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)

Help NCC improve 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 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, and 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 to improve trail safety, habitat connectivity and downstream water quality for brook trout, American eel and other aquatic species.

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A part of industrial history

Over 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, which would kill aquatic animals, damage habitat and property.

Pond restoration project

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, making 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.

NCC will rely on advice from engineers, TUC and Niagara College to determine the most feasible option to reduce water levels in the ponds. This may involve the removal/reduction of some sections of the berm, stabilization, culvert installation, and/or the addition of a small bridge or boardwalk across wet sections.

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.

How you can help

The initial estimated cost of this three-year project is $650,000. NCC has secured funding for the initial surveying and planning stages. We must raise $350,000 to ensure the best outcomes for the species and habitats we are aiming to protect, as well as trail safety. Donations to this project will be matched by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. To learn more about this project please contact NCC directly at 519-586-7773 x 205 or email liv.monck-whipp@natureconservancy.ca.

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