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Pfister's Pond


Pfister's Pond is a man-made body of water that is estimated to be roughly 90 years old. According to former Tenafly Borough Historian Virginia Mosley, maps from 1899 show a wooded swamp where the pond is now situated. A title search revealed no residents by the name of "Pfister" in Tenafly until at least 1910. 

Wildlife Use

Pfister's Pond attracts a variety of waterfowl during spring and fall migration. Canada Geese, Wood Ducks and Mallards are the most abundant, with Black Duck, Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal and Piedbilled Grebe being annual in small numbers. American Coot, Snow Goose, Double-crested Cormorant and several other species occur irregularly. Canada Geese and Mallards nest around the pond while Wood Ducks nest in tree cavities and bring their ducklings to the pond after hatching. One or two pairs of Green Herons also nest annually in the mature buttonbush near the center of the pond. Muskrats are resident, and four species of herons, plus kingfisher and osprey, use the pond regularly, and testify to the abundance of fish and frogs. Painted Turtles and introduced (non-native) Red-eared Sliders are often seen basking on logs or floating Spatterdock corms, while Snapping Turtles may be seen in the shallows. Bullfrogs and Green Frogs are commonly seen throughout the summer, and Wood Frogs, Spring Peepers and Spotted Salamanders may be found in spring. Pumpkinseed Sunfish nest right along the Main Trail, and Common Shiners and Golden Carp (also introduced non-native) are seen in deeper water. The pond supports an amazing variety of aquatic insects, rotifers, protozoans, planarians, hydra, and other minute organisms.

Current Condition of Pfister's Pond

Pfister's Pond covers approximately three to three and a half acres (1.8 hectares). Of this area, about one third is occupied by a woody shrub called buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), one third is covered by emergent (non-woody) vegetation-mostly spatterdock (Nuphar advena), and about a third is open water with submerged vegetation. The maximum water depth (excluding muck) has been as deep as two meters (six feet), but two thirds of the area is only 1 to 1.5 meters deep (2.5-3 feet) due to years of sediment buildup. The area covered by buttonbush has an average depth of less than 0.5 meters (1 to 2 feet). The margins of this area often dry out during summer, sometimes to a width of 6-10 meters. It is still possible to canoe some three-quarters the length of the pond. Ice-skating is also possible over about two-thirds of the area since the spatterdock dies back under the surface every fall.

Moving Forward

To date TNC has reviewed internal documents (see "Pfister's Pond 2011– A Comprehensive Analysis" link below under documents) which point to sediment removal (dredging) as the only practical way to increase water depth and reverse the eutrophication of the pond.

TNC has met with representatives from Flat Rock Brook (Quarry Pond) and Closter Nature Center (Ruckman Pond), both of which decided that dredging was the preferred strategy. In both cases the associated Boroughs (landowners) took leadership on the projects with the associated Nature Centers taking on a support role. 

TNC has also met with representatives of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the Director-Office of Local Government Assistance and the Supervising Environmental Specialist. The Supervising Environmental Specialist unequivocally recommended the removal of sediment as the appropriate solution. These representatives indicated that our proposed dredging project did not seem to pose any disqualifying problems. NJDEP issues about 600 such pond permits a year. They suggested that the permit application be filed immediately; once issued, permits are valid for 5 years.

TNC has met with the Supervisor- Heavy Equipment, of the Bergen County Mosquito Commission, who indicated that they would be willing to conduct the dredging. The town would need to file an application, but he anticipated no difficulties in approval.

Key Steps:

  • Perform a proper feasibility study of the pond. Consider the potential negative impacts and how to avoid them. Carefully assess sediment attributes of quantity and quality.
  • Design the dredging project, which involves extensive engineering. Tenafly Borough Engineer Maser has been consulted and has drafted a proposal.
  • Secure permits.
  • Identify and secure funding sources (rough estimate based on Quarry and Ruckman Pond is around $1 M).

We have asked Borough of Tenafly to take a leadership role in this project as was the case in Englewood and Closter. In those cases as in ours the Borough is the owners of the pond. This restoration process is a capital project far beyond the “maintenance and care” which is Tenafly Nature Center’s purview.

At the September 28th Council meeting TNC and the Borough of Tenafly agreed to formed the Pfister’s Pond Business Plan Ad Hoc Committee the purpose of working on a business plan to see where the finances could come from.

The committee consists of:

  • Daniel Park – Borough of Tenafly Councilman and Liaison to the Tenafly Nature Center
  • Mark Zinna -Borough of Tenafly Councilman
  • Borough Administrator Jewel Thompson-Chin
  • Tony Martin - Tenafly Nature Center Board of Trustees and Board President
  • Douglas Murray – Tenafly Nature Center Board of Trustees and Buildings & Ground Committee Chair
  • Peter Punzi – Tenafly Nature Center Executive Director

The Committee would come to a consensus on a proposal which can be approved by both the Mayor and Council as well as the Tenafly Nature Center Trustees.


Questions & Answers

Q. Is "weed harvesting" a viable alternative to dredging?

A. Unfortunately not, due to the following issues:
Dredging: Removal of sediments under wet or dry conditions.
Hydroraking: Plants, roots systems, and surrounding sediment and debris are disturbed with a mechanical rake; part of material usually collected and removed from the pond.
Harvesting, pulling, or cutting: Reduction of plant growths by mechanical means with or without removal from the pond. (TNC has been doing this since the 1960’s.)
Disadvantages of Hydroraking and Weed Harvesting
  • It does not significantly change the depth of the pond. This leaves sediment in the “photic zone” where plants will recolonize readily.
  • Plant fragments can be left behind to re-root and spread infestation. Closter Nature Center hydroraked Ruckman pond and was told it would last 5-10 years. The conditions returned to prior condition within two years.
  • Large areas where woody button bush (which covers over 1/3 of the pond) cannot be harvested with hydroraking. These areas are very close to no longer being considered open water-once this happens it becomes much more difficult to dredge and these area will revert to swamp forest. Permissions and permits then change and become more onerous to obtain. Dredging will remove buttonbush and sediment. 
  • This is not a root cause solution as it treats only the symptom of plant growth.
  • Although the cost is less than dredging, it may eventually add up to the same amount, or more, without the benefits.

Q. If sediment tests find contamination, won't the Borough be liable to remove the contaminated sediment?

A. If the sediment tests find contamination, the Borough will NOT be liable to remove the contaminated sediment.

According to conversations with Mark C. Davis, Acting Supervisor, NJDEP Office of Dredging and Sediment Technology and Nancy Hamill, Ecological/Sediment Criteria, NJDEP-Site Remediation Program, unless the site is a known “Area of Concern,” there is nothing that mandates the pond be dredged (or other remediation activities) if contaminants are found unless they are a result of discharge by a responsible party. If it is simply sediment from a pond and the pond is dredged, then the material must be managed at an acceptable site based on the sampling results.
"Area of concern or "AOC" means any existing or former location where hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, or pollutants are or were known or suspected to have been discharged, generated, manufactured, refined, transported, stored, handled, treated, disposed, or where hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, or pollutants have or may have migrated“ (N.J.A.C. 7:26E-1.8)