Efforts to revitalize the iconic Wellesley pond gained new traction lastweek with the unveiling of three new concept drawings for public input.
The conceptual plans were showcased at an open house November 8 by the Friends of Wellesley Pond, a community group dedicated to the restoration of the pond’s natural features. The three concept drawings on display offered three distinct visions for how the village landmark may change in the coming years.
“What we want to do is restore some of the natural quality of the pond as a body of water,” explained township councillor Peter van der Mass, who’s been involved with the Friends of Wellesley Pond, an informal association of residents, township staff and the GRCA, which is the actual landowner of the pond.
The group received support from the Region of Waterloo’s Environmental Community Fund last year, allowing it to seek out the expertise of a Cambridge-based engineering firm, Water’s Edge.
The result is three concept drawings that show the improvements that could be made to revitalize the pond’s natural aspects. The changes range from minor tweaks, such as adding sunken trees, log piles and stone formations to act as natural habitats, to replacing the artificial pond entirely in favour of a simple channel bordered by wetlands and some trails.
The first two concept drawings are similar in that they envision keeping the pond and adding new wetlands as well as some additional trails.
“The difference between option one and option two is the percentage of actual pond feature … that would remain,” explained Crystal Allan of the GRCA. “In addition to wetlands that are created, trees and shrubs that are planted – sort of parkland enhancements.”
Option one, the “limited enhancement” concept, skims sections on the eastern edge of the pond, south of Queen’s Bush Road and Nafziger Road to create additional wetlands, trails and parklands. Option two, “partial enhancement,” reduces the pond in size along its diagonal western edge – the portion abutting David Street – and adds further shrubs and wetlands.
Option three, the “full natural channel enhancement,” produces the largest changes. It imagines replacing the pond entirely with a winding channel flanked with even more sections of wetlands, plant life and trails. It’s probably the best option in terms of ecological impact, notes Allan, but it’s also the most radical change of the three.
“We understand that this is a focal point in the community that people want to come to,” she said. “So we’re … trying to blend those cultural aspects and the cultural heritage, understanding the history of this property, with the natural heritage and enhancing the natural elements around here.”
While the pond has been a recognizable feature of the village for decades, that was not always the case, noted van der Mass. In fact, the pond was originally dug up in the mid-1800s as a mill pond.
“So it’s not a natural pond. It was just a creek that was widened to create a pond to drive power to the mill across the street,” he explained.
When there was no longer a need for a mill pond as the community entered the 20th century, the pond was converted for recreational use. It eventually became a focal point for the community, but at the same time has lost some of its natural splendour, he added.
The goal of all three renovation concepts are to improve land’s biodiversity, improve the flow of water and decrease its temperature by deepening and narrowing the pond, improving water quality, “manage” the geese nuisance and increase the trails and natural areas surrounding it.
“We won’t have a good idea of what the cost is until we finally determine exactly what it is we want to do,” said van der Mass. However, he added that the community had to decide quickly on a plan, to take advantage of a Region of Waterloo project slated for next year.
“The bridge on Nafziger that leads to the apple mill, north of Queen’s Bush Road, that has to be repaired in 2018. And in order to that, the region will be drawing down the pond so that they can work on the bridge,” he explained.
“We hope then to take advantage of that to do our dredge work. So there is a bit of a timeline here, we don’t have all that much time to get things together. Because we don’t want to draw the pond twice.”
Residents interested in weighing in are encouraged to review the concept drawings on the township website (www.wellesley.ca, through the Wellesley Pond Enhancement Project link), and submit their comments via the email link provided.