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Wellesley residents raise concerns about trees planted near popular tobogganing hill

There’s still plenty of room for tobogganing at a popular spot near Wellesley Pond, even as the township plants trees to help naturalize the area, says the ward councillor.

Peter van der Mass acknowledges he’s received some phone calls from residents worried about the planting near the bottom of a hill at the southern end of the pond, frequently used as a tobogganing spot.

Among those raising concerns is Wellesley village resident Jeanette Pretorius, who said the trees would obstruct children sliding down the hills.

“We have a large hill by our pond that everybody in the wintertime goes tobogganing on because it’s the nice hill,” she explained. “It’s a nice size because it’s not too big. It’s small enough that the kids can get back up, but big enough that they used to actually enjoy going there tobogganing and tubing.

“And so a group of people, [a few months ago], decided to plant trees at the bottom of our tobogganing hill.” Pretorius said she and other parents had voiced their concerns to the township, but to little effect.

“Wellesley, we offer not much. We don’t have a fancy drop-in centre; we don’t have jobs, hardly; we don’t have a bus that goes into the city. But at least in winter we had this hill, and now here’s something else that’s been taken away,” she said.

Van der Mass, who has been involved with the Friends of Wellesley Pond group leading the naturalization efforts, said the group had carefully planned to avoid that.

“When we planted it, we bore in mind that smaller kids liked to toboggan there,” he said. “Bigger kids don’t go there: they go to the arena where the hill’s a lot bigger and there’s a far larger run. So we figured there was still room for them to go down and particularly if they went a little bit to the south.”

The proximity of the trees continues to raise some concerns, he noted.

The trees and shrubs were planted in June as part of the Friends of Wellesley Pond’s larger naturalization project for the area. The plan for the tree locations was done in collaboration with the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA), which actually owns the land.

“GRCA staff worked with the Friends of Wellesley Pond to pick a planting plan that worked,” explained Cam Linwood, a spokesperson for the GRCA. Both township staff and GRCA engineering and property staff approved the plan.

The trees and vegetation were planted in a random pattern within the area, using native Ontario species like freeman maple, black cherry and bitternut hickory.

“We hope to create a habitat for butterflies and birds,” said van der Maas of the planting project. “Some of the trees are larger, some are bushes … [and are] randomly planted to make it appear a little natural, and still give some room in between for tending the grass.”

The tree plantings were just one part of the broader project, which envisions an ecologically revitalized pond area. Last month, the Friends of Wellesley Pond unveiled concept drawings for a modified, more environmentally friendly pond and sought the township’s input. The concept drawings were produced by Water’s Edge, a Cambridge-based environmental firm.

Some of the key changes being proposed by the group would be to decrease the size of the Wellesley pond, while simultaneously increasing the depth. The group also want to add objects like sunken trees and stone formations into the pond to act as natural habitats for wildlife.

“We’d like to keep [Wellesley Pond] healthy,” said van der Maas.

“We’d like to have something more than a bunch of muddy carp and non-native species in there. It would be nice if can get the trout back in there, it would be nice if kids could fish in there again. The size of the pond will be reduced but it will be deeper and a lot healthier, a lot nicer to look at.”

Van der Maas says the group hopes to take the questions and comments and incorporate them into the project, before returning to the community with any changes in the new year. He adds that they want to take their time and make sure they address everyone’s concerns on the pond project before moving forward on any major changes to the pond.

While the group hope to beautify the pond through the revitalization project, van der Maas said the ecological benefit was important as well.

“We also have a responsibility to the environment,” he said.

“The days are gone when you could just create a vista that pleased you visually; we’ve got greater responsibilities to the environment that we’re cognizant of. Having something look pretty is not good enough. We need something that looks good but actually is good.”

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