BELGRAVE – “This is a legacy that will carry on for generations,” said Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson during a celebration at the Scott Farm on Nature Centre Road just outside of Belgrave.
“I can just see Murray smiling in the background with his hat perched on his head in that special way he wore it,” Thompson said, acknowledging the man who started it all with a simple request to Maitland Conservation.
Murray Scott, who was the property owner when the project began, passed away on April 25, 2017.
Family, friends, neighbours, and several local dignitaries stopped by the farm on July 14 to attend a celebration and guided tour of the completed project, where they were honoured for their cooperation and assistance for their support.
“I very much appreciate how the neighbours are here participating wholeheartedly, and you deserve recognition as well as in the support that you’ve shown for this municipal drain,” said Thompson.
Others in attendance at the celebration were North Huron councillor Anita Van Hittersum, who sits on the Maitland Conservation (MC) board of directors, MC president Matt Duncan, members of the RJ Burnside team who assisted with the engineering, and retired MC stewardship services coordinator Geoff King.
The Scott Municipal Drain Demonstration Project began in 2005 after Murray Scott joined forces with MC and many other partners to showcase methods of removing nitrates and silt from runoff before entering the stream.
King reminisced about the first time he came over to the farm.
“We came down here, just in behind the barn, and Murray was showing me this top section of drain where they had to keep doing maintenance on it over the years, ongoing issues with sediment building up… we kind of changed the perspective of OK, it’s your sediment coming in, you know, maybe we need to look at the cause of it, not the symptom.”
King went on to speak about how the discussion between himself and Scott turned to the issue of climate change and how they pushed for more resiliency on the landscape to deal with that.
The land in question includes a wide variety of soils and contains fresh-water springs and wetlands, which King has gone on record as saying are home to “the best trout and salmon watercourses in the Maitland Valley watercourses.”
“The Scott Municipal Drain once contained a healthy trout population,” a 2018 report to North Huron council said. “Since 2005 the project has… constructed wetlands, grassed waterways, erosion control berms, nitrate filters, wind breaks, watercourse buffering, diversion berms and natural channel design. The project has proven to be successful in reducing runoff and improving water quality and maintaining base flow, as well as a healthy population of trout have now returned.”
The 2018 report to North Huron council was to provide information about an expansion to the project that would “undertake additional channel improvements to the drain as well as incorporating past rural stormwater management projects into the report of the municipal drain.”
The report acknowledged the dramatic improvement to the upstream portion that “now sustains brook trout reproduction” and provides “critical spawning for salmonids that enter the Maitland River from Lake Huron.”
The fisheries’ improvement included bank stabilization, juvenile cover, spawning habitat, and improved water quality.
“The Scott Municipal Drain Demonstration Project is an innovative example of how drainage systems can be designed to protect and improve the natural environment,” a media advisory from MC said. “Recently a new section of channel was restored and many previously constructed natural features were incorporated into the drainage report.”
A March 2021 engineering report by RJ Burnside said, “There are many environmental features that have been constructed in and around the Scott Municipal Drain… to improve the water quality characteristics of the watershed area, provide water storage and runoff attenuation, and improve the aquatic characteristics of the Scott Municipal Drain to encourage fish species to utilize the drain as they once did.”
The celebration finished with a guided tour through the project, serenaded by hundreds of bullfrogs living in the farm’s wetland areas.
The Scott Municipal Drain Demonstration Project is sure to be a guiding force in the future of municipal drains systems; utilizing the existing landscape and welcoming natural habitat back to the area has created a blueprint that other conservation authorities and municipalities can use for decades to come.
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times