s amazed to watch all the pond work in action. He was part of a group of people who formed the pond association in 1968 to help manage development there, and he’s still a member.

Lerman can recall the pond water looking murky during the 1970s and it used to be referred to by some locals as “poor man’s pond.” Compared with how it looks today, “we never had water quality like that,” he said.

Lerman was among those hauling rocks and mulch on Monday, and he brought along eight high school-age Camp Caribou counselors to help out, too.

“We try to do community service in the Waterville and Winslow area,” Lerman said. “Plus, we have a vested interest; we live on the pond and we definitely want to preserve it. We’ve made tremendous strides in the health and preservation of the pond.”

Also helping out was Brad Hubert, crew chief with the Youth Conservation Corps, whose worked on similar projects before at other Maine ponds. The corps was represented by Hubert and two others on Monday, and they had helped with Pattee Pond work already at four locations this summer.

“It’s a great effort,” Hubert said. “For this time of the year, to have as clean water as they do is highly unusual.”

The two-year, $110,000 grant is a combination of federal and state money, plus volunteer labor.

The sisters said they were pleasantly surprised when they learned of the grant program, thinking it was going to be entirely up to them to make property improvements. They paid for much of the cost of materials and the remainder was covered through the grant and free labor.

Under the grant, 60 percent of the money is provided through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and the remaining 40 percent comes from homeowners paying for mitigation measures or in-kind contributions.

“What they’re doing, we couldn’t ever match,” Smith said. “It’s such a gift.”

After completing work on several sites last summer — “it held up really well,” Whitaker said — the pond association is eyeing work at eight to nine locations this summer. Landscaping work is planned this summer at another four locations, with the next one to get under way this coming week on Whitefish Road.

Scott Monroe — 861-9239

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