Restoring a Greenbelt Swamp, 2 decades in the making
Written by Nigel Finney and Alex Meeker, restoration ecologists with Conservation Halton. Find out how a new wetland was restored by Conservation Halton.
March 30th, 2023
Restoring a wetland takes time, dedication, and leadership.
More than 20 years ago, Conservation Halton staff proposed the idea of restoring a wetland in the Grindstone Creek watershed located in a municipal park within the City of Hamilton. At the time, the project wasn’t aligned for success. Fast forward two decades, we had strategic alignment, and the seeds of opportunity were ready to be sown.
As the City of Hamilton grew, investment in recreational parks were made at larger parks outside of floodplain areas. This left the Flamborough Centre Park with outdated infrastructure, like abandoned ball diamonds, and a seasonally high-water table that made the land unusable for recreation. (Locals recalled children knee-deep water in the outfield during attempted baseball games!).
The park was perfect for the restoration of a deciduous swamp ecosystem, which was present in the area prior to the land being cleared. The opportunity to restore a swamp from scratch is rare. Most restored wetlands are marshes and the conditions to bring a swamp back to the landscape are uncommon, so with support from the city, Conservation Halton staff jumped at the chance. With overwhelming community support from Flamborough residents, City of Hamilton parks staff and external funders, the project was ready for to be launched.
By the end of 2023, 3.3 hectares of wetland will be restored to create a young deciduous swamp ecosystem. This includes the following restoration outcomes:
- Restoring a unique wetland (area equivalent of a 1200-car parking lot)
- 10,000+ native wetland plants, trees and shrubs planted
- 3,200 herbaceous plants planted
- 42 kilograms of native seed mix scattered
- 400+ woody debris features added
- 900 volunteer engagement hours
- 150 hours managing invasive species
One of the main priorities for this wetland restoration project is to increase flood storage and groundwater recharge, therefore increasing climate resilience in the area. To achieve this goal, more than 2,000 cubic metres of soil will have been removed from site. Native plantings will further reduce flooding through the process of evapotranspiration (e.g. the release of water vapour by plants into the atmosphere).
Biochar, which is a charcoal-like substance that locks carbon into the soil without decomposing, is added to the wetland soil to increase habitat for beneficial microbes that will improve water quality. Large and small woody debris, such as rootwads, logs, sticks and branches, are placed throughout the area to provide organic matter and wildlife habitat. The Flamborough wetland restoration project diverted hundreds of hazard trees that had been removed from other areas within the watershed. Instead of these trees being chipped or burned, this woody material was used as habitat features, which will store nutrients and hold moisture. In addition to increasing climate resilience, these features will provide habitat for birds of prey, wood ducks, amphibians, and bats.
In 2022, a report on the benefits of natural assets in the Grindstone Creek watershed found that each hectare of deciduous swamp provided an average of $2 million dollars’ worth of ecosystem services every year in the form of stormwater management, erosion control, carbon sequestration, habitat services, atmospheric regulation and recreation opportunities. This means that in the future, the restoration project at Flamborough Centre Park will produce $6.5 million dollars’ worth of ecosystem services every year.
“I am very pleased that with the restoration work completed, not only do residents have access to much needed public greenspace, but they have better protection against flooding in the area. This will benefit residents and families for years to come.” said former Councilor, Judi Partridge, Ward 15 Flamborough., who supported the launch of the project during her time on Hamilton Council.
Studies suggest that coverage of wetlands in the Ontario Golden Horseshoe has been reduced by 85%, however, the efforts being made by Conservation Halton and its partners help to restore these critical ecosystems, one project at a time.
“The restoration works at Flamborough Centre Park are an excellent example of a project that provides the community with better access to nature, while leveraging natural assets to help us strengthen climate resiliency,” said Hassaan Basit, President and CEO, Conservation Halton
Moving forward, Conservation Halton will be monitoring the new wetland to inform decisions on adaptive management, invasive species management and ensuring the wetland is set up for success as it continues to mature.
With so many partners involved in the initiative, this project would not have been possible without the support and dedication from the City of Hamilton. Municipalities who promote change and valuation of natural assets are part of the solution for a more sustainable future.
For more information visit here.
This project has received funding support from the City of Hamilton, Government of Ontario, The Greenbelt Foundation, Natural Resources Canada (2 Billion Trees), Ducks Unlimited Canada, and Wildlife Preservation Canada. Such support does not indicate endorsement by the Government of Ontario of the contents of this material.