What to do with the dam that controls the Hillsburgh mill pond has been debated in Erin for years.
Mayor Allan Alls once said he wanted to “drain the damn thing,” but has since changed his mind. Wellington County officials have stated multiple times that draining the pond means no new library.
The town will soon have to make a decision: spend $5.1 million to keep the pond or spend $3.5 million to decommission it.
The thing is, the town cannot decommission the dam without the consent of its owners, the county. The town is truly stuck between a rock and a hard place on this issue, but it should invest in the economic opportunity.
The library will become a hub, especially in the next 10 to 15 years when subdivisions start to develop. The pond, which will be accessible to the public, can become a complimentary centrepiece for the town and a draw for residents/tourists.
The pond and surrounding wetlands have existed for over 160 years. They have become a natural habitat for frogs, birds, migratory and non-migratory birds, turtles, and many mammal species (including species-at-risk).
The town should spend the money to fix the bridge and dam and retain the pond. However, the county should pony up to help cover the cost of the pond it wants so badly.
Dam rehabilitation does not a natural pond make.
Though the pond at the proposed site of the new Wellington County library in Hillsburgh has been in existence for more than 150 years, it is by no means natural.
On a planet that’s 4.5 billion years old, a century and a half is a drop in the proverbial bucket to influence nature. Yes, there are ecosystems that could no doubt be destroyed if the Station Street dam is decommissioned and the watercourse becomes just a river once more.
But that’s the beauty of water. If we let it flow in a natural way it can create amazing things – just look at the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
In a world where “climate change,” “global warming,” and “environmentally friendly” are all hot button buzz words, the Town of Erin should be looking at a way to let nature be, while still keeping its residents’ safety in mind.
The argument would be different if the Station Street dam was created to help control the river’s water flow or prevent flooding but in all likelihood the pond was created to serve a 19th century mill that has long since been closed.
It has been recommended to the town that the Station Street bridge and dam should be reconstructed and rehabilitated, but it may be in the town’s best interest to just get rid of the dam altogether.