The spring-fed pond next to the Rennerdale Volunteer Fire Department on Noblestown Road in Collier has attracted families and nature lovers for years, but fire department members hope some new additions will spur even more interest.
"We're trying to make the pond more attractive," said Dave Brown, chief of the line officers, talking about the pond's new fountain and waterfall, as well as the handcrafted wood duck boxes — also referred to as artificial nesting structures — made by Martin Kauer, assistant line officers chief.
"This is going to be a win-win for the neighbors,“ said Andy Giroski, the department’s executive board president. ”We hope the boxes will keep the ducks in the pond."
Guided by designs he found online, Chief Kauer fashioned four wooden nesting boxes that hang on separate poles on the Suburban Avenue side of the pond. Along the Sunnyside section, he built a large and airy birdhouse-style structure with multiple nesting boxes in an open frame.
Chief Brown explained that the new birdhouses are not intended for the white geese that have frequented the pond for decades. They are to attract wood ducks, which are much smaller and marked by shades of red, green, brown and white. Waterfowl such as wood ducks like to nest near ponds, though Mr. Giroski said he wouldn't be surprised to see them travel to the pond on the nearby Panhandle Trail.
The firefighters posted some new pond rules to keep order, Chief Brown said.
Visitors no longer may feed the fowl white bread, which is bad for them and attracts birds, mice and rodents, as well as creates algae in the pond water. In place of the bread, the firemen have installed a coin machine that dispenses duck and fish food.
"It's made everything a lot cleaner around the pond," said Mr. Giroski, who said visitors can get a handful of food for 25 cents. A second food dispenser is planned.
Also, the department recently received a grant from Pennsylvania American Water Co. for a dry hydrant that would hook up to the pond.
The Rennerdale Volunteer Fire Department, which lists about 70 volunteers, answers 800-900 calls annually. It was chartered in 1944 by the Krieger family. The station site was selected because of its proximity to the pond.
"Not too many other communities have the capability to shuttle water," adds Chief Brown. "It's also the center of the township. Our forefathers were ahead of their time."
Mr. Giroski said the department covers the largest part of Collier from Hilltop Road to the Carnegie, Oakdale and Robinson lines. The Presto and Kirwan Heights Volunteer Fire Departments also serve the growing township.
He said the station's affinity for ducks extends beyond the pond to the fire trucks, which are named after ducks and have identifying artwork on them. There's the six-wheeler Dirty Duck, Monty Duck and also Mother Duck, which is the ambulance.
Bob Kinzler, executive board director and EMS captain, is credited with originating the duck truck names.
Chief Brown noted that the department has an open door policy for visitors and special events like the annual Easter egg hunt.
"We'd like to think we're more than a fire station," he said.
Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.