By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
It was a long, fetid and at times fractious wait, but it’s over at Pomphrey’s Pond, and on Saturday neighbors of the once-murky Rumson pond took a deep, odor-free breath and exhaled with relief.
Making good on a promise made last year to dredge the locally beloved pond, the borough government held a ceremony marking its completion. Officials also formalized the pond’s name, in dedication to a family who, as its de facto caretakers, have enabled memories of ice skating, fishing and a little bit of youthful recklessness for generations.
“This is sort of a rare event. We only do this about every 75 years or so,” Mayor John Ekdahl told family members at the ceremony. “So you’re a part of history.”
Indeed, dozens of neighbors and families were waiting for that day to come.
Pomphrey’s Pond, which is located across East River Road from borough hall and adjoins the Pomphrey family home of more than 100 years, had become overgrown and filled with muck and sediment. It hadn’t been dredged since 1995, and although it was scheduled for dredging again in 2006, funding, small windows of opportunity in which to work and a series of small mechanical failures put the project on hold.
More recently, the lack of maintenance at the pond which required permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection led to the pond giving off an offensive odor and made the spot, normally a regular place for families and children to fish and ice skate, unattractive.
“It was terrible. I never saw it like that before,” said Brian Hyland, who grew up around the corner from the pond. “And there was so much arguing about it.”
Last summer, residents, fed up with years of waiting for the pond to be dredged, pushed local and state officials to bump the pond up on the DEP’s priority list. And it did.
After years of delays, the borough, Monmouth County Mosquito Commission and DEP went to work at the pond in September.
The dredging work is done, and all that’s left to do is restock the pond with fish, Ekdahl said. Then, it can restore itself to local glory that a handful of people reminisced about Saturday.
Allen Gallagher, who married into the Pomphrey family 50 years ago, said he and his friends would skate at the pond in the cold months, and at night, “borrow” power from the electric company to jury rig temporary lighting for night games.
“To come here and skate in this pond when we were 11, 12 years old with our gang was really something special,” Gallagher said. “The family would bring out snacks and they’d keep an eye on the kids.”
Frank Mayo, who lives next to the pond on the southeast side of River Road and was one of the more vocal critics of the council and others for what he characterized as foot-dragging, said Saturday marked an end to the controversy, and now he can enjoy the pond as he intended for so many years.
“All I wanted was to have the time with my daughter, with my family on a nice pond,” Mayo said. “I have that going forward now, and we’re excited about it.”