Leeper Park duck pond drained prior to demolition

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The Leeper Park duck pond in South Bend has been around for more than 100 years, but it will be demolished over the next several days.

On Thursday, the pond was drained, and its residents, waterfowl and goldfish alike, were forcibly removed.

“We did it in less than an hour, which is miraculous,” said Gary Harrington with South Bend’s Rum Village Nature Center. “I would have guessed five or six hours at best.”

Harrington led the charge as he and a dozen or so other city employees went into the pond with nets and participated in an honest-to-goodness wild goose chase. The crew rounded up an estimated 10 to 12 waterfowl and 25 goldfish.

“Its sentimental value to a lot of folks, a lot of people have fond memories of feeding the ducks and the geese there, but in the long run, it’s not good for the ducks. They’re fed the incorrect food and they're fed kind of the equivalent of duck junk food, and so for the sake, heath of the animals, it's best that it not be there,” Harrington said.

Jim Choinacky and his wife, Ann, came to the duck pond Thursday for “closure.”

“There’s a sense of history here, a sense of a place where we could take the kids, spend some time, quality time with them, with the family, and kids could run around and experience this wonderful space that we have here,” Jim said.

“This was my playground,” Ann added. “I’m very sentimental about it. [There is] a sense of loss. I do feel sad about it, but I don’t know, it’s kind of a dirty-looking pond. It does need improvement.”

The duck pond has been part of Leeper Park for 100-plus years, long enough for the public perception of it to change.

It was originally seen as a huge asset and a precursor to the Potawatomi Zoo. It is now seen as a liability, dirty and unhealthy.

The removal of the duck pond will usher in a host of Leeper Park improvements, including the reconstruction of the Studebaker Fountain near the site of the duck pond.

The waterfowl will get physical examinations and be quarantined for 30 days before being adopted out to families or sent to wildlife rehabilitators.