A Charlottetown watershed group is continuing its work to restore and protect the health of a well-known pond and waterway — by helping fish populations to thrive.
The Wright's Creek Watershed Environment Committee has been working for years to restore Andrews Pond in East Royalty with a focus on improving water quality. Now the group aims to help fish that live there flourish.
They recently constructed a fishway, or a graded waterway that fish — like brook trout — can use to swim upstream to spawn. It stretches 150 feet from Andrews Pond, north to Barbours Pond.
"All the fish that live in the pond through the year, they can move up and they can spawn in the upper parts of the estuary where they spawn in the springs and different places. It gives fish access to their spawning habitat," said Darren Riggs, co-chair of the committee.
He said the fishway will increase access to the spawning location for far more fish and hopefully help the population in the area grow.
According to John Andrew, who has been working with the watershed group to improve the area for years, fish that live in Andrews Pond and the surrounding waterway are looking for areas with clear, cool spring water and a rocky bottom to spawn.
He said this fishway will give them access to that environment.
The watershed group also installed a down draw structure in the pond, which can be used to control water levels. That will give the group access to a sediment trap that was installed years ago, which collects silt and debris and keeps it from travelling downstream and building up in the waterway.
"This is now actually a working pond, meaning that we can actively use it as a sediment trap, clean it out, we have an overflow structure so it doesn't damage the fishway," Riggs said.
"We've sort of tied it together, connected the dots with the rest of the system."
Funding from the city
The fishway project was funded by a $75,000 grant from the City of Charlottetown. This spring, the city also spent $50,000 to dredge Andrews Pond, removing two metres of silt and debris from the bottom to improve the health of the ecosystem.
"The pond's in such good shape and it's so relaxing to go on the trails and go through and see all the wildlife," said Charlottetown Coun. Terry Bernard.
Bernard, who is also chair of parks and recreation for the city, said the ponds and trails are an asset.
"Hopefully it's an example for other municipalities and governments to look at other watershed groups and help them because the waterways, when they become very healthy, it's great for everybody."
Now, the goal is to keep the ponds clean and encourage more people to come and enjoy the area.
Andrew said the watershed group has also installed more information panels and observation decks around the pond, and work is being done to resurface parts of the trails that surround it.
New pedestrian tunnel
But, the biggest change to the area is a new pedestrian tunnel that runs under St. Peters Road, which now connects the trails surrounding Andrews Pond on the north side of the roadway to trails that border Wrights Creek on the south side.
Watershed committee co-chair Michelle Cottreau said there's also a tunnel people can use by water, to paddle from the north side of the pond to the south. She said until now, there hasn't been a safe way to connect the two sections of trail.
"This tunnel here allows pedestrians to access the entire trail system, which really goes almost all the way up to the airport and down to the Wrights Creek Bridge by the Hillsborough River."
She said there are now about 10 kilometres of trail to explore.
Andrew said it's bringing more people from near and far to explore the natural landscape in the area. His goal is to help them learn about the area — to better appreciate and protect it.
"The number of people using the trails is five times what it was before the tunnel was in," Andrew said.
"There's just all kinds of nature that you can see and appreciate and I think the more people get out and enjoy nature then they're more willing to do things to look after it."
Andrew said work to improve the area is never truly done. Next, the watershed group is looking to add another four kilometres of trails near the sound end of Wrights Creek.