A "distinctive" make-over and cascading falls for the Esling Park water feature

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
July 12th, 2012

After weeks of work on a complete revamp of the Esling Park pond and creek, Dave Morris is just now building in the pièce de résistance: the third tier of an elaborate waterfall feature that flows into the pond.

Morris learned his trade in stone walls working beside his father and brother over the last decade, starting in White Rock and later in Whistler. They moved to the Greater Trail area five years ago, and now Morris runs his own business, Distinctive Gardens and Ponds.

One project that’s really stuck with him is an 18-foot high waterfall inside an amphitheatre created by a 180-foot long stone retaining wall that he built with his father and brother in Fruitvale about three years ago.

“I like ponds and waterfalls a lot, but they’re really time consuming and tricky,” he said. “I do a lot of retaining walls as well. They’re the bread and butter.”

Some of his walls can be seen along the highway at Shavers Bench, Trail, at the memorial beside the Trail Bridge, and shoring up the ‘Rossland’ sign on the road up from Trail.

But projects like Esling Park are fun and challenging for Morris because he can really let his creative juices flow. In this case, the City of Rossland hired him with a lot of latitude to design it as he saw fit.

“I’ve got a history of working with the city,” he said, in particular a lot of work with both Trail and Rossland rebuilding retaining walls. “They said, use your creative style and go for it.” And so he did.

“When we got here [to Esling Park], it was just a disaster,” he said. “The pond liner was disintegrating and not covered with anything. It was slippery, green, and full of garbage.”

“So we hauled that all out and got in a big excavator to scrape out the side of the cliff,” he said, removing an overhang to make the slope more stable and also to get the waterfall deeper into the face.

Then the fun began, he said. “There was the existing design from before, with the bridge and the creek, but I redid the creek and made it my own.” He also re-dug the pond and added the waterfall. As before, the water is pumped up from the underground creek below Spokane St, but now the water will go to a small pond about 10 feet up the cliff face. From there it will cascade into a second, lower pond, before tumbling over three separate stone spillways, a series of rock steps, and into the main pond.

The city supplied the excavator and much of the material, but Morris picks each stone himself and hand-loads them onto his pick-up truck. He finds the stones at quarries and other sites in the area, including Trail, Casino, Patterson, and Castlegar, but unfortunately for the rockhounds among us, he wouldn’t divulge the details: “Down by the river,” he said.

One of Morris’s steadfast workers is Caleb Demmler, a multi-talented family man from Down Under who seems to get involved in different projects all over town, not to mention some impressive rock work at his own house with stones he hauled by wheelbarrow from “down by the creek.”

“Dave’s very selective about the stones he chooses,” Demmler said, impressed by what he’d seen at the quarries. Morris selects for particular forms and shapes as he builds the walls and falls in his mind’s eye. The result is beautiful mosaic of colours and pleasing shapes for the water to flow over.

Morris lined the renewed creek and pond with a protective layer of reused carpet before laying an EPDM rubber pond liner—EPDM is perhaps the most stable, safest, and longest lasting waterproof membrane available, although it only lasts a long time when not subjected to direct sunlight. About six truck loads of pebbles and gravel were laid on top of the liner to a depth of 6 inches as he built up rock walls all around.

“We mortared all the edge so the kids can play on it. There’s lots of bears, kids, and dogs playing here, so you’ve got to make it strong,” he laughed. “Hopefully it’ll stand the test of time.”

Morris is happy to give people estimates for work they may need done, but “I’m backlogged a couple months right now,” he said. Projects in the works include a big retaining wall in Trail, and finishing touches to his house in Warfield so he, his fiancée Katie, and their five month old daughter Isabella can move in.

Dave Morris of Distinctive Gardens and Ponds can be reached at 521-0133.

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