Spring cleaning – Hirschman’s Pond faces sprucing up before becoming park
Although it’s well known by locals, many newcomers and visitors don’t know that a lovely pond, graced by a 90-foot bluff and littered with historic mining relics lies within walking distance of Nevada City.
Now, however, the secret is out.
Hirschman’s Pond now is owned by the city and open to the public.
And someday, the 33-acre property will not just be public land. City leaders envision a full-blown park, with hiking trails, picnic tables, explanatory signs, and even a nature camp.
“There are so many options for recreation here, between the nature aspects of the property, the plain leisure and hiking aspects of the property, educational interpretative opportunities … it goes on and on,” said Jim Wheeler, the city’s park and recreation manager.
The five-acre pond (of unknown depth) is surrounded by brambles, trees and rock outcrops. The sheer Wet Hill – whose regular drips nourish the pond – towers at the northeast side of the pond.
Reflecting the site’s history are mining channels, stone remnants and coyote holes – pits dug by gold-seeking miners – to the south.
Footpaths are scattered across the property and a rugged trail loops the pond, which was spared the toxic chemicals used in hardrock mines, City Manager Mark Miller said. A small ravine drains the pond, which remains level throughout the year.
The city purchased the property last August, after eyeing the pond eagerly for years.
With the help of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, the Erickson family – which previously owned the property – the newly appointed Wheeler, and $325,000 of state recreation funds, the deal was done.
Hirschman’s has a storied history and is perfectly suited for public, rather than residential use, Miller said.
“You can imagine it would be challenging to put a house here, between the wetlands and the pond and the highway,” Miller said.
Making the property more hospitable to visitors won’t be easy, either, but city leaders are committed to converting the former mining site, homeless camp and amateur fishing pond to an upstanding public park.
Soon after the property was acquired, parks crews spent three days carting out trash, Wheeler said.
Next up is figuring out how to remove the mega-trash – the car, mattress, tires and other bulky items that lie at the bottom of Wet Hill. A fence will also be installed along Indian Flat Road to prevent further dumping, Wheeler said.
“Then, we’ll probably start really slow, with careful methodical planning,” Wheeler said.
The planning process will include input from the public, and volunteers are welcome to help out with the clean-up, Miller said.
City leaders want to ensure the park includes a water monitor that has been donated to the city. They also want to ensure generations of Nevada City youth can learn to fish in the pond.
First the property needs to be annexed to the city, however, Mayor Conley Weaver said. That process is expected to take about six months.
Until then, the park will be available for walks with leashed pets and sloshes in the mud, Miller said.
“Come for a walk; that’s what it’s for. We encourage people to come,” Miller said.
Hirschman’s Pond can be accessed from Highway 49 across from the Juvenile Hall. To volunteer for the clean-up effort, call City Hall at 265-2496.
How a pond was born
Before the miners arrived, the landscape northwest of Nevada City was marked with rock outcrops, trees and hills.
Within a few years, with the help of powerful water cannons, the land had been transformed to an other-worldly expanse of bare bluffs and jagged hills.
The first property to be hydraulically mined was American Hill.
But the second site, bordered by Highway 49, Cement Hill and Indian Flat roads, was Hirschman’s Diggins, named for the Hirschman brothers, Moses and Henry, who purchased it in 1866, historian Bob Wyckoff wrote in a recent profile of the property.
Moses and Henry Hirschman operated several cigar stores in Nevada City, worked their mining claims, and later moved on to mines in Nevada, Wyckoff wrote.
The environmental destructiveness of hydraulic mining spelled its end in 1884, when it became effectively illegal.
A few years later, a water channel on the Hirschman property collapsed, flooding the low-lying land and creating the five-acre pond found today.
For many years, the property was owned by Erickson Lumber, an Oregon company affiliated with Erickson Air-Crane, lifelong resident Robert Ingram said.
After sitting on the market for several years, the property was purchased by Nevada City in August for $325,000.
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