Parks are an integral part of life in Coppell. With 17 of them across 545 acres, you won’t walk or drive very far in the City without running into one. They provide a place of refuge for residents who relax on their benches after a long day, enjoy a stress busting hike along the trails that wind through them, and connect with nature while casting a line into their many ponds.
While humans enjoy all that these green spaces have to offer as visitors, hundreds of plants and animals —from insects and fish to birds and various mammals — call these same parks home. Their existence and ability to thrive helps maintain park health and quality of life for Coppell residents. This requires the City of Coppell to strike a delicate balance between providing the park amenities residents want and preserving the integrity of the natural ecosystems within them.
When a major improvement project began on the pond in Moore Road Park in early 2023, some observant and proactive City of Coppell employees seized the opportunity to expand the project and make the park even better for both types of Coppell residents — people and wildlife.
Moore Road Park Boardwalk
Located near the northern city limit, Moore Road Park sits just east of Andrew Brown Park and a stone’s throw from The CORE — Coppell’s recreation and fitness center — at 600 N. Moore Rd. The 30-acre park features baseball and softball fields, Denton Creek Trail, and a large pond for fishing. Another unique amenity is a boardwalk along the southern edge of the park’s pond
that connects Denton Creek Trails’ continuous loop and allows visitors to “walk on water” while enjoying a stroll along the path.
“The park is in a floodplain and flooding damaged the old boardwalk making it inoperable,” said Dusty Cline, City of Coppell Parks Project Manager. “The City removed it and the area sat without a boardwalk for a while.”
The popular feature was missed, and plans were made to not only replace the boardwalk effectively reconnecting Denton Creek Trail, but also address stormwater flow and the integrity of the pond itself.
A contract for the $1.9 million project was awarded to Rebcon LLC and work began on the elevated, 10-foot-wide formed concrete boardwalk on February 6, 2023. In addition, improvements were made to the pond’s stormwater pipe and the shore was lined with gabion baskets — coated metal mesh that helps prevent erosion.
The boardwalk itself was constructed on concrete piers that were drilled into the bedrock below the pond floor, which required the park’s pond to be temporarily drained.
A pond in the middle of a suburban park may look unassuming to the casual observer, but hiding just under the surface of the water is an entire ecosystem teeming with life.
So, when a pond is drained, what happens to the wildlife?
That was a question Coppell residents were asking when crews started the reconstruction project at Duck Pond Park. The park’s pond was temporarily drained to make improvements, and turtles started appearing in residents’ neighborhoods crossing streets and strolling through front yards. While Coppell residents are no strangers to urban wildlife — bobcats, coyotes, fox and several other wild animals are spotted throughout the year — and understand the importance of co-existence, the sudden influx of turtles seemed odd.
According to biologists at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), when water recedes, whether naturally or because of construction, it is normal for turtles to leave and find another nearby water source. Residents were advised not to interfere and allow the turtles to find their own way.
However, most other water loving wildlife need a little more help. With a distinct lack of legs, fish rely on humans to relocate them when their habitat is disrupted. For the Moore Road Park project, the contractor hired local lake management company Magnolia Fisheries to help transfer the fish population from one pond to another nearby.
During the process, the fishery professionals also discovered more than 500 mussels on the pond floor. The three species found — giant floater, mapleleaf and lilliput — are all native species, however, due to the dwindling population of freshwater mussels, they are protected in the state of Texas. Work was halted briefly to allow stream ecologist Jeremy Jordan with engineering firm Halff to properly remove, document, and relocate the mussels to another nearby water source. On top of their protected status, mussels are filter feeders and play a role in maintaining the health of the pond’s ecosystem.
“Mussels are important for freshwater aquatic ecosystems and provide many benefits such as improved water quality,” Jordan said.
While the project brought in several professionals to complete construction and protect the animals, as a popular fishing spot, Moore Road Park’s empty pond also attracted the attention of local anglers. Two City of Coppell employees, Marcos Mejorado, Parks Operations Supervisor and Police Officer Lyle Hukill were drawn to the pond because of their love of fishing. With the pond floor exposed, they saw it as an opportunity to scope out the location of structure for fish. They both visited the park on separate occasions and were surprised to find little to no existing structure to speak of.
“I love fishing and know that a body of water needs structure to attract fish,” Mejorado said.
Both Mejorado and Hukill contacted Coppell Community Experiences Assistant Director Adam Richter with an idea to add structure to the pond. It was the perfect opportunity to do so while the pond was empty and likely the only opportunity to enhance the fish habitat in the that pond for many years. A long email chain and several other employee recruits later, Cynthia Fox Holt, Ph.D., a Fisheries Biologist with the Inland Fisheries Division of TPWD, was contacted and was thrilled to help bring the idea to life.
Fish and Angler Friendly
The pond in Moore Road Park is classified as a community fishing lake. By definition, that is any body of water that is less than 75 acres located within a public park, and there are more than 800 community fishing lakes across the state of Texas. Fox Holt works on these types of lakes located in Dallas, Denton, Tarrant and Rockwall counties.
“Anytime I get to work in a pond is a special circumstance,” Fox Holt said. “My overall goal is to create or enhance fishing ponds for generations to come.”
Fox Holt was able to allocate some funding from a Habitat and Angler Access Program grant to install structural elements that allow the fish and the entire ecosystem in the pond to thrive, while also creating a quality fishery for Coppell residents to enjoy.
Three main types of structures were installed on the pond floor: moss back fish attractors, concrete culverts, and stone piles. The moss back fish attractor structures are made of PVC and resemble trees. They’re designed to provide feeding for invertebrates, which are eaten by smaller fish, which then attract sport fish like largemouth bass and catfish. The City of Coppell provided six to eight concrete culverts that were reclaimed from the project’s boardwalk and stormwater pipe construction. These will be a good habitat for the entire food web and an especially good spawning location for catfish. The stone piles are made up of various purchased and salvaged materials from other construction sites, including stone and bricks, and are approximately 6 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 3 feet tall. The 16 piles sit perpendicular to the shoreline, so anglers are less likely to get lines hung up on them.
Fox Holt strategically placed flags on the pond floor to indicate where each structure should go, and the contractor installed them. The placement of the fish attractors will allow anglers a chance to get a bite in some areas and provide a refuge for the fish in others. The pond will be allowed to fill naturally with rainwater, and then gravel will be spread by boat to provide a spawning habitat for sunfish and largemouth bass.
“Fish don’t care what it looks like or what it’s made of,” Fox Holt said. “They just want structure.”
TPWD, in collaboration with the City of Coppell, plans to start stocking the pond this fall. Native blue gill and redear sunfish will be stocked first and around the same time, the City will purchase coppernose bluegill to add to the pond. These sunfish are stocked as young adults and will be allowed to complete a few reproduction cycles before adding fingerling Lone Star Bass the following year or two for the best results. Catfish are not stocked, Fox Holt said, but usually end up in park ponds eventually after Denton Creek floods.
She also said park goers can expect some growing pains as the pond refills and replenishes such as excessive floating vegetation and possibly some dead fish sightings. However, this is a normal part of the process, she said, and fish are resilient animals that will no doubt make their way back to the pond. Anglers can expect quality size fish in Moore Road Park in three to five years.
“Just give it time,” she said. “Don’t rush it. They will get there.”
Written by Lara Laschen