Spring 2002

Chuck Pilling's Legacy Lives On

by Wanda Fullner


It seems like only yesterday that I dropped by the Pilling home to talk with Chuck about the future of the pond. Actually, it was a little over a year ago. His wife June and son Jim were there. "I worry that it's getting to be too much work for Chuck," June said. Chuck agreed and added, "I would like for the pond to remain in the community."

As most of you know, Chuck Pilling passed away in October, shortly after his 90th birthday. As he had wished, his bed was set up so that he looked out the dining room window onto his beloved duck pond.

Chuck began digging his pond when he was only 12 years old. As a young man, he developed a method to breed wild waterfowl that had never before been bred in captivity. Eventually professional bird breeders discovered him and in 1990 he was voted into the prestigious International Waterfowl breeder's hall of Fame, one of only four such honorees in the world.

Chuck's legacy to the community goes beyond the pond.
Born on the property when it was the Pilling's Dairy, he represents a big chunk of Licton Springs history. This history was captured in our recent Licton Springs Historical booklet and in a video produced for the community by the Seattle Community Access Network (SCAN)TV station.

In January of 2001 I went to the Council for support in exploring how the pond could be preserved for the community.

In February, the Council formally adopted the Pilling's Pond Committee, with Debra Willendorf, Yvonne Pilling, Bob Messina and myself as the original members. J.J. Avinger-Jacques recently joined us. We have since had a productive community meeting, formed the "Friends of Pillings Pond," which has about sixty members so far, and a Pond Brigade of volunteers to help maintain the ducks and pond.

Before approaching the Council for help, I naively thought that the Parks Department would be eager to buy the pond. Margaret Anthony, director of the North Division explained that Parks was not equipped to deal with the birds or the water problems. Water problems? With just a little exploration, I discovered how big a problem it was. When Chuck built his pond, he harnessed the dependable, small and amiable Licton Springs Creek.

Then the floods came.
In the 1940's Licton Springs was diverted into a storm pipe that runs underground from Licton Springs Park through the Wilson-Pacific School site. Chuck talked the men laying the pipe into installing an outlet to his pond. Over the years, as streets and sidewalks and homes were built in the area, the storm run-off increased to the point that the Pilling property flooded during heavy rains.

Chuck's ingenious flood control system.
Not to be defeated, Chuck got out a shovel and wheelbarrow and built a cement flume and shut-off valves that allowed him to control the water flow to the pond, and direct the excess water into the storm drain. "Chuck's system is ingenious," said Erik Davido, the engineer the Committee hired to study the water problem. The catch is that the valves must be operated manually: Someone has to be there when the rains come.

The Pillings Pond Committee received two grants through County Councilwoman Cynthia Sullivan and the Department of Neighborhoods to hire consultants to help us make a realistic plan for the preservations of Pilling's Pond. Our Engineer, Erik Davido, has developed a flood control concept plan. Our main consultatnt, Carol Eychaner, and our pro bono attorney, Keith Dearborn, are currently in discussion with the Pilling family to develop the terms of a conservation easement. A conservation easement will preserve the pond for historical, environmental, and educational purposes and for community enjoyment, while keeping the property in private ownership.


Who Feeds the Ducks?

Every day two men start their day thinking about birds. One, Jim Pilling, Chuck's eldest son, drives from his home in Snohomish to the pond every day to take care of the birds. The other, John Simpson, who lives near the pond, goes to the Greenlake PCC every day at 6am to pick up greens for the ducks.

The effort has been so time consuming for Jim that the Committee formed a Pond Brigade to help him. Colleen Simpson, the Brigade coordinator, tapped her father John to take on the first job.

The Greenlake PCC has been donating greens for many years. These are not "has been" greens, but the fresh outer leaves trimmed off the lettuce, collards, spinach, and other greens in the display cases. Al Markhold, or one of his co-workers in the produce department, loads 8 to 10 gallons of greens into John's car every day, seven days a week. "That's why those ducks are so healthy," John commented, "they eat organic greens."

Jim Pilling also feeds grain to the ducks. When many visiting ducks are present, he throws them day-old bread, donated by Entenmann's Oroweat Bakery Outlet at Northgate. The Pilling ducks do not spring for the bread. "Our ducks watch me throw the bread to the visitors and don't move," Jim explained. "When I turn the other direction to throw the grain, they come running."

If you would like to sign up for feeding the ducks or picking up the donated greens or bread, please contact
Colleen Simpson: 206 522-8646 or topcat88@aol.com

A Fund to Maintain the Ducks.
The family has set up the Chuck Pilling Memorial Fund to help cover the ongoing expenses for the ducks. Grain is one of the larger expenses. They are most appreciative of the many small donations they have received so far. Donations may be sent to
The Chuck Pilling Memorial Fund
1612 N. 90th Street
Seattle, WA 98103.

Community businesses and local neighbors make all the difference in helping to support our beloved Pilling's Pond.

by Wanda Fullner


Volunteers are needed!

Finalizing the conservation easement, fund-raising, and planning for the bird management will be our top priorities in the coming months.
We need more volunteers to help with phoning, mailings, and brainstorming.

Immediate Need:
A historian to put all of our photos and documents into a nice scrapbook.

If you would like to become involved or attend our meetings, please contact Wanda Fullner: 206 524-6669 or wf1@prodigy.net

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