A Walking Path by Martha’s Pond

A Walking Path by Martha Pond: Signs of Progress 

No matter how ‘natural’ some parts of Southport may appear to be, the reality is that we live entirely in a human-made environment. The only significant exception to this is Martha Pond, a small, protected, shallow body of water occupying a kettle hole surrounded by Leisure Green, Sea Spray and Twin Oaks.

Despite its unsuitability for water-based activities like swimming and boating, the pond is scenic, and it’s an unspoiled home to plants, birds and small animals. Once the long-anticipated path around most of the pond is constructed, this area can become an attractive oasis for walking, birdwatching and other unobtrusive activities.

At the moment, there is no firm schedule for building the path, but it’s encouraging to learn that a tangible project is now underway, with the support of developer Ron Bonvie, to design the kind of path that is needed to make the pond truly accessible for residents. And it is especially encouraging to know that the ‘trailblazer’ for this project is Bob LeBel, whose handiwork already visibly enhances the Southport landscape. Bob’s current assignment as a part-time employee is two-fold: as a “trouble shooter” for landscaping issues and as the builder of a test portion of a trail by Martha Pond.

I met Bob last week at the junction of Southport Drive, Sea Spray and Leisure Green to talk about his work on the trail. This location is tentatively envisioned for a 16’ diameter, octagonal gazebo, set back about 25’ from the street into the pines and centered between the condos on Sea Spray and Leisure Green. It is a place where friends can meet and can serve as the trailhead to the path along the pond. Bob has planted a soft curving wall of pruned pines on the Sea Spray side of this spot and hopes to plant a similar wall on the Leisure Green side, to define an entrance to the gazebo and trail.

Although the vision for the gazebo is pretty clear, its construction will have to await the completion of activities that require heavy machinery to build the trail. Beyond the gazebo, the trail down to the pond will follow a zig-zag pattern in order to make the grade manageable for as many people as possible. The exact layout is yet to be determined and there are storm drainage problems to be solved.

Bob and Ron are keenly aware of past efforts to build a trail from Southport to John’s Pond, which were ultimately unsuccessful because of wash-outs and factors beyond our control, such as ATVs that tore up the trail. “Our goal,” Bob says, “is to exercise due diligence, to build a safe and durable trail—and to get it right the first time.” Hence, the building of a test trail.

A rough path was cut along Martha Pond behind Sea Spray Avenue some time ago, but it was never leveled, stones and roots were not removed and drainage problems were not addressed. The 60’ long by 4’ wide portion of the trail that Bob has built — with a lot of help from Helios Construction — aims to address these issues. A base of one and one-half inch stones has been laid, covered with 2” of gravel and filled in and firmed up with stone dust, providing a solid walking surface. An edging of large stones (“rip/rap”) has been laid along the pond side of the test trail to prevent washout into the pond. So far, the trail has withstood two major rainstorms, now Bob is awaiting a real “gully-washer” to further test the durability of his design.

The existing rough path ends at a set of stone stairs by the large retaining wall on Grey Hawk Drive. In its current condition, this entrance is not useable until a number of problems are addressed. Bob is aware of these problems, and others, and working on solutions that will move the initial phase of the path forward and available to residents. Fortunately for us, he is on top of this project and committed to seeing it through. With the firm support of Ron Bonvie, Southport residents could be enjoying a walk by a portion of our finest natural asset in the not too distant future. David Kapp

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