Painted turtle. Photo by Cameron Curran

Painted turtle. Photo by Cameron Curran

Lathrop Nature Preserve pond restoration project

Lathrop Nature Preserve, ON (Photo by NCC)

Lathrop Nature Preserve, ON (Photo by NCC)

Improving habitat for brook trout

When you think of the Niagara region, you probably think about the falls, wine or maybe the War of 1812. But did you know that this popular tourist spot is actually one of the most biologically rich areas in Canada? Surrounded by Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment, the region’s unique climate and ecosystems support a vast variety of species. Many are at the very northern edge of their ranges.

Criss-crossing this biological hot spot are several waterways, including Twelve Mile Creek — the last remaining cold-water stream. The creek is home to the only self-sustaining population of brook trout in Niagara.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Lathrop Nature Preserve is located at the headwaters of Twelve Mile Creek. This conservation gem has long been a favoured nature retreat of the Fonthill community and other Niagara region residents.

For eight years, Trout Unlimited Canada (TUC) and Niagara College have been working together to improve fish habitat in the Twelve Mile Creek watershed. NCC, in partnership with TUC and Niagara College, is planning to restore two ponds on the Lathrop Nature Preserve. The restoration activities will aim to improve trail safety, habitat connectivity and downstream water quality for brook trout, American eel and other aquatic species.

A part of industrial history

More than 100 years ago, the Lathrop Nature Preserve in Fonthill, Ontario was crossed by a railway. This railway also acted as a dam to the headwaters of Twelve Mile Creek, creating two artificial ponds. While the old railway berm (embankment) is an important part of the existing public trail system on the property, it is deteriorating. This is creating a safety hazard to trail users and downstream neighbours. If the berm were to fail suddenly, not only would public safety be at risk, but so would the health of Twelve Mile Creek. The collapse of this berm could cause a flood of sediment and warm water downstream. This would kill aquatic animals, damage habitat and property.

Pond restoration project

Click on the map to see NCC's restoration plan for the two ponds on the Lathrop Nature Preserve.

Click on the map to see NCC's restoration plan for the two ponds on the Lathrop Nature Preserve.

The two artificially created ponds on the property are also negatively impacting Twelve Mile Creek. As standing water in the ponds warms up and flows into the creek, the creek temperature rises. This makes it difficult for brook trout and other cold-water species to survive. Initial water temperature sampling showed that the water leaving the ponds is being warmed by 5 C to 8 C before it enters Twelve Mile Creek. This is the difference between life and death for a cold-water species such as brook trout, whose population is in decline.

By reducing the amount of warm water and sediment leaving the ponds, it is anticipated that brook trout and other fish species will benefit from cleaner, cooler water and improved water flow.

NCC, Trout Unlimited Canada and Niagara College have spent the last year finalizing a plan to restore two ponds to improve trail safety and downstream water quality for brook trout and other aquatic species.

Depending on permitting and fundraising, work will begin on the Lathrop Nature Preserve in fall 2022. The restoration plan involves diverting water from the upper pond. In this way, it can continue to provide aquatic habitat, but will longer negatively impact downstream water quality. The water levels of the lower pond will be reduced. In addition, the berm next to the lower pond will be modified for safety, including adding a pedestrian boardwal

How you can help

The estimated cost of this three-year project is $660,000. NCC has completed the initial surveying and planning stages. We are currently fundraising for the on-the-ground-work to start in fall 2022. Please donate to ensure the best outcomes for the species and habitats we are aiming to protect, as well as trail safety. To learn more about this project please contact NCC directly at 519-865-4693 or email liv.monck-whipp@natureconservancy.ca.

Donate today!

Learn more about this conservation and restoration initiative in Ontario

NCC, Trout Unlimited Canada and Niagara College shared their plans for restoring the Lathrop Nature Perserve at acouple of virtual information sessions, you can watch the recordings here:

 

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