GRCA has no plans to increase recreation opportunities at Puslinch Lake

It seems clear from a recent presentation to Puslinch councillors that the Grand River Conservation Authority intends to pursue its master plan goal of naturalization of lands at Puslinch Lake, rather than increased recreational opportunities.

On June 3 Dave Bennett and Crystal Allan of the GRCA spoke to council on its master plan as it affected Puslinch Lake properties.

Puslinch CAO Karen Landry explained the presentation was the result of requests made by township councillors regarding potential recreational opportunities for Puslinch Lake.

Landry said council was provided an overview of what lands were owned by the conservation authority. She noted the master plan has not changed in its objective to maintain the naturalization of the area.

The idea is to allow low impact recreation, but there are no plans to accommodate further activities because much of the land owned around Puslinch Lake shoreline is considered wetland or floodplain.

Bennett’s presentation  provided information regarding the 1977 Puslinch Lake Management Plan and indicated that generally the 1977 management objectives are still valid today.

He spoke about the natural heritage features of the lake, recent challenges and the dredging operations that have been undertaken by the Puslinch Lake Conservation Association.

He also advised that the GRCA has no plans to develop a public access to the lake via the GRCA property, and he explained the challenges if a future public access were to be considered.

Puslinch Lake is the largest kettle lake in North America at approximately 385 acres, and it has an average depth of five feet, though portions have an 18-foot depth.

In 1966 a recommendation was made to purchase three properties on the west side of Puslinch Lake to:

– conserve the area’s natural resources;

– limit private development around the lake, and

– provide public recreation.

The GRCA subsequently acquired approximately 300 acres comprised of upland forest, wetland and lands currently being used to stockpile materials dredged from the lake.

Part of the  Puslinch Lake Management Plan completed in 1977 included the intent to manage the area’s timber and wildlife resources and maintain the conservation area as a buffer zone of low impact recreation to offset the increased intensity of use around the lake.

That plan stated no new recreational development should occur and that low impact recreation could occur on existing roads and logging trails.

For the GRCA, part of the challenge is that Puslinch Lake is a closed groundwater system and only outlets via surface flows during high water periods. Issues include sediment buildup within the lake and excessive aquatic vegetation growth resulting from nutrient loading (Eurasian milfoil), and  eutrophic conditions which can lead to fish kills.

The report notes the Puslinch Lake Conservation Association is conducting dredging operations to remove silt build-up and non-native plants.

Future public access?

The GRCA has no plans to develop a public access to the lake from GRCA property as most of the shoreline is constrained by wetland or floodplain and there is a risk of environmental harm resulting from increased public use and inappropriate activities.