PEI

Life returns to rehabilitated ice pond in Summerside

The historic ice pond in Summerside, P.E.I., is teeming with life once again thanks to the rehabilitation efforts of the Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association.

Major reconstruction work was completed in 2019 and wildlife is returning to the area

Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association crew, from left: Chad Quigley, Robin Burton, David Allan, Jennifer Woods, Josh Langille, Bronté Handrahan and Tracy Brown. They were working Wednesday on the pond rehabilitation efforts. (John Robertson/CBC)

The stillness of the pond is broken by the cries of the four osprey circling overhead, followed quickly by the excitement of the Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association (BBEMA) crew as they see the wildlife responding to the rehabilitation of the Heritage Ice Pond in Summerside, P.E.I.

"They were hunting in our pond here," said Jennifer Woods, environmental projects co-ordinator with BBEMA.

"It is really great to see the different wildlife coming in and enjoying our pond. That shows that what we are doing out here is working." 

The crew spent part of Wednesday morning putting in more pollinator plants, testing the water and picking up garbage from the pond area.

Jennifer Woods, environmental projects co-ordinator with BBEMA, says they were doing checkups on the health and temperatures of the water. (John Robertson/CBC)

The pond, located off South Drive on Summerside's west side, looks very different from a few years ago, before BBEMA got involved.

In 2016, BBEMA received a grant worth close to $300,000 from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to restore fish habitat and fish migration.

The BBEMA crew were doing field work at the historic ice pond on Wednesday. (John Robertson/CBC)

The money went toward restoring and rebuilding parts of the pond, including a new fish ladder to help species like brook trout spawn.

"When we first actually started talking about it, people first of all were asking us where the pond was, because to them, this just looked like a marsh," said Tracy Brown, executive director with BBEMA.

"The water was at the most maybe two-and-a-half feet deep in the centre, so it had had years of siltation."

BBEMA crew member Josh Langille wades out and uses testing equipment on the pond water. (John Robertson/CBC)

History of the pond

The pond was a source of ice to Summerside residents before the time of refrigerators, around the 1890s.

"You would have what was called an ice box. So basically once a week the gentleman would come by and they would drop a block of ice in your ice box," said Brown.

"This is where they would cut all the ice." 

It was also a popular spot for fishing and swimming in the summer, and hockey and skating in the winter until the late 1950s.

Tracy Brown, executive director with Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association, says the project has been very special for her, 'From basically a two-and-a-half foot hole of muck and weeds to 12 feet of prime fish habitat.' (John Robertson/CBC)

Restoration

The pond was dug out to an average depth of four metres and the area was cleared up of all the years of silt and garbage.

The new fish ladder was built to restore the pond to a habitable place for more aquatic species.

The concrete fish ladder will allow fish species to travel upstream to spawn and then return back through it to the estuary. (John Robertson/CBC)

That major work was completed in the spring of 2019. The 1.75 acre land was donated to BBEMA, a non-profit organization, by Amalgamated Dairies Limited, which has other property adjacent to the pond. 

The group had the pond stocked with 1,000 brook trout from Abegweit Biodiversity Enhancement Hatchery in 2019.

"Because this is historically a brook trout pond, we are trying to maintain it with that native species," Brown said.

Freshwater fishing in Summerside

Some people have already been fishing this year, including one resident who landed one on Canada Day.

"They caught, I think it was an eight-inch brook trout," Brown said. "Took it home and put it in a pan anyway. Apparently it was a good brook trout." 

The crew from Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association work at the pond in Summerside, P.E.I. (John Robertson/CBC)

The organization plans to release another 1,000 brook trout this fall, and is studying the water quality and temperatures to ensure optimal timing.

Historic pond's future

BBEMA plans to continue enhancing the area for both wildlife and the people who enjoy the natural space. They have been planting more gardens to attract creatures, like monarch butterflies.

The major rehabilitation project was completed in 2019, but now BBEMA says it is working to enhance the area for humans and wildlife alike. (John Robertson/CBC)

The organization is aiming to put a walking trail around the park, as well as an accessible fishing dock so anyone can get out and experience the pond.

"We are trying to provide an area for wildlife to come and enjoy it, and then also an area where people can come and enjoy that as well," said Woods.

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About the Author

John Robertson

Video journalist

John Robertson is a multi-platform journalist based out of Charlottetown. He has been with CBC News for more than a decade, with stints in Nunavut, Edmonton and Prince Edward Island. John.Robertson@cbc.ca Twitter @CBCJRobertson Instagram @johnrobertsoncbc

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