July is national parks month and the city of Victoria is commemorating it by hosting a digital scavenger hunt this week, and later giving out sundaes at Ethel Lee Tracy park the next and having a street dance at DeLeon Plaza the week after that.

But for some, nothing is better than a stroll around the duck pond at Riverside Park.

Colby VanGundy, the director of the city’s parks and recreation department, said unfortunately, people may have to wait to do that – and for quite a while.

VanGundy said the city closed the duck pond in December to finally address the algae growing in and around the stagnant water, but realized by mid-January, correcting the problem wouldn’t be so simple.

Records show that in September, the Victoria City Council unanimously awarded an $80,735.50 contract to Keith Staff, doing business as Staff Concrete Construction in Victoria.

Staff was instructed to remove and replace about 375 linear feet of damaged sidewalk around the duck pond, replace the concrete walk bridge to the gazebo with a wooden walk bridge and excavate about 1,000 cubic yards of silted areas.

Staff was one of two bidders who said they could do the work in about four months. The other bidder estimated it would cost him more than what the city had budgeted for the project, which was $133,000.

But all Staff ended up doing was demolishing the sidewalks, VanGundy said, because after the pond was drained, the city discovered that the curbing that goes around the duck pond and holds up the sidewalk was no longer supported by a pier.

VanGundy updated the council on the duck pond in January and again in May.

In May, records show, he told council that he would need help from an outside engineer to come up with another option for the duck pond.

This week in an interview with the Advocate, VanGundy said the city still hasn’t settled on one.

“We know keeping the current stuff that’s there is not going to work, so we’re having to come up with a couple of different options to either bring it back to where it was at or go a different route, whether it’s a boardwalk or a fishing pier,” he said.

VanGundy said the city paid Staff for demolishing the sidewalks, which was less than the $80,735.50 contract the city initially awarded.

David Yaniro, 58, said although he did have trouble traversing around the duck pond in his wheelchair, he wishes the city would have done more homework before changing anything there.

He said the history of city projects to improve the intersection of Airline Road and Laurent Street concerned him.

“Every time they get a project going, they underestimate how much it’s going to cost and how long it’s going to take,” Yaniro said.

Yaniro sat in a parked blue SUV beside the duck pond on Thursday and used binoculars to watch the ducks, turtles and deer nearby. He and a friend visit the duck pond so frequently that they know when there’s a new duck to count and like to educate others about how they should feed them lettuce rather than bread because it’s easier on their intestines. The ducks are in a pond adjacent to the original duck pond.

“There’s two of them that we hadn’t seen until today,” he said, displaying photos of the ducks on his cellphone.

Yaniro said he thought it was a shame people couldn’t take their wedding, prom or quinceañera photos with the duck pond in the background.

“They made it to where it’s an eyesore,” he said.

Yaniro also thought a police officer should patrol more frequently to make sure no one hops the fence and hurts themselves.

Vangundy said people have so far respected the fence and thanked everyone for their patience.

“We’d love to have it up next week, but we want to make sure we take our time to do it right and that we make it to where it is going to last and be an asset for this community for many, many years to come,” VanGundy said.

Jessica Priest reports on the environment and Calhoun County for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at jpriest@vicad.com or 361-580-6521.

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Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest has done a little bit of everything since moving to Victoria in 2012. She was a regular fixture in the Crossroads’ historic courthouses, but now slathers on the sunscreen to report on the environment.

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