BURLEY — A Heyburn man’s fond memories of a Burley trout pond inspire him to continue knocking on doors to gather donations of labor, equipment and money to make it inhabitable once again for fish — and a nice urban place for everyone to wet a line.
“I’ve knocked on a lot of doors, and I’m not too proud to beg,” Richard Kicklighter said, who has been on a quest to remove the willow overgrowth and dig out decades of collected sediment at the pond.
There are still some projects at Kids Creek Pond, also known as Freedom Park Pond, that need funding but Richard Kicklighter is ready to throw an all-day fishing party and show it off to the public Saturday.
Most of the pond, fed by a spring at the Burley airport, was about 4 feet deep with spots reaching 7 feet deep. Now it is lined with 750 tons of rock and is 20 feet deep. The center island was also removed.
“Over the years it had deteriorated, and was in a terrible state,” Kicklighter said. “Now it’s 57 degrees and crystal clear. It’s perfect for trout.”
But it’s not quite finished yet. It still needs a walking path around the pond, a handicap accessible area and a restroom.
“It’s a lot nicer,” Josh Rice, of Burley said who was fishing at the pond with his three boys. “And it doesn’t smell bad now.”
Kicklighter said they removed tons of muck from the pond.
Owned by the city, some people still call it Kids Creek Pond, Kicklighter said, but the Idaho Department of Fish and Game refers to it as Freedom Park Pond.
The name Kids Creek Pond, he said, is a misnomer because anyone can fish there.
By either name, it’s nearing completion and Kicklighter will host the event with food, live music and lots of prizes.
Fish and Game will stock the pond with trout beforehand and some of the fish will be tagged for prizes, including a $100 prize. There are about a dozen $50 gift certificates and other prizes.
“I guarantee that pond will be full of fish,” Kicklighter said.
Breakfast will be served from 7 to 9 a.m. Saturday for the cost of a freewill offering, and donation jars will be placed around the pond so people can contribute to the future improvements.
A flag ceremony will be held at 9 a.m.
Vendors who helped with the project will be at the pond until 3 p.m. with displays and there will be a balloon launch.
Kicklighter wants the celebration to become an annual event.
Children under age 14 do not need a fishing license. Adults and older children may purchase one online and all state fishing regulations for limits will apply. Cleaning fish at the pond is prohibited.
Ace Hardware will set up a kid’s fishing pond with prizes for the youngest attendees.
Doug Megargle, a regional fishery manager for Idaho Fish and Game, said earlier this year that the pond was historically stocked, but over the past few years the habitat degraded substantially and they stopped putting fish into it.
Previously, one of the problems with stocking the pond was people complained that the fish disappeared immediately after being planted.
They discovered pelicans and cormorants were taking advantage of an easy meal or two.
Pelicans don’t dive and just reach into the water for fish but cormorants dive for their meal, and officials hope the increased depth of the pond will keep the birds from taking all the fish.
“The department couldn’t see putting fish in the pond when no one was benefitting but the birds,” Megargle said.
Megargle said the department shares Kicklighter’s goal of having easy access to urban fishing for people who may not have time to go to other places.
Kicklighter said eventually they may feed the fish to establish a population of trout at the pond.
The revamped pond adds another recreation area to the city, said Doug Manning, the city’s economic development director.
“It provides an additional amenity as the city continues to grow,” he said.
Kicklighter, Manning said, should be commended for his determination to reclaim it as a fishing spot.
“I think it’s just great that he put that kind of effort into the project,” Manning said.