A Whirlwind of Wetlands Part II: Cawston Wetlandkeepers 2019 and Ginty’s Pond

On July 17-18, the BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) held a Wetlandkeepers workshop in sunny Cawston on the heels of a couple of wetland workshops in the Kootenays (See Part 1).  These wetlandkeeper workshops are tailored to meet the individual community needs in terms of their concerns, their conservation goals, and the mix of people that attend.  For the Cawston Wetlandkeepers, the focus was on the much loved Ginty’s Pond in the heart of Cawston, and participants came from a range of backgrounds including Southern Interior Land Trust,  Port Moody Ecological Society, Salmon Safe BC, Osoyoos Lake Water Quality Society, Keremeos-Cawston Sportsman Association, and the Ministry of FLNRORD (Forest, Land, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development).   Both the Southern Interior Land Trust and the Province were partners on hosting this workshop.

Quick History of Ginty’s Pond

Ginty’s Pond is an oxbow wetland, that was cut off from the mainstem of the Similkameen River. The oxbow consists of two sides- the north side, which is Crown Land, and the south side, that was privately owned. The 15.5 acre wetland on the south side was acquired by the Southern Interior Land Trust (SILT) in 1990, and a contract was formed with the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development (FLNRORD) in 1992 to maintain the wetland. Once a thriving waterfowl oasis, and site for canoeing and ice skating, the hydrology of Ginty’s Pond changed due to a number of reasons, some of which could include surrounding development and groundwater well installations, and a road and culvert dissecting the oxbow.

Longtime and recent residents and SILT members alike have been concerned with these adverse changes to this beloved pond, eliciting the desire for restoration. The goal of the Wetlandkeepers workshop was to focus on restoration options for Ginty’s Pond to bring back some ecological function as waterfowl forage and resting habitat, and a cherished recreation site for canoeing, ice skating and wildlife viewing.

Neil Fletcher–Wetlands Education Program Manager– giving his introductory presentation

This workshop began as most Wetlandkeepers do-with an introduction to wetlands and why they are important. Some of the participants raised valid points in that, although wetlands represent a natural means of cleaning wastewater, they are not the complete solution. Contaminants such as dioxins, pharmaceutical wastes, agricultural runoff, and heavy metals can oftentimes overload a natural systems’ ability to sequester them, due to their high concentrations and complex molecular structures. Discussing these factors showcased the concerns of the community and highlighted a direct way in which wetland conservation is multifaceted.  Wetlands are both threatened by, and can mitigate impacts on the environment from, local economic activity.  

A peek into one of the remaining open water areas in Ginty’s Pond
Lee McFadden sharing her historical knowledge of the site

Ginty’s Pond has been a part of the community’s story since the 1930s. Lee McFadden, a long-time resident of Cawston, was able to provide us with a wealth of historical context of how Ginty’s Pond has been a part of the community for almost a century. Over the decades, the wetland has experienced substantial changes that have included the rapid infilling with cattails throughout the wetland, thus reducing the footprint of the open water portion of the wetland and restricting community activities on an around the wetland. This was a valuable insight that communicated the importance of Ginty’s Pond to the community.

Participants taking a closer look at the spring

The remainder of the first day was spent out in the field investigating several access points to Ginty’s Pond. These site investigations included seeking the potential location for the outlet, the culvert that allows water to pass under the VLA Road that bisects the wetland, and sites that are ephemeral (hold water at certain times of the year like Spring and Fall). In addition, a participant very graciously allowed us on her property on the north side of the oxbow to take a closer look at the potential source of water for the wetland- a groundwater spring where water from the underground aquifer enters the oxbow on the crown-land owned side.

Restoration design and techniques set the tone for the second day of the workshop. The day started with a presentation on the topic of wetland restoration, and highlighted the key points to consider when working on a restoration project:

  • Conduct baseline surveys
  • Seek expert advice on permissions, permits, land-use changes
  • Due diligence when it comes to archaeological sensitivities
  • BC One Call- is it safe to dig here?
  • Define the goals/objectives of the project
Kasey Moran of SILT giving her presentation

Next, Kasey Moran, a board member of SILT, gave a presentation on the formation and natural succession of oxbow lake ecosystems. This was especially interesting to the participants, as Ginty’s Pond is an oxbow that is entering the later stages of succession. In her presentation, Kasey highlighted the two different types of oxbow systems, where and why they form, the stages that they go through as they age, and the services that they provide the surround areas. The life-cycle of an oxbow typically begins with a shallow open-water wetland/lake environment, then transitions to marsh, swamp, wet meadow, and finally forest. Because Ginty’s Pond is currently infilling, it is—to all appearances—nearing the end of its life as an oxbow ecosystem.

This point initiated a discussion on whether the changes at Ginty’s Pond have been due to natural succession or have been accelerated due to human activities in and around the area. That is a question that is difficult to ascertain, and definitely requires further research and investigation. The overall goal for the restoration of Ginty’s Pond is to find a solution that preserves community wishes and values while maintaining productive habitat for local wildlife.

Al Peatt from SILT giving his presentation

Al Peatt , Executive Director of SILT, also gave a presentation on the involvement that SILT has had with Ginty’s Pond since they acquired ownership in 1990.  His talk focused on the historical context of the area, the current management of the wetland, and plans for future restoration projects in and around Ginty’s Pond. A key message, regarding their aspirations for the site, was with regards to habitat management, in which they wish to optimize habitat for the use of all living creatures.

 

The afternoon was spent out in the field at Ginty’s Pond, where participants were able to explore the design process of a wetland construction project, and what steps would be necessary to gain the information needed for a restoration design. This process includes:

  • Measuring the gradient of the land
  • Finding the water table
  • Creating a GPS-tracked polygon to delineate footprint of the restoration site
  • Conducting a survey of all plant species present

Participants left with a well-rounded understanding of wetlands and the techniques used to design and restore them in general, and supported the development of a restoration proposal specifically for Ginty’s Pond. Overall, we had an incredibly jam-packed two days and took away a deeper understanding of the connections that this community has to the land and their shared history.

Ginty’s Pond in Cawston

A very special thank you to SILT, who invited us onto their property, and to FLNRORD for participating in this workshop as the land managers of Ginty’s Pond. We would especially like to thank our participants, who invited us to their community and allowed us to share our passion for wetlands and their continued conservation. The participant involvement truly made this workshop an overwhelming success with their enthusiasm and love for protecting the beautiful lands that surround their homes.

Additionally, we would like to thank our funders for enabling us to hold educational workshops;  Wildlife Habitat Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the Government of BC.


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