Summer cleanse

Peggy Henry

Photo By nick pike

As an employee of Chico’s Parks Division for 17 years, Peggy Henry works to take care of every aspect of Bidwell Park, from mowing grass to trimming trees and cleaning bathrooms. One of the more curious parts of her job, however, is cleaning Sycamore Pool. The pool at the One-Mile Recreation Area has a unique configuration—it was created by man but uses water from Big Chico Creek, which flows directly through the pool to a dam at the west end. The pool, ever popular in the summer months, requires weekly draining and cleaning. So every Thursday Henry and her crew of two drain the pool at 7 a.m., diverting the creek water to an underground aqueduct, and clean the pool using trucks and pumps.

What brought you into this line of work?

I was in the right place at the right time with the right experience. I’ve always liked working outdoors—I worked in the Forest Service before I came here.

When do you decide to do the initial summer cleaning?

Usually it’s around Memorial Day, but this year was different because the weather was so strange. The water has been so high that the underground channel that diverts the water wasn’t able to handle the capacity, so this is the first week we’ve been able to do a thorough cleaning.

How does the dam work?

The current dam is an inflatable dam that is computerized and controlled by buttons that raise and lower the dam to certain heights. In the winter the dam height is lowered to keep the water level even with the stream and raised in the summer to create the pool. A few years ago we used to have a metal and wood dam that was quite hazardous to operate. There would be men and tractors that would have to guide the steel poles into holes, so now it’s much easier and safer.

How do you clean the pool?

During the regular summer cleanings we will have a loader with a brush that cleans the bottom, a water truck that washes the loose dirt and a pump to siphon out the dirty water.

Have you ever found anything unusual?

Nothing spectacular stands out in my mind. There was a trout in there this morning, along with an eel. When that happens we put them back in the river. The most popular animals we find when we drain it are pollywogs, eels, crawdads and fish.

Any fun trivia you want to share?

They used to paint the sides of the pool years ago but the environmentalists found it hazardous to river life, so they aren’t allowed to paint the pool anymore.