The Silver Creek Stewardship Initiative
By Rebecca Ferguson, Project Manager of the Stewardship Initiative
The Blue Mountain Watershed Trust began with a strong commitment to stewardship. It remains a part of our mission to educate the community on environmental issues in the watershed and to promote environmentally responsible solutions. The vision for the Silver Creek Stewardship Initiative was formulated last spring. Kolapore Springs Fish Hatchery kicked off the project with a generous donation of $5200, the net proceeds of the Feast. This February, The Blue Mountain Watershed Trust received an Ontario Trillium Foundation Seed Grant of $60,000. Our goal is to assist landowners in the Silver Creek Watershed to undertake stewardship projects on their properties. Being appointed as Project Manager for this initiative is exciting, and I am looking forward to sharing my passion for nature and conservation with landowners in such an ecologically significant watershed.
Silver Creek is one of the most pristine creeks in the Collingwood-Blue Mountain area and is home to spawning trout and salmon. Silver Creek originates on the Niagara Escarpment near Lake of the Clouds. This spring-fed creek cascades down the Escarpment through forested ravines and enters the Simcoe Lowlands. From here the creek travels through farm fields, rural residential areas and the provincially significant Silver Creek Wetland Complex, eventually discharging into Georgian Bay.
These landscapes, if not properly managed, could negatively impact water quality and threaten fish populations. The major threat to Silver Creek is future developments, which could include golf courses, hotels and high-density housing. Other threats are: riparian vegetation and habitat impairment; livestock access; removal of streamside vegetation; channelization; and on-stream dams.
THE STEWARDSHIP CHALLENGE
“Stewardship is the recognition of a collective responsibility to retain the quality and abundance of land, air, water and biodiversity, and to manage this natural capital in a way that conserves all of its environmental, economic, social and cultural values.” – Alberta Stewardship Network
Stewardship involves connecting landowners with their land in ecological terms. It promotes the idea of greater landscape connectivity, and that the choices we make on our properties can have repercussions for the entire watershed. Through this stewardship initiative we want to foster an holistic connection between the Silver Creek landowners and their land and to aid them in adopting responsible stewardship practices.
Ecological property evaluations will be conducted with landowners, and from there we hope we can work together to implement stewardship projects. Some examples of these potential projects include: stream-side tree planting; stream bank restoration; livestock restriction fencing; and septic system upgrades. By gaining access to Silver Creek we will have a better understanding of degraded sections and can create a restoration plan to improve the flow and water quality.
In addition to property visits and restoration projects, we are planning a “See the Salmon” event for the end of September. This will be a fun family event to send off the salmon on their journey up to the headwaters and educate the community on salmon spawning and watershed health.
The best-case scenario for this initiative is to have a positive response from landowners, to meet with them throughout the summer, to restore as much of the creek as we can and promote environmental consciousness. We hope through these efforts we can create community awareness of the level of development proposed, what issues this will cause and how we can be proactive through stewardship.
Forming this stewardship initiative before extensive development takes place, will make it easier to attract new residents to the program.
Spearheading a stewardship initiative is exciting, but there can also be challenges, as the success of the project depends on people’s responses and perspectives. Every property and landowner in the Silver Creek Watershed is different, so it is important to personalize each visit and activity accordingly. By working one on one with landowners in the Silver Creek Watershed, we hope to raise greater community awareness for this unique ecosystem and protect it for generations to come.
Above, beside the Silver Creek, are four of the five members of the Silver Creek Stewardship Committee of Watershed Trust. From left, committee member Carl Michener; Sean Brady of Kolapore Springs Fish Hatchery who provided seed money that helped launch the initiative; Rebecca Ferguson, Project Manager and committee member; and committee members Don Avery and George Powell. Absent from photo is committee member Doug Brown