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September 25, 2009
For immediate release

Rackham's Pond Project Announced at Wheatley River Festival

Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour

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Hon. Carolyn Bertram, Minister of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour and Hon. Richard Brown, Minister of Environment, Energy and Forestry recently announced government’s support for the restoration of Rackham’s Pond next to Wheatley River Community Hall.

Announced during the Wheatley River Improvement Group (WRIG)’s annual Day on Our River Festival, the project will feature an interpretive nature trail as part of the community’s project to restore Rackham’s Pond as a recreational and natural resource for the enjoyment of both residents and visitors.

“The Rackham Pond Trail will provide walking and hiking opportunities for the community, as well as a place where residents and visitors can learn more about the environment and history of the Wheatley River watershed,” said Minister Bertram. “It’s an excellent example of community initiative and we are delighted to work with the community to help make it happen.”

In 2007, WRIG consulted widely with the community and developed a Watershed Stewardship Plan to guide its work, with a focus on critical areas and issues within the watershed. From this Stewardship Plan came the idea of re-establishing the community pond. “Rackham’s Pond” was created in 1892 by John White who built a dam to provide power to operate a grist mill to thrash wheat or grains into flour. Similar millponds existed in many Island communities at one time – the services provided by the mills were an important part of the rural economy. Recreational activities that developed at those ponds, such as canoeing, fishing, swimming and skating, added to the social life and well-being of the community. For approximately 80 years, Rackham’s Pond served the community, until in 1978 the dam was breached and the water level dropped. As has happened in many other places in PEI, years of excessive sedimentation caused the pond to disappear.

As this sedimentation is dredged to build up the perimeter trail, the new deeper pond will provide better habitat for fish of all species. The new marshland will act as a nitrate sponge, since the marsh plants utilize nitrates in their growth. It is hoped that this will produce lower nitrate levels below the pond and, as a result, reduce the severity of anoxic events and algae blooms in Wheatley River. As well, persistent erosion of the stream bank at the current pond exit will be almost eliminated through reinforcement with rock and grading.

“We think the environmental benefits are significant,” said Minister Brown, “and well worth the support of our department. The Island’s community watershed groups do excellent work in protecting our streams and estuaries. This is a perfect example of that work and we are pleased to support it.”

Media Contact: Autumn Tremere
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