BNSF donation aids Pickle Pond project in Superior

Burlington Northern-Sante Fe Railways donated more than 12 acres of land to aid the remediation and habitat project.

The Pickle Pond near Barker's Island is slated for a remediation and restoration project this year after Burlington North-Sante Fe Railway donated land it owned around the pond to the city of Superior.
Shelley Nelson / Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR — Contractors will be mobilizing Monday, April 24 near Barker’s Island after more than a decade of planning for the Pickle Pond remediation and restoration project.

On Tuesday, April 18, Superior City Council approved the final element of the plan — approving land transfer agreements to acquire 12.88 acres of property owned by the Burlington Northern-Sante Fe Railway surrounding the Pickle Pond.

The Pickle Pond is the narrow strip of water across the bay from the beach on Barker’s Island, situated between the railroad embankment and shore running parallel to East Second Street.

With four stormwater outfalls and the rail yard at the Pickle Pond, a lot of pollution has accumulated in the pond, said Darienne McNamara, environmental regulatory manager for the city.

“This project aims to clean that up,” McNamara said. “And there’s some habitat components for it for fish and wildlife.”


McNamara said the pond will be dredged to remove contaminated soil as well as additional dredging beyond what is contaminated to make deep water pockets that are better for fish ponding. The project also includes going around the perimeter of the pond to remove invasive species and planting native plants in the area.

On the Marina Drive end of the pond, officials will clear the shoreline to give a better view of the beach on Barker’s Island after all the improvements were done to the beach, she said. On the end of the pond near the marina, she said the goal is for the forest cover to work as a sound buffer to the highway traffic. She said in between the two ends of the pond, the goal is to achieve a natural transition between the grasses and the forest canopy.

Habitat features will include fish sticks and loafing logs for turtles will be added to the water, and bird nest platforms will be added.

Part of the project includes adding two additional openings to the rail embankment to increase the amount of water mixing between the bay off Barker’s Island and the Pickle Pond to improve water quality.

Once that is done, McNamara said the railroad wouldn’t be able to use the embankment anymore, which prompted BNSF to propose donating the property to the city.

Under the terms of the agreement, the city agreed to prorate property taxes due upon closing, pay all closing costs, and pay the railroad’s broker a processing fee of $2,000 for the as-is donation.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, a partner on the remediation project, has agreed to reimburse the city up to $15,000 for costs associated with the land donation.

In other business, councilors:


  • Awarded a $99,070 contract to Nordic Group for a shoreline stabilization project at Girl Scout Point in Billings Park.
  • Awarded a contract in the amount of $2,429,700 to Northland Constructors for the Lift Station 3 improvement project.
  • Approved the state municipal agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to fund about $1.5 million of the $2.5 million project to replace the bridge to Barker’s Island in 2026.
Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or
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