WAKEFIELD —— You may one day be looking at a man-made floating vegetated island in the middle of Lake Quannapowitt. This week, the Town Council authorized Conservation Agent Rebecca Davis to apply for a $50,000 grant to create the fabricated floater. 

Davis explained that the grant is part of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s “Accelerating Climate Resilience Program.” Grants of up to $50,000 are available to fund “actionable interventions that facilitate long-term innovation changes that advance climate equity, regional coordination and social cohesion,” Davis said. 

She noted that the proposed local project addresses two of the nine priorities set forth by MAPC for grant eligibility: 

  • Nature based solution for climate resilience, including both green infrastructure, as well as the restoration of a natural system.  
  • Innovative public outreach, engagement and education through an artistic project that advances climate knowledge. 

Davis said that one of the goals of the one-year pilot program is to provide an educational opportunity for community members to learn about the impacts of “climate change” and nature-based solutions that mitigate these impacts. Another goal is to provide an educational space to increase public dialogue and engagement while simultaneously creating a visually impactful art installation that is free and accessible to all members of the public. 

She said that the floating island has some potential to improve the Lake’s water quality via nutrient (phosphorus) removal through plant growth and nutrient transformation through microbial activity on submerged root systems. She said that floating islands can potentially promote healthy ecosystems and biodiversity as well as create new habitats in urban waters, both terrestrial and aquatic. There is also some evidence indicating that habitat improvements may contribute to secondary control of algae. 

Davis said that the town would host a virtual evening event for the community to learn about floating wetlands and climate change. Local residents will also have an opportunity to help create the design and assist in the installation of the floating wetland. 

The project also provides an opportunity for continuing outreach through community educational programs with guest speakers and/or creating educational materials on topics such as: phytoremediation and other green infrastructure. 

Davis also used a PowerPoint presentation to show examples of floating wetland islands, including some “artistic” designs. 

Other considerations include location and sizing, permitting, materials, installation, maintenance and winterization (or removal). She said that the final location and sizing will be recommended by a consultant and discussed at a public meeting. The location must be accessible, highly visible and must not impair boating. Both Davis and Town Engineer Bill Renault feel that Beebe Cove would be the best location for the floating wetland island. 

The components of the island include a floating mat, soil substrate or plant pot, plants, rope and/or chain and an anchor. The island would be assembled on or near the shore and then towed out to its intended location on the Lake. 

Davis said that potential partners for the project include the Friends of Lake Quannapowitt, the Saugus River Watershed Council and the Quannapowitt Yacht Club. 

Town Councilor Edward Dombroski expressed some reservations. He said that he was not convinced that most residents are looking for more structures in the Lake. He was also skeptical that the island would provide any appreciable benefit in terms of water quality. He further noted that “pilot programs” have a way of becoming permanent programs. 

Town Councilor Robert Vincent wondered how the town could apply for the grant before the needed permitting is in place. 

Davis said that she was confident that the project could be designed in such a way that permitting would not be an issue. 

Councilor Julie Smith-Galvin saw no problem with gaining public support for the project. 

“If the community likes rubber duckies in the Lake, they should love this,” she said. 

The Town Council vote was unanimous to allow Davis to submit the grant application, which is due by the end of this week.