“This significant conservation project is a continuation of a long list of stewardship work constantly reshaping the natural heritage of Oxford County and surrounding regions,” says Phil Holst, director for Ducks Unlimited Canada and vice chair of Stewardship Oxford. “From its inception, I knew this project would be a winner. It had all the ingredients. All we had to do was bring the right partners together. A coordinated conservation plan, and nature, will do the rest.”
Hodges Pond is located on a 160 hectare (397 acre) property in Norwich Township just south of Woodstock, Ontario. Originally constructed as a mill pond, it has not been used in decades. Due to the steady decline of its use, the reservoir is now a sediment-filled shallow lake with extremely low oxygen levels and high bacteria counts. This poor quality water then flows through Cedar Creek into the Thames River watershed. Combined with the site’s aging infrastructure, this has led to a growing concern about the future of Hodges Pond.
But thanks to a $50,000 funding grant from The Cowan Foundation and a restoration plan that is now underway, nearly 400 acres of land surrounding the pond is being re-naturalized. A reworking of the land and an old dam structure will allow the stream to flow as it once did and return the area to a diverse cold water system. The re-naturalization will promote new vegetation and diverse habitat communities for a variety of plant and animal life as well as water-related benefits for flood reduction, improved water quality in the Thames River watershed and recreational opportunities.
The Hodges Pond restoration project is the latest partnership between Ducks Unlimited Canada, Oxford County, Stewardship Oxford, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, with funding support provided by Stewardship Oxford, County of Oxford, Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund, Upper Thames River Conservation Authority and Ontario’s 50 million Tree Program as well as the grant from The Cowan Foundation.
“I am so inspired by all the contributions of time, expertise, funding and a strongly shared vision for wetland conservation here in Oxford County,” says Holst. “By working together to replace the poor-quality, open water area with diverse, ecologically functioning wetlands, we will see a reduction of excess nutrients making their way to the algae infested waters of Lake St. Clair and western Lake Erie. In my mind, everyone who has supported this project is not just contributing to a local habitat project, they are investing in the community of Woodstock and Oxford County.