Growing Our Greenbelt: Lake Gibson & Twelve Mile Creek

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Growing our Greenbelt is a blog series focusing on "areas of critical ecological and hydrological significance" recently flagged by more than 100 environmental and community group as requiring Greenbelt protection. Over the next several months, we'll be highlighting the headwaters, ground water recharge areas, surface water features and urban river valleys that, if added to the Greenbelt Plan, would be part of protected and connected clean water system. 

Want to see your Greenbelt grow? Follow our series and use #GrowOurGB on social media to join the movement!

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Exciting news Niagarans!

More than 100 community and environmental groups are calling for Niagara’s Lake Gibson and Twelve Mile Creek to be added to Greenbelt Protection. 

It’s all part of a recently released plan that calls for a 1.5 million acre Greenbelt expansion into Ontario's sensitive water systems. (Find out more about the proposal here).  

In Niagara, we’re lucky to be surrounded by what seems to be a never ending supply of fresh water – but it’s how we take care of it that matters.  

And there are lots of reasons we should make the protection of Lake Gibson and the Twelve Mile Creek a top priority – here are just a few.

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It's all connected. 

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The 12 Mile Creek headwaters are in the town of Fonthill, Ontario at the Fonthill Kame Delta. They flow north to Lake Ontario. This watershed system encompasses Lake Gibson, Lake Moodie, Beaverdams Creek, and the upper and lower 12 Mile Creeks.  Lake Gibson, in Thorold, Ontario is a man-made lake created when the Welland Canal system was constructed. The lake itself is 5km wide by 1km across, and the area encompassed by the Twelve Mile Creek system is approximately 204km2  over central to north Niagara.

Fun Fact: The name Twelve Mile Creek originates from the concept that historically, all waterways in Niagara that flow to Lake Ontario were named by their distance from the great Niagara River. 

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Chances are you've tasted it already.


If you live in St. Catharines, you drink Lake Gibson. If you've been to a restaurant in St.Catharines, then you drank it too.

The city of St. Catharine’s water supply comes from Lake Erie, to the Welland Canal, and then is diverted into Lake Gibson near Allanburg. The Decew Water Treatment Plant then processes and sends the water through over 600km of city water mains. Care about clean drinking water? If we want to ensure continued supply of fresh, clean water for St. Catharines, it's time to add Lake Gibson to Greenbelt protection!

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It’s a source for groundwater vulnerability.


What this means, summed up, is that the Twelve Mile Creek Watershed is already at risk.  Most of the watershed is shallow and flows along bedrock that is porous and leads directly to Niagara’s groundwater system. This allows surface contaminants easy access to our groundwater.  The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has been actively working with groups like Ducks Unlimited, the Niagara Restoration Council and Land Care Niagara on Farm Best Management Practices to reduce pollutants as well as forest, stream and wetland habitat enhancements and regeneration projects, using over 26,000 native trees, shrubs and wildflowers.

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It’s home to many unique and at risk species.


Lake Gibson and the Twelve Mile Creek provide an amazing habitat.  Up to fifty nine species of fish have been identified in the area, and because the Twelve Mile Creek is the only cold water stream in the area it supports Niagara’s only self-sustaining Brook Trout population.  At-risk plants like the Swamp Rose Mallow, Butternut and Eastern Dogwood thrive here.  You might catch sight of the rare Grey Fox or the incredibly unique looking Star-Nosed Mole as you hike the shoreline. For birders, the lake and surrounding parks are a goldmine.  Osprey have been known to nest in the area, and the Peregrine Falcon is a frequent visitor. Eastern Bluebirds and Belted Kingfishers can often be seen in the winter months. 

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It connects to the Fonthill Kame Delta. 


You may not know it, but the “hill” in Fonthill is actually doing a lot of work.  The Fonthill Kame is a Moraine, a natural water filtration system, at the highest point in Niagara.  Rainwater in this area is filtered through the layers of sand and gravel left thousands of years ago when glaciers passed through the area.  These layers act like a filter for impurities, and produce fresh clean water that flows through the Twelve Mile Creek System.

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Laura Secord walked here – you can too!


The entire area surrounding Lake Gibson is packed with historical significance, as it was the grounds of the Battle of Beaverdams.

When Laura Secord made her historic walk from Queenston (Niagara on the Lake) to warn the British of impending attack, it was to Decew House, alongside Lake Gibson.  The stone walls of the house still stand and the site has become a heritage park that is well worth the visit. Were it not for Laura’s heroic walk, the British and Six Nations forces would have been caught off guard by invading Americans. The Battle of Beaverdams was a turning point in the war of 1812, and helped shaped Canada’s future and geography.  

Visit the house, or walk the Laura Secord Legacy Trail (all 32 km of it!) to personally recreate this historic trip.

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It's home to an operating flour mill built in the 1870s.

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Located at Decew Falls is Niagara’s only water powered gristmill in operation, the Morningstar Mill.  In the summer months, when the water level is high enough, the mill produces stone ground flour, bran and corn meal, just as it did in 1872.  Today, the Friends of the Morningstar Mill host several open houses throughout the summer, where you can see the mill in action and visit the accompanying blacksmith shop to see smithies hard at work. You can purchase flour ground at the mill, where they use the entire kernel of wheat, including the wheat germ, which is often lost in modern processing.

 For a list of their open houses and events, click here.  

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It’s open to you!

I could go on and on about the many wonders of this nest of biodiversity – that there are three – count em – three stunning waterfalls, huge gorges, Carolinian forests and over seventy five kilometers of hiking trails as well as a lakeside boardwalk for exploration.

The best way to appreciate why it is so important to protect this stunning area is to get out and explore it yourself.  Have fun!

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JACKIE CORNWALL
--Communications Assistant, Niagara Region

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