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City unveils long-awaited plan to restore frog pond

Area will be renamed the 'Carlson Frog Pond Conservation Area' in honour of Carla Carlson, who fought for years to save the local pond

After months of anger and unanswered questions, the city has finally unveiled its restoration plan for the bulldozed frog pond.

While it's still not exactly clear why the frog pond was bulldozed in the first place, environmental group ‘Friends of the Richmond Street Forest’ is cautiously optimistic that the pond will now be returned to its former glory.

As first reported by ThoroldToday in February, a developer, DG Group, sent in heavy machinery—with the city’s permission—and decimated the protected frog pond on the corner of Decew Road and Richmond Street.

After a city council presentation on March 8 by the ‘Friends’ group, councillors unanimously vowed to hire a wetland ecologist to reinstate the frog pond.

At Tuesday's city council meeting, a restoration plan was finally presented. The plan is a collaboration between the city, DG Group, the ‘Friends’ group, and the wetland ecologist hired by the city.

As detailed in the plan, a wide variety of trees and plants will be planted in the area; a terrestrial crossing will also be constructed underneath Decew Road.

The first of its kind in Niagara, the crossing will allow smaller animals like frogs, snakes and turtles to safely cross into Lake Gibson.

DG Group will still build a storm water management pond next to the frog pond, but a 10-meter buffer zone with a stone wall will be installed between the two ponds to make sure the frog pond is protected.

'Friends' group member Rachael Haynes was on hand at Tuesday night’s city council meeting to give a presentation. It it, she expressed concerns about DG Group recommencing construction on the site.

The city’s manager of engineering, Sean Dunsmore, explained that the city is moving forward very carefully.

“Our ecologist will be on site during the construction and [will] help direct the construction,” said Dunsmore. “The 10-meter buffer will be protected both by DG Group and our ecologist. They will be making sure we take every step necessary to protect that buffer.”

While the ‘Friends’ group is hopeful about the restoration proposal, they would have preferred DG Group to install a dry storm pond instead of a wet one. The group says that with a wet storm pond there is a risk of contamination for flora and fauna, due to residential run-off that can include salt, petrol and oils.

DG Group will be in charge of reinstating the frog pond, in an effort to mitigate the damage they have done.

"The intent is for them to do the construction so they'll get that taken care of," Dunsmore told councillors. "After that, making up signs and things like that are things we haven't negotiated with them yet."

To honour Carla Carlson, who founded the ‘Friends’ group and who has worked tirelessly to save the frogs, the area will be renamed the Carlson Frog Pond Conservation Area.

“The plans that are being presented tonight we have approved with some optimism,” said Haynes, at the end of her presentation. “There is always the risk that this design won’t work because what we’re attempting to do essentially is play Mother Nature. Ideally, the bulldozing would have never happened in the first place and we would have just let nature do what it does best.”

An internal review of the environmental permitting process at City Hall and how the frog pond was bulldozed in the first place is still forthcoming.