The Wellesley pond was recently drained by the Grand River Conservation Authority to allow for construction on the bridge near the cider mill. The draining of the water has raised concerns from citizens in regards to the treatment of the wildlife; specifically, the Midland painted turtles.
“The pond has been a constant fixture in the town for as long as I can remember,” said Heather Massel Whittle, a Wellesley resident of more than 30 years. “The idea for the revitalization of the pond is not a bad thing; however the notion that the GRCA was going to make sure the fish got out safely with no mention of the Midland painted turtle is misleading. They are now on the at-risk list. The two main threats are roads and loss of habitat. “
These specific types of turtles tend to lay their eggs on the soft shoulders of the road, which can lead to being hit by traffic. They are considered to be at-risk as of May this year.
“We have lost over 70 per cent of Ontario’s wetlands. So losing a few from the Wellesley pond so they can work on a bridge is a double whammy,” added Massel Whittle. “At some point, we have to say stop and think of a world where our grandchildren will only see these wonderful wild reptiles in a book.”
However, draining the pond was necessary as the construction on this bridge is long overdue, according to Wellesley officials.
“The pond right now is drawn down because the bridge by the cider mill has to be replaced,” explained Peter van der Maas, a Ward 3 councillor. “It’s at the end of its life – who knows what will happen? There are some very heavy trucks that go to the feed mill and farm back there; sometimes they’re quite heavy, and the bridge is becoming unsafe. So in order to work on the bridge and replace it, the pond needs to be drawn down. And that will happen, the construction will happen soon and once that’s finished, the pond will come back up.”
The GRCA were seen making efforts to protect some of the wildlife, such as relocating the swans and removing some of the fish.
The pond has been drawn down several times over the years, including just last December. Wildlife has always been affected as a result – it is unavoidable. The GRCA has launched an investigation as to why the numbers seem higher this time.
The mill pond has been a part of the Wellesley Township since the 1840s. However, the revitalization of the pond has been a more recent ongoing process since April 2016 after concerns arose at a Wellesley community forum. Eventually, this lead to the formation of Wellesley Friends of the Pond, which seeks to improve the water quality and the pond habitat quality and quantity. They have launched initiatives such as pond clean-ups and fundraisers like the community fish fry.
Council has also noted the importance of improving the pond, as it was a frequently cited by residents as a way to enhance the community.
“The [surveys] did give us important information,” said van der Maas. “One of the things that we asked was, ‘What do you see as most important to enhance the community of Wellesley?’ One of the most frequently cited was better sidewalks and trails. And the second most frequently cited thing was to improve the pond. So that’s helped inform the way we go forward.”
Friends of the Pond plans to use this as a learning experience.
“I think the important thing about the working plan is that over the next while, we’re learning from all of it,” said Jamie McDermid, a member of the organization. “Eventually, that working plan will be making a recommendation to the GRCA about what we think should be done. It’s a work-in-progress.”