The Grand River is wide and deep as it moves through Dunnville, one of the southernmost communities in the watershed. The river is home to many significant wetland and grassland habitats for birds and other wildlife. The watershed is also home to nearly one million people, from the Dufferin Highlands to Lake Erie, including five cities and two First Nation territories.
Like many communities along the river, Dunnville faces significant changes ahead as population growth in the watershed brings both opportunity and challenges, such as protecting the rural landscape and managing potential flooding threats and water quality issues in the river.
DUC and its partners in the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture for conservation, which includes the Province of Ontario, have been active in the area since 2001. DUC, Haldimand County and the Dunnville Horticultural Society have restored wetlands and tallgrass prairie habitats along a tributary of the Grand River, Thompson Creek. The wetland and tallgrass prairie ecosystems provide habitats for wildlife and outdoor recreation and learning for people.
The Grand River and its many benefits are a mainstay of our way of life in Haldimand County.
The wetland project, located next to Thompson Creek Elementary School and an eco-park, is now 20 years old and the water-level management infrastructure was refurbished this year with the support of the new Wetlands Conservation Partner Program from the Government of Ontario.
The restoration will ensure that the habitat continues to flourish, supporting waterfowl and providing ecological services, such as flood resiliency and cleaner water, for Dunnville and the lake downstream. This commitment to wetland conservation restores natural infrastructure directly on the landscape and brings green jobs that support economic recovery from the pandemic in Haldimand County.
Within this large and thriving watershed, wetlands are critical to maintaining healthy landscapes for the sake of the river, the adjacent communities and the Great Lake that receives these waters at Port Maitland every day.
“The Grand River and its many benefits are a mainstay of our way of life in Haldimand County. We felt a responsibility to include nature and conservation in our Natural Heritage Plan nearly two decades ago and that has ensured continued resilience and enhancement for Dunnville’s natural setting on the river and for the health of Lake Erie just south of the community,” says Ken Hewitt, mayor of Haldimand County.
Thinking ahead, 20 years on: planning pays off in opportunity
Wetland and grassland projects by DUC on Thompson Creek have been funded by the Government of Ontario through the Wetlands Conservation Partner Program in 2021 and ongoing commitments via the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture, a continental partnership that has helped deliver thousands of wetland restoration projects across the province. Local partners in Dunnville include Haldimand County and Dunnville Horticultural Society which actively involves the community in the eco-park, helping to conserve the habitats, enhance the arboretum of Carolinian plants, and care for the natural pathways and outdoor classroom.
Newly completed upgrades to the 20-year-old water-level infrastructure at the Thompson Creek wetland complex were supported in part by the James N. Allan Family Foundation. Their contribution enhanced the fishway at Dunnville which allows fish a smoother passage up the Grand River.
James Noble Allan was born on a Haldimand County farm and served as a prominent representative at Queen’s Park for many years. His family foundation also supported the creation of new wetland habitat at his namesake provincial park on the shores of Lake Erie.
When communities integrate conservation of their natural infrastructure into their planning, the community prepares itself to accrue funding and support for habitat restoration. They also set a helpful precedent for other municipalities to replicate in their own growing communities.
Haldimand County had the vision to put nature in their future 20 years ago, and today that foresight is paying off for the community, for wildlife and for the vulnerable Great Lake downstream.