Story – Josh White

“Keep it from being loved to death”

begins the explanatory video for the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation. The organization aims to preserve and enhance the Blue Mountain Watershed Ecosystem that has become dominated with tourist development. And, with the beauty and countless activities offered in the area, more people from all over Ontario are looking to relocate here full-time. The demand for new living developments and attractions has had an impact on the local ecosystem of watersheds that the Watershed Trust is seek- ing to protect. Although the organization is doing what they can to achieve these goals, it is vitally important to focus public awareness on the issues at hand and what can be done to help.

The Watershed Trust Foundation was formed following a 1993 Blue Mountain Watershed conference held to bring public awareness and develop partnerships to maintain the region’s watersheds. This conference led to landowner meetings that eventually became the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust—Ontario’s first. Since its official formation in 1994, it has grown to over 150 members, has planted over 260,000 trees between 1995 and 2006, held fundraisers and has undergone many water improvement projects.

While they have made progress over the years, they are still attempting to further raise public awareness to aid in their current projects. With help from the public, through sup- port or volunteering, the Blue Mountain Watershed trust can continue to protect and maintain the local watershed systems.

But what does it mean to protect and maintain the watershed system? The Watershed Trust outlines what efforts are being made under their protection; managing and enhancing surface and groundwater quality and quantity in significant areas such as the wetlands and woodlands. They also aim to revive areas with fish and other wildlife to keep the ecosystem functioning at its fullest potential. A Land Stewardship Program that promotes education and awareness to landowners in an attempt to create a balance between the needs of the environment and the needs of those living there has been implemented. The program looks to gain participation from both rural and urban communities while providing efficient and practical solutions to current environmental concerns. These goals and programs have created progress in maintaining our local watersheds.

In the area, there are seven watersheds that are being cared for by the Trust: the Beaver River, Indian Brook, Black Ash Creek, Pretty River, Batteaux Creek, Townline Creek and Silver Creek. There are varying issues and rea- sons why each needs to be preserved. The Beaver River for example, houses diverse land used for hiking, fishing and various winter sports. It also supports our area’s farm lands and well-known orchards. Flowing into Georgian Bay, the Beaver River contributes as well to the drinking water of Collingwood and the Blue Mountains. Therefore, its quality is critical not only for the ecosystem but also for the well- being of the residents.

The Watershed Trust was successful in opposing the development of quarries at the headwaters of the Beaver River that could potentially contaminate the water flowing into Southern Georgian Bay. *

The Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation is a grassroots, all-volunteer organization supported by donations and fundraising.

quote-watershedAnother of the current focuses of the Watershed Trust is Silver Creek. Being nearly as healthy as it was 1000 years ago, it is rare in its resilience to the area developments. Out of a need to maintain the condition of Silver Creek, the Silver Creek Stewardship Initiative was developed to bring awareness and educate landowners about the best ways they can do their part. Currently, the biggest way to improve this watershed is streamside planting. Instead of mowing right up to the creek, it is encouraged that vegetation be left along-side the water so as to combat erosion. It is also advised that fertilizer use or re- moving creek water be avoided to keep Silver Creek healthy.

The other watersheds have experienced, or are threatened with, commercial and residential development that affects the land, flora and fauna that defines the ecosystem. Some are in need of protection and others require enhancement, but in either case it is necessary that they be sufficiently cared for. Although they vary in size, all the watersheds are equally important in maintaining the land and activities that attract visitors and inhabitants to the region.

The Blue Mountain Watershed Trust is partnered with other associations including environmental education programs, land conservation groups, and local, provincial, and national environmental advocacy groups which include Stop the Drop, Elephant Thoughts and Environment Network of Collingwood.

{We need the natural world: help us protect it.

The Watershed Trust is also involved in many local citizen groups that work to protect all aspects of our wild local areas. Through the partnerships, various events have been held to raise aware- ness and funds to help the organizations. Last year Collingwood held viewings for the ‘Be the Change’ film series which showed 6 films throughout the year as well as hosting live music and supporting local businesses. On October 1st, the Foundation hosted ‘See the Salmon Run’ alongside Elephant Thoughts—the first annual event —to raise awareness about the migration of Rainbow Trout and Chinook Salmon that occurs in Silver Creek. These events and partnerships are incredibly helpful in bringing the public to the issues and showing them directly how they can help.

“The biggest impact can be made through education” says Rebecca Ferguson, leader of the Silver Creek Stewardship Initiative. To get involved in {the organization, it is important to educate and raise aware- ness. There are many ways to be a part of this valuable organization through various volunteer positions. As our area develops it becomes increasingly important to maintain and enhance the natural state and health of our local watersheds—it is our duty to keep them from being loved to death. For more information on the Watershed Trust, or to donate, visit |E|