Shelly DeAtley misses the wetland at Lewiston’s Modie Park so much that she’s willing to fork over $20,000 from her family’s foundations to help get it restored.
Now she just has to get city of Lewiston officials to agree to her terms that the money not sit around unused for years, or worse, be dithered away on expenses other than actual work on the ground.
“I’m hoping that we can all sit down and work it out,” DeAtley said Wednesday. “If the city and (Parks and Recreation Department Director) Tim Barker agree to it, that would be awesome. But sometimes things just sit, and we get good plans, and we bring in a consultant, and we spend $40,000 on a consultant and we have to bring in all these other people to be advisers. And the money gets spent, and nothing gets done.”
Toward that end, DeAtley has put some conditions on the donation. First, she wants the city to accept the terms by Dec. 15. Second, she wants the pond restoration to be completed by the end of 2022.
Barker addressed the situation earlier this week, telling the city council he needs to sit down with DeAtley and Modie Park Conservancy President Philip Shinn to discuss the terms.
“I want to make sure the conservancy is on board, and this is an actual project that they want to follow through on,” Barker told the council at its regular meeting Monday. “So we will definitely be having discussions with them in the next few weeks.”
The park sits on the hillside east of Eighth Street, near the Idaho State Veterans Home. Donald L. Modie donated its 6.8 acres to the city in 1981 to create what is officially named the Ruth Rowell Modie Wildlife Park in honor of his wife, according to the conservancy’s website. It signed a joint development agreement with the city in 1996, and volunteers worked with city crews to develop the park. But DeAtley said the development included removing the blackberry bushes that surrounded the park’s pond with a large mulching machine.
“When they did that, they broke the seal on the pond, and the pond drained out,” she said, noting much of the wildlife that used the pond went away after it was breached. “It’s always been on the conservancy’s radar to get it restored, but it’s not a priority for them.”
Part of restoring the pond would be to tackle the blackberries, weeds and debris that have choked the spring at the south end of the park that feeds the wetland area, she said.
She expressed her belief that restoring the pond would help realize Ruth Rowell Modie’s goal of creating an urban/wildland interface where people could easily observe, interact with and learn about nature. And she hoped the donations will spur the conservancy to move the project up on its priority list. Half of the $20,000 donation would come from the DeAtley Family Foundation and half from the Brian and Shelly DeAtley Foundation.