Preserve the Pond

The Kelley House Pond Restoration Project

A view of the pond in the spring of 2017.

Our Wonder-Full Pond

Clearly our crowning accomplishment of the past few years is the restoration of the Kelley Pond. It is probably also the biggest improvement to the town of Mendocino, as evidenced by the many passersby, both locals and visitors, who stop at the fence to admire it.

The Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department was a partner in the project; discussions began between our organizations in 2013. We hoped to restore the pond to its former state, while the fire department hoped for a much-needed reservoir of firefighting water on the south side of town where no hydrants exist. It was a perfect match.

Jill Jahelka, who served on the Kelley House Board at the time, along with Bill Lemos and Dave Gross of the fire district board, and citizens Marilyn Lemos and Bob Kerstein, toiled steadily for over two years, working with their brawn as well as their brains to reach this point. (Former Kelley House Executive Director Nancy Freeze was an early member of the committee and instrumental in starting the project.) It was anticipated the project would cost around $25,000, including hydrant costs. Of course, like all big projects, it has gone well beyond that, but the community has rallied with support. The list of donors may be found below.

Sewer district renovations in 1974 inadvertently created a French drain, moving runoff water away from the pond. This lowered the water table and rendered the original pond unable to retain enough water. The committee determined that a repaired pond would require a liner, a storage tank to refill for evaporation, an overflow pipe and more—all very costly. The fire department agreed to pay for the hydrant and plumbing to access it. The Pond Committee got to work seriously in early 2014, developing a two-year plan. Permits were obtained, funds raised, and many meetings were held with a range of ideas being presented by contractors. Committee members put in plenty of physical work as well—clearing brush, making a pad for the water tank, raking carefully through the pond as it was excavated for roots, glass and any objects that might puncture the liner. Their dedication was beyond all expectations. Volunteer firefighters brought in many truckloads of water from a large water tank that was being demolished, to start the filling process before the rains began.

This was not the first effort by the Kelley House. Since the 1970s, the area more often appeared to be a muddy hole than a pond, only retaining significant amounts of water during the rainy season—and even then almost never full. One plan, in 1991, approved by the Mendocino Historical Review Board, was to reduce the size of the pond by constructing a retaining wall of used telephone poles and backfilling with dirt to conserve the limited water supply and improve the appearance. But the project, for numerous reasons, was never realized.

The pond originally was dug in 1860 by William Kelly to provide entertainment for the Kelly and Ford children. A wonderful photograph hangs in the Ford House from that era, showing the children in the pond on a raft. It was filled naturally by rainfall and runoff water. An 1890 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, in the Kelley House archives, shows the location and size of the pond. In 1880 the Mendocino Beacon noted that Kelly had planted 1,000 catfish in his pond. A couple of years later, trout are mentioned. In 1987, Eleanor Sverko’s inventory of historic resources notes the pond is 70’ by 50’ and about 10-12’ in the center, but may have been larger in “the older days”. She noted silt and dirt having been dug out in 1983, and in 1987, a drought year, only about four inches of water was in the pond. Drought worsened the situation and for many years the question has been asked in the Kelley House, “Why is that big mudhole there?”

The project is not yet finished. In 2016, we installed a filtration system. A landscaping plan is being developed.

But we have come a long way, thanks to a dedicated committee and a generous community, and it is such an enhancement to our property. No longer are we the owners and caretakers of the mudhole eyesore.

pond in 1984The pond in 1984

Pond Donors

  • Fawn Alexander
  • Janet Ashford
  • Nancy and Richard Banker
  • Barber-Webb Company
  • Michael J. Beard
  • Rachel Binah
  • Chatter Bishoff
  • Blackberry Inn
  • Kathy Bowler and Steve Coony
  • Alfred and Christine Branca
  • Bill and Julie Brazill
  • Linda Brown and Thomas Tillotson
  • Sue and Sandy Brown
  • Thomas Burnham
  • Charles and Marion Bush
  • Judith J. Chapman
  • Alan Cone
  • Theresa Conroy
  • Sylvia Cummings
  • Barry Cusick
  • Shawn Dawson and the Garden Shop
  • Marian DeGloria
  • Nancy E. Denison
  • Jim and Cheryl Dennett
  • Bette Duke
  • Patricia Dunbar
  • Ann Eaton-Kemp
  • Suzanne Felton
  • Forrest Francis
  • Robin H.E. Gauche
  • Steven C. Gray
  • Charles Greenburg and Claire Ellis
  • David and Betty Gross
  • Doris Hammer
  • Jeanette Hansen
  • Sharon Hansen
  • Harvest Market
  • Sandra Hawthorne
  • Zoe Henderson and John L Parker
  • Laura Herman
  • Joan B. Hill
  • Nancy Hodson
  • Sharon Hunter
  • Bill and Gwen Jacobson
  • Jill and Dirk Jahelka
  • Peter and Jennifer Kalvass
  • Holm Kappler
  • Kelley House Board of Directors
  • Bob and Mary Kerstein
  • Donald and Shirley Kirkpatrick
  • Don L. Koubek
  • William and Marilyn Lemos
  • Heather Litton
  • Rosella Lyons
  • MacCallum Properties
  • David Maki
  • Summer Makovkin
  • Ken and Barbara Matheson
  • Clytie Mathews
  • Judy and Bob Mathey
  • John and Rosemary Maulbetsch
  • Milton and Christine Mendes
  • Mendocino Center Associates
  • Mendocino Coast Water Works
  • Mendocino Rotary
  • Mendocino Study Club
  • Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department
  • Alvin Mendosa
  • Lisa Mendosa
  • Mitchell Mendosa
  • Mary Meskis
  • John and Susan Mitchell
  • Moody’s Organic Coffee Bar
  • Roslyn and Bruce Moore
  • Michael and Karen Moreland
  • Daniel and Scharlene Murray
  • Linda Joanne Nelson
  • Margaret M. O’Rourke
  • Linda Osborne
  • Ann Owings
  • Parlin Forks
  • Bryan Paulson
  • Pember Family
  • Geraldine Pember
  • Katherine and Joseph Powers
  • Katy Pye
  • Norma Raine
  • Hanneliesel Reeves
  • Pauline R. Robinson
  • Nancy Roca
  • Pat Rowan
  • Savings Bank of Mendocino County
  • Gary and Carol Schanz
  • Patricia Scott
  • Joan Selchau
  • Randy Setlock and Sandy Schmidt and The Attic
  • Mildred E. Smith
  • Marion W. Solomonson
  • Michael St. John
  • Gary Starr
  • Hal and Sidra Stone
  • Study Club of Mendocino
  • Judith Brooks Summers
  • Don Thomas
  • Jaen Treesinger
  • W.F. and V.R. Wade
  • Martha Wagner
  • Leona Walden
  • Carol Ann Walton
  • Lorraine Wardlaw
  • Corben West
  • J.M. White
  • Raymond Wilson