On November 9, 2020, following Provincial Health guidelines, representatives with the BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) met with the Lower Similkameen Indian Band (LSIB), the Southern Interior Land Trust (SILT), the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) and community members to discuss the future of Ginty’s Pond in Cawston, BC.
The BCWF were grateful to also be joined by Robin Annschild, a wetland restoration expert, and her colleague Leh Smallshaw. Ginty’s Pond is an oxbow wetland, meaning it was once connected to the Similkameen river, which flows through the traditional territories of the LSIB and the communities of Princeton, Keremeos and Cawston, but has naturally separated over time due to meandering across the floodplain.
Members of the BCWF Wetlands Education Program (WEP) also spent time learning about this beloved neighbourhood wetland in July 2019 during a Wetlandkeepers Workshop that highlighted the importance of this wetland and explored preliminary restoration options. To learn more about this workshop, check out the blog post from the Cawston Wetlandkeepers 2019 here!
Ginty’s Pond is, for the better part of the last century, mostly an open water wetland, now fed by groundwater springs and run-off from the surrounding mountains. Historically, oxbow channels are often fed by seasonal flooding from the river, but Ginty’s Pond has been separated from the Similkameen River by a dike since the 70’s. In the last 15 or so years, the pond has started filling in with cattails, leaving only small sections of open water in the south end of the pond. This can reduce habitat use by wildlife species, such as waterfowl and amphibians. Additionally, a culvert was constructed when the VLA road bridge crossing the pond was damaged in a storm event. These changes in hydrology may be the culprit to the infill of cattails and loss of open water in Ginty’s Pond over the last two decades.
The BCWF team had the unique opportunity to learn the perspectives of a number of locals before meeting with partners to discuss restoration potential. Residents were kind enough to share their knowledge of the areas history and offer BCWF access to their properties to survey the areas surrounding the pond. These dialogues confirmed that, in previous decades, Ginty’s Pond had been a popular destination for locals to paddle, fish, ice skate, and watch wildlife such as trumpeter swans, bears, and river otters.
Led by Robin, the WEP team suited up in waders and got around to the most fun part of wetland work – getting in the water! Through manual surveying, drone reconnaissance, and old-fashioned trudging through the pond, the team discovered that the remaining areas of open water were nearly twice as deep as the areas where cattails had grown in. This information provided the group with a potential restoration solution – make the pond deeper to discourage the cattail growth! Further soil sampling also showed that it is safe to dig into the wetland without being concerned of losing water, since the wetland is fed by groundwater.
The next day, all the partners involved in the restoration of Ginty’s Pond gathered to hear results from the previous day’s fieldwork, and discuss future opportunities on the site. Adjacent to the pond under the autumn sun, everyone gathered in a circle and the day was opened in gratitude ceremony led by Nicole Mack and other members of the LSIB. The group acknowledged the land, our collective excitement, and the gathering of diverse partners towards the common goals of stewardship and restoration.
Robin then led everyone on an educational and interactive tour of Ginty’s Pond where members of the participating organizations had a chance to take measurements, interact with the land, and learn about potential next steps. During this process, one of the restoration challenges identified was to find a balance between the social and environmental needs of Ginty’s Pond. This prompted Robin to lead a discussion on how to find a solution to the community’s desire to restore the wetland for recreational use, and allowing Ginty’s Pond to follow the natural progression of oxbow wetlands.
Potential next steps for the community would involve the LSIB’s resident archeologists surveying the land for potential archeological artifacts, as wetlands and river banks in the Similkameen Valley were often traditional sites for camps and settlements. As well, further experiments would be beneficial in guiding the BCWF and partners in discovering the reasons behind the fill-in of cattails, and help in developing the best path forward for Ginty’s Pond.
Having so many diverse partners come together with the common goal of wetland stewardship was a unique and precedent-setting opportunity. In a closing circle, everyone expressed sentiments of excitement and hope, and a desire to work together for the benefit of both the community and the land itself. BCWF’s WEP looks forward to seeing the results of this collaboration and to working again with these stewardship allies!
BCWF would like to take a moment to recognize our funder, Environment Canada’s EcoAction Community Funding Program, who made this preliminary work possible. As well, thank you to our partners, Lower Similkameen Indian Band (LSIB), Southern Interior Land Trust (SILT), and Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD), and the community members of Cawston for welcoming us into their town and sharing their local knowledge with us!
Written by Jesse Clinock, Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Canadian Conservation Corp volunteer with the Wetlands Education Program.