By Jessica Lovell
Taking water that’s flowing underground and bringing it out into the blue again is one of the plans the Yorklands Green Hub group has for the former jail lands off York Road.
“The idea there is to daylight the creek,” says Ontario Streams president Robert Giza, speaking of a stream of water that for many years has been flowing below the surface of the property.
“Daylighting” this unknown creek would mean unburying it and bringing it back into the light of day.
Giza is working with the Yorklands Green Hub, a group that hopes to use about 36 acres of the former Guelph Correctional Centre property to create an education, demonstration and research hub focused on “green” pursuits such as sustainable food production and energy conservation. Giza is particularly interested in the water issues on the property and is “trying to come up with strategies of how best to utilize the myriad of water resources on the land,” he says. To that end, Giza was part of a group that toured the property Thursday with Ontario Streams senior biologist Doug Forder to examine the possibilities related to the ponds and streams on site.The stream on the jail lands can be seen flowing from one small pond at one end and into another small pond at the other end, but the length of it is buried, he said.
“This stream has been put in a pipe underground,” Giza says. “In its natural state it would flow, and in the spring time it would flow over and create a wetland.”
It’s not clear how long the stream has been buried, or why it was buried.
“Maybe their ideas was, ‘we don’t want this to be a wetland,’” suggests Giza.
That may have made sense when the property was being used as a prison, but now, Giza believes that bring the stream back above ground would have great purpose.
“The possibilities for education are probably paramount in this project,” says Giza, who is also a retired science teacher.
The process would be slow, requiring planning and engineers, but he believes local students could be involved in the work.
But Thursday’s tour of the property was only a first step is assessing the possibilities.
Among other water-related issues discussed, the group also took a closer look at Clythe Creek, the small, waterfall-filled stream that edges the property along York Road.
Forder took the temperature of the creek and examined plant and insect life, as well as the nature of the stream bed, says Giza.
His belief is that the creek was a cold water trout stream before the waterfalls were added by inmates working on the prison grounds.
The change that they made may have been pretty, but they are things that “in today’s day and age are not considered good for trout streams,” says Giza.
The hope is that the Yorklands group would be able to do some rehabilitation work on that creek, too, while also recognizing that the property is a heritage site, he says.
“You have to work with the heritage people and make sure that those things are respected,” he says.
For example, rather than undoing the decades-old work of the prison inmates, it might be possible to create a “fishway” beside the waterfalls that would allow fish to get back up the stream, Giza says.
The group hopes to meet with people from Trout Unlimited to work on a plan for the creek.
There is some work that could get started as early as this year, says Giza.
Stream erosion projects, involving planting shrubs and trees along the edge of the creek, are one example.
The plants would help to keep the water cool, by providing shade, and would also help to prevent salt from nearby York Road from ending up in the stream, Giza says.
Giza was most fascinated with a stream that was almost invisible.