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UPTOWN FISH OVERWINTERING SAS

Nancy Armstrong stands alongside the pond behind her home on Virginia Avenue in Normal on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. Fish left mysteriously in the Uptown Circle water feature are spending the winter in the pond. (The Pantagraph/STEVE SMEDLEY)

NORMAL — A few fish appeared one day when the water feature in the middle of Uptown Circle was completed about three years ago.

No one claimed responsibility, but it wasn’t a first-year fluke: Someone puts fish in there every year.

“It must be a relatively common thing (for water features),” said Wayne Aldrich, former Uptown development director. “The first year, Peter Schaudt (the architect who designed the feature) asked if anyone had done it.”

The water isn’t chemically treated so most of the fish — usually koi or native fish — maintain a fairly good life.

“The amount (of fish) varies every year,” said Uptown Manager Joe Tulley. “They come and go as the year progresses … and some die.”

This year, for instance, a white fish was the first to appear, Tulley said, but disappeared a short time later.

Because the water feature is drained each November, town leaders try to find a new home for the fish each year.

One year, the Children’s Discovery Museum took them. This year, Tulley posted something on Facebook asking if anyone wanted them for an outdoor pond.

Nancy Armstrong was the first to respond.

“We were ready to get some new fish — we have a big pond and have room — but never got around to it,” said Armstrong of Normal.

Her daughter told her about the Facebook post and she replied. She went to Uptown Circle, put the fish in a bucket in the back seat of her car “and drove carefully so it wouldn’t slop.”

Armstrong said one of the fish didn’t survive, but the other three — named Uptown, Normal and Circle — seem to be doing fine.

“We put these in and never saw them again,” she said.

Armstrong said the center of the pond is 4½ feet deep. Once it turns cold, the fish go to the bottom. If they are hardy, they can make it through the winter.

Tulley said a smallmouth bass in the Uptown water feature was released into Sugar Creek. Over the years, the same has been done with other such fish.

Aldrich and Tulley said the water in the Uptown Circle feature has attracted lots of things: Last year, there was a family of ducks. There also have been snails and freshwater mussels.

Uptown Circle recently was among 10 urban parks and plazas recognized by Urban Land magazine. The article mentions the storm-water management system that collects runoff from streets in an underground cistern, filters and treats it before it flows through the above-ground water feature.

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