Though a fixture of the community for well over a century, the Wellesley pond has never been a natural feature of the landscape. An artificial body formed in the mid-1800s, the pond has nonetheless become tied to the life and character of the village, even as it has grown and shrank and changed shape over the decades with the needs of the community.
More work may be needed, suggest the Friends of Wellesley Pond, as the local body of water has suffered from a multitude of problems, from erosion and toxic algae blooms to invasions of carp and goose droppings.
The Friends of Wellesley Pond presented their vision for a rehabilitated and naturalized pond at a public meeting Monday evening at the Wellesley Community Centre. Building on public input from numerous previous meetings, the group pitched a revised proposal for a somewhat smaller, deeper, and more ecologically vibrant pond – one the village can be proud of, said the community group.
“We want to improve the quality of water, the habitat, and yet maintain a recreational space. A community space,” said township Ward 3 Coun. Peter van der Maas of the plan’s chief objectives.
Water quality has been a serious problem for the pond in large part due to excessive warming of the waters, said the group, allowing for an abundance of toxic algae to form as well as the unchecked proliferation of carp – a warm-water species of fish.
“One of the problems that we’ve got – even though the water coming in is nice and clean – is that it’s warm. Ten degrees warmer leaving the pond then entering the pond,” said van der Maas. “And you’ve got oxygen-poor water, native species have a very difficult time surviving. So we’re not doing them any favours. What does survive is this sort of thing.”
The proposal calls for a reduction in the pond’s surface area by about a third, from 12.8 acres to 8.6 acres, coupled with an increase in depth to a maximum of three meters in order to cool the water.
“And then we want to narrow the area to increase the flow and create some flow diversity as well,” said Ed Gazendam, president of Water’s Edge, an environmental company hired by the Friend of Wellesley Pond to provide the design plan. “So the plans show that there’s a bit of wetland that’s being created on the side, which tends to minimize the area and cause flow to go through it a little bit more quickly.”
Flanking the boundaries of the pond will be pockets of wetland, with vegetation planted along the pond edges providing a buffer space – or a riparian barrier – to guard the banks from erosion and runoff. The roots of the planted vegetation would better hold the pond banks in place, while also providing a deterrent to Canadian geese to loiter on the grass.
Public access area would also be created along certain points of the pond’s edge as well, providing hard, stable surfaces for residents to enjoy the water. Greater varieties of wildlife, clearer, cleaner waters and surrounding vegetation would be the added benefit of the enhancement project.
“You don’t want to have access all around the pond, because that’ just going to cause the problems we saw before with the eroding banks, because then you have to cut grass to the edge,” explained Gazendam.
“So we just want to focus the attention on a certain couple of areas and provide some hard surfaces that allow you to get at the water. And even sit there and wiggle your feet in the water or put a canoe into the water – that’s the purpose of those things,” he noted, adding that the proposed pond could still be used for community events like the fishing derby, ice skating and Art Round the Pond.
“This is not stopping it at all. It’s making it better and allowing for all these opportunities to occur,” said Gazendam. “There’s going to be a park area where people can sit on benches and have a picnic and take wedding pictures. There’ll probably be more opportunities because of the diversity of features around the pond than there is right now.”
A system of trails is also envisioned to accompany the new green spaces, as well as playgrounds and other community areas. How these spaces will be filled, and the types of recreational structures that will be put in place, depend largely on public input said the group.
Friends of Wellesley Pond chair Jamie McDermid said the project would cost an estimated $1 million to complete.
“The largest part of the total is the total is for the construction of the shoreline berms, and the excavation of the pond and placement of the materials behind the berms,” said McDermid. “Erosion and sediment controls is about 10 per cent, and the habitat enhancements, parkland and naturalized areas are about 30 per cent.”
The rate of work will largely depend on how quickly the group is able to raise the funds for the project. Crucially, the Township of Wellesley is not providing funding for the enhancement project, meaning the group will have to raise the money itself. The municipality will still be responsible for maintaining the shorelines, however.
The plan proposed at Monday’s meeting has earned the backing of the local Lions Club, which has agreed to act as the group’s official recipient for grant funding. The Grand River Conservation Authority, which owns the actual pond itself, also offered its approval, noting that the project would have a negligible impact on the operation of the dam or flood control.
“So for ecological reasons, as well as reasons of preserving the heritage of the village, something has to be done to enhance the pond, to renovate the pond, to make it once again a feature that we’re proud of,” said van der Maas.