Ambitious plans to revive Pontefract Park lake as fishing destination
Anglers have drawn up grand plans to revive Pontefract Park’s lake and relaunch it as an attractive destination for fishing once again.
Pontefract Park Angling Club have been rallying to raise support to transform the lake’s fortunes after suffering years of neglect, vandalism and poaching.
Now hundreds have backed the idea by joining the campaign.
Member Dave Thompson, 31, who is part of a five-man committee taking the lead, explained: “The idea came about when old photos of past angling matches started circulating on Facebook, a few local anglers started reminiscing and saying how amazing it would be if the lake was brought back as an angling venue.
“Since the old boathouse was taken down and with the council funding diminishing, the lake lost its management.
“It’s been subject to vandalism and poaching, the lake has started filling with silt which is bad for the ecosystem and is why we’re seeing more extreme algae blooms like we did this summer.”
The committee has already made a start, clearing around two tonnes of rubbish from the lake, pulling out everything from shopping trolleys, to road cones and old tyres, to litter and vegetation from the lake bed.
Dredging the lake of excess silt is still required, with plans to build a bailiff’s hut with toilet facilities and tackle storage.
There are also hopes that angling coaching classes and taster sessions can be introduced.
The group wishes to invest in aquatic greenery, lily and reed beds to not only improve the aesthetics of the lake but to attract more wildlife to the park.
More flowers and shrubbery planted on the bank side, it is hoped, will also help prevent the amount of litter blowing from the park fields into the lake, which has become a huge problem in recent years.
All of these ideas will cost, particularly reducing silt levels, so the group has launched an online funding appeal.
Setting an initial target of £2,500, more than £1,100 has been pledged so far, but this has been earmarked for the club registration with the Angling Trust, which would be a major step forward.
But much more cash will be needed for the full plans to be turned into reality.
“There’s work to be done reducing silt which will not be cheap, this is essential work that needs to be carried out to ensure a fishable venue and safe and stable ecosystem,” added Mr Thompson, who lives in Pontefract.
“Obviously it has to go through all the right channels before it is agreed, but we’re hopeful we will get the go ahead which is why we have gone down the route of trying raise funds.
“We’ve not only asked the public to get involved but we are also researching grants available for us.
“When we met with the council they were nothing but cooperative and supportive. We all agreed this would be a great addition to the park for the Five Towns community.
“The local support has been fantastic since we’ve publicised our plans and we’ve seen nothing but positive support from the locals.
“Angling is massive at the moment, it was one of the first activities we were allowed to do after the first lockdown.”
At its peak, the lake was used by up to 100 anglers each weekend, competing in regular fishing matches.
Committee member Dave Thompson said that the decline began of the facilities started when the boats were taken off the lake and the existing hut was dismantled.
This left the lake unmanaged and unmanned.
He said that fishing started to decline when pole fishing became popular, but anglers found there was nowhere to buy day tickets and interest in the lake receded and it was left to deteriorate.
But he says every penny raised by the club will go towards the project and the subsequent upkeep of the park.
The not-for-profit venture already has the backing of hundreds of fishing fanatics, but the club is keen to involve all of those clubs and groups who use the lake at Pontefract Park.
Committee member Dave Thompson added: “The lake is well used by other groups, the model aircraft club uses the park, also model boat clubs sail on the lake. There’s also the Pontefract Park Run.
“We have absolutely no intentions of taking the lake off of these groups instead we want to work with these groups to help improve the lake for everyone to use.
“Although our expertise would be on the angling side, we want it to be a place for everyone to enjoy. It’s not just about fishing, we want to improve the aesthetics of the lake for the whole community.”
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Pontefract Park is the largest urban parkin the Wakefield district.
It is owned and managed by Wakefield Council and Pontefract Park Race Company.
It was once more than 1,300 acres, but was divided after an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1780.
More than 336 acres were kept as public space, but that his been reduced further since.
During the First World War the park was used as an airfield for fighter planes to take down enemy Zepellin balloons.
The building of a new £20m leisure centre is expected to be completed at he park this year.