By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It’s a good news versus bad news situation at Oshawa’s Second Marsh as initiatives are underway to improve the wetland’s overall health, while portions of trails will continue to be closed to the public.
According to a recently released city report, the Bob Mills Trail, which runs through the northern portion of the marsh, will now be closed in its entirety due to the deteriorating nature of many trees near the path. Following an investigation last year, it was found that a majority of the trees in the marsh are “heavily infested” with Emerald Ash Borer. Other sections of the trail have also been closed in previous years, including much of the eastern section due to the condition of the boardwalk, and due to spring flooding, a western portion leading to the Waterfront Trail was closed in 2010.
With the city liable for any potential injuries on the trail, the trail will be closed until a solution can be found. However, according to Brian Brasier, Friends of Second Marsh’s executive director, there is no easy solution.
“There’s a continuum of possibilities,” he says, noting that several wildlife mitigation measures and nature features need to be taken into account when considering removing or cutting down any trees in the marsh.
“It’s not a straightforward, simple situation at all,” he says.
“There’s lots and lots of factors to take into account, which course of action your decide to take. It takes quite a lot of planning.”
Options include a “passive approach,” which would allow nature to take its course and allow the threat of falling trees to mitigate itself over the next three to seven years. Alternatively, the city has the option to go in and remove the trees, an “accelerated approach” that could help solve the problem in two to three years.
Both of these options require mitigation plans for invasive species and replanting, as well as a complete review of the trail network. The issue is slightly exacerbated by the city’s lack of up-to-date info on the marsh itself.
“Many of the details studies pertaining to Second Marsh are now 20 years old and do not take into consideration the changes on the site and its watershed over the last 20 years,” the report reads.
The closure will come with a price tag of approximately $10,000 for increased signage and fencing to keep people away from the hazardous areas. A report with a recommended course of action is expected to make its way to city hall in the fall.
On the upside, the marsh is once again undergoing a drawdown that will help with vegetation growth and improve the overall health of the wetland.
“It’s looking good so far,” Brasier says. “We’re hoping that the weather conditions remain similar to this and, if they do, I think this should be a good success.”
Last summer, the drawdown was postponed midway through the process when heavy summer rainfalls hampered efforts.
A partnership between the city, the Friends of Second Marsh and Ducks Unlimited, the drawdown gradually pulls water from the marsh using an onsite pump and allows the marsh floor to be exposed to oxygen to assist in further plant growth.
“That causes a number of chemical changes in the soil that stimulate growth and stimulates seed germination and allows the marsh to revegetate,” Brasier explains.