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LSRCA Ghost Canal wetland project nears completion in Holland Landing

The new wetland will have a boardwalk and viewing area that connects to the Nokiidaa Trail.

May 1, 2018
Simon Martin

Anybody who has taken a trip along the Nokiidaa Trail in Holland Landing during the past five months has likely wondered what’s with the construction vehicles. After months of hard work, the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) is nearing completion on the Ghost Canal wetland enhancement project. 

The project has created a 1.06 hectare wetland in what used to be a depressed field near the southeast corner of Yonge Street and Mount Albert Road. Staff is simply waiting for improved weather conditions to start planting more than 1,500 native trees and shrubs. Authority conservation lands general manager Brian Kemp said the hope is to have everything ready by June.

Kemp said the new wetland would provide environmental benefits to the area, including reducing the risk of flood and associated damage, filtering groundwater and helping fight the effects of climate change.

The wetland has four deep pools. The water level will fluctuate throughout the year with high levels in spring in fall and lower levels expected in the summer months.

Many features included in the project are aimed at giving animals a sanctuary, including a turtle sandbar and snake hibernaculum. Animals you might see in the wetland include wood ducks, snapping turtles, painted turtles, green frogs, spring peepers, mayflies, water boatman and dragonflies, authority stewardship technician Lori McLean said.

There is an education component to the project as rocks have been set up to create an outdoor classroom around the wetland. Students from Holland Landing Public School will be able to access the site by using a path coming from its property.

Authority staff were originally presented with an opportunity through the authority’s ecological offsetting plan to create a habitat enhancement project within Rogers Reservoir Conservation Area, on the Ghost Canal property they purchased in partnership with the Town of East Gwillimbury. After numerous site visits and assessments, it was determined that one of the first enhancement projects for the property would be the creation of a wetland component on the north side of the East Holland River near Thomas Sheppard Blvd. The project tender came in at just less than $500,000.

A boardwalk viewing area has been installed and will tie into the Nokiidaa Trail. When the contractor is finished the work, repairs will be made to the path to Yonge and open the parking lot to the public.

When the site opens, the authority plans to have a number of events for the public, including a “ghost” themed event around Halloween.

Rogers Reservoir Conservation Area is more than 84 acres of wetland forest and contains remnants of the historic “ghost canal” lock system.

Ecological offsetting is an approach the authority has to mitigate damage to the environment. When a developer can’t avoid having a negative environmental impact, such as loss of wetland, the authority requires financial compensation so the it can create or restore new habitat through compensation program. According to the authority, the route of compensation is considered a last resort.