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Toxic mess dumped at nature reserve

Township of Severn fire fighters clean up an oil spill with special matting. The mess had been dumped into the ditch on Green River Drive in Washago beside the Alexander Hope Smith Nature Reserve.

Last week a disgusting and disturbing discovery was made along Green River Drive in Washago, on the edge of the Alexander Hope Smith Nature Reserve.  Someone had thoughtlessly dumped about five large plastic containers, one of them containing motor oil into the ditch beside the road.

The oil, about 10 gallons or so, had spilled into the water-filled ditch which flows into a wetland which in turn flows into the Green River.

Although the flow was away from the Nature Reserve, we know that several Species at Risk reptiles have been found in the area and the spill could have posed a threat to these animals.

We contacted the Township of Severn By Municipal Law Enforcement Officer, Rob Martel who got the wheels in motion to address the problem.

Rob contacted Eric Dowell, Director of Fire & Emergency Services and Fire Chief who immediately assessed the situation and arranged a prompt clean-up.  Firefighters arrived and quickly mopped up the spill with special matting.  Once they were done, the remaining oil-soaked soil was removed by a company specializing in environmental clean-up.

The Couchiching Conservancy is grateful to the Township of Severn for their prompt attention to the situation.

Unfortunately we do not know who is responsible for leaving the mess behind although we are speaking with residents in the area to find out if anyone noticed suspicious activity.

About the Alexander Hope Smith Nature Reserve

The waterways associated with the village of Washago have seen development pressure over the past several decades.  However, a relatively large block of natural habitats is still intact in the area bounded by Riverdale Drive, between the Green River and Cooper’s Falls Road.

A major part of this area is protected through the efforts of the Couchiching Conservancy.  Known as The Alexander Hope Smith Nature Reserve, this wild area is over 220 acres in size.  It was acquired in two phases.

In August of 2007, Ms.Hope Smith, now a resident of Toronto, donated the southern property of 113 acres to The Couchiching Conservancy.  This property is now known as the Alexander Hope Smith Nature Reserve, in memory of her grandfather who was a prominent citizen in the Washago area.

In 2008, the Conservancy acquired the 110-acre northern property within this natural area through a partial donation and partial purchase agreement with Mr. Stan Hope-Smith.  Title to this northern section is held by the Ontario Heritage Trust however stewardship of both portions are overseen by the Couchiching Conservancy.

The nature reserve is a good example of the exceptional biodiversity found within The Land Between corridor, with a mosaic of rich riparian habitats along Boyd’s Creek, rock barrens with scattered pine and oak, small ponds, a diversity of treed, shrub, and open marsh wetlands, and mixed pine and hardwood forests and abandoned fields on areas of deeper soil.

The Alexander Hope Smith Nature Reserve contains habitat suitable for a high diversity of species, including significant species such as five-lined skink, (Ontario’s only lizard), Blanding’s turtles, eastern hognose snakes, milk snakes, common nighthawks, and golden-winged warblers.

Through the centre of the nature reserve runs a shallow waterway known as Boyd’s Creek.  At certain times of the year, the creek is navigable by canoe or kayaks (access via the Green River) and provides an excellent opportunity to view wildlife such as herons and turtles.

The southern section of the property features a recreational trail perfect for hiking in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter.  Access to this trail is at the end of Riverdale Drive.