Led by Kelton Carver, a local student, the Abernathy City Park Playa Lake Project is focused on improving a local fishing spot that residents frequently utilize. Kelton worked alongside a professor from Texas Tech University who specializes in Playa lakes on the South Plains to complete a water quality test on the pond. When collecting data for this water research, Kelton noticed lots of trash and broken fishing lines tangled around the pond. He began researching if the fishing line was harmful to local wildlife, and if the test pound weight stated on the fishing line packaging held up to what it claimed. Kelton presented this project at a state contest where several thousand students attended and won second place.
Based on his findings, Kelton placed receptacles around the pond for fishermen to properly dispose of their fishing line. He then mailed all of the recycled fishing line to a larger recycling initiative. He also placed news articles in the local newspaper explaining to residents why fishing line needs to be recycled, and how they can do their part to protect the fish and other wildlife in their pond. Kelton continues to collect used fishing line and has begun the second phase of his fishing line research which focuses on the impacts of weather and temperature fluctuations on fishing line. Kelton will be examining common ways that fishermen store their tackle, and if it could cause weak spots in their fishing line, resulting in more broken fishing line in public waterways. Kelton plans to share this data with anglers of all ages at various workshops he organizes through his involvement in 4-H and FFA.
Once the fishing line issue was deemed under control, Kelton decided to look further into the source of the litter in and around the pond. Abernathy city park is located in a very windy part of Texas, and Kelton observed that the wind normally blows out of the southwest. The Lubbock City Landfill sits about 5 miles southwest of the city park with the main highway to the landfill about ½ mile from the park. High winds combined with commuting trash trucks resulted in a higher-than-normal amount of trash littering the area. To remedy this, Kelton worked through the Texas Department of Transportation Adopt-A-Highway program to “adopt” the stretch of highway closest to the park and regularly collects litter to minimize the amount of trash that could potentially end up in the pond. He has also joined the Leave No Trace initiative to learn more about educating the general public on protecting the environment.
One day, while emptying the recycling bins, Kelton discovered a mass fish die-off in the pond. He promptly contacted the parks department and the professor he had previously worked with. The park was immediately shut down until a cause could be determined. The pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, salinity, and blue-green algae counts were within a suitable range, which led to working alongside TCEQ to determine the root cause of the event. Tests were carried out for about 1 week before the park reopened. The pond was restocked, and Kelton has since continued to watch for signs of fish kills.
Kelton’s goals moving forward are to continue monitoring the pond and protecting this source of entertainment in his local community. His research was shared on the Texas Tech campus with graduate students focusing on water quality research. Kelton continues to collect data and plans to create posters and present his findings in future contests.
Project Description & History
Kelton was accepted to the Texas Brigades program where he attended a weeklong course focused on fish and their habitats including otolith fish aging, electro backpack fishing for tagging, river seining for fish counts, water quality testing, plant identification, and more. Following this course, he began to work on the Abernathy City Park Playa Lake Project by organizing over 100 hours of workshops and training for various age groups focused on protecting natural resources related to freshwater fish. The Abernathy City Park Playa Lake Project is made possible by collaboration with a city manager, three parks department employees, a Texas Tech University professor, and two of his graduate students.
Although this is one small body of water, it is essential to the local community. This small rural town of Abernathy has few entertainment sources, but the pond allows residents to fish, feed ducks, watch the geese migrate in and out, and enjoy time with family. Kelton has organized over 100 hours of community events to educate residents about the importance of protecting our natural resources.
affected by the health and condition of Abernathy city park.
invested in supplies used for educational workshops and displays.
There are numerous plant species around the pond. These plants help filter the farm chemicals and fertilizers from the nearby farms that run off into the park
The pond is stocked with catfish, bass, and perch. There are also ducks, migrating geese, and foxes that live around the pond.