2018 November 6, Presidents Report (AGM)

Please note new AREA address 4-480 Douglas Street, Stratford, ON  N5A 8A8.  Telephone number and e-mail address remain the same.

The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) project on the south shore is virtually complete.  This shore bank reinforcement structure is 90 meters long with aquatic plants installed along the full length to assist water quality improvement, a very desirable goal.  One drawback occurred, while the plants were selected as not being desirable as “duck food”, the ducks nevertheless, have nipped or pulled out plants and so new plants will be necessary in the spring.  Obviously, protective measures against repeated duck vandalism will be implemented.

AREA performed E-coli measurements at the usual locations along Lake Victoria in early October under very poor, but real water conditions after heavy rains  had occurred.  It was observed that the water samples were cloudy with particle solids in suspension in the worst cases.  We knew that the results would indicate high E-coli levels but decided to proceed with laboratory analysis anyways just to find out how bad they were, for public safety awareness.  As usual, the E-coli levels were the worst at the entry of the Avon to Lake Victoria at the old railway trestle bridge, but now at an outstanding 16,500 coliforms/100ml and least at the William Hutt bridge at 720 coliforms/100ml.  The provincial guideline for swimming is 200 coliforms/100ml.  This serves as warning that falling in the water, or allowing yourself to get splashed under these conditions could be hazardous to your health.

The Annual General Meeting will be held at 7:00 pm on Nov 29, 2018 at 480 Douglas Street, Unit 4.  The 2019 executive will be elected and future activities planned.  Thank you for your continued support.


2017 November 30, Presidents Report (AGM)

The prime reason for AREA’s existence is to improve the water quality in the Avon River (Lake Victoria).  Annual E-coli readings over the last 10 years have shown marginal improvement but often with significant variations. For example, the 2016 and 2012 results had definite spikes which can be related to significant weather variations from previous sample days.  Also, we did not have the Canada geese problem before 2008 like we have today.

As a general summary, the water as it enters into Lake Victoria under the old railway trestle bridge has the highest E-coli readings.  The Festival Bridge readings are similar or slightly less than the readings at the William Hutt (Waterloo St) Bridge generally lower, sometimes even less than the Provincial guideline for swimming (200 CFU/100ml), but only occasionally, NEVER consistently.

The “Do not remove the bulrushes or part of” sign has disappeared.  Apparently, someone complained that the wording was not in keeping with correct English grammatical usage.  I hope it gets repaired soon; I would not like to think that it’s removal indicates it is now open season to steal our valuable bulrushes.  New wording is in process to be implemented on a replacement sign.

Let us talk about funding of AREA activities.  As mentioned before, it costs $250 each time we do testing of water samples from the Avon River (includes: lab fees, travel to London, postage).  Therefore, it requires 25 members at $10 annual fee to cover this.  In 2017, without promotion, membership has fallen to 27.  In addition we have costs to maintain a website and stationary costs.  However we are frugal and hand deliver the majority of our letters.  Fortunately some members often contribute an additional donation.  So, had personal reasons not intervened we would have performed another set of readings this fall.  In fact, over the years we built up a surplus and were able to support Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) in their bid for federal funding (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) to build the new wooden pier on the north shore.  This structure enhances the north shore against erosion and provides shade protection for fish.  It also provides a pleasant place to view the river.

Federal funding support often works like this.  The federal government will ask UTRCA to show that they have independent local financial support from other organizations in their bid for environmental and recreational projects.  Accordingly, your AREA Executive and the Rotary Club of Stratford agreed to offer partial financial assistance, and provided the requested $2,000.00 each to support the wooden pier project on the north shore.  As a result, ULTRA were successful in their bid.  I think your money was well spent and put to very good use; so Stratford now has another definite benefit for everyone to enjoy.

UTRCA are presently considering the idea of installing stones onto the bottom of the project marsh site.  Experience has shown that a “stream cobble bottom” encourages invertebrates to move in and aquatic improvement then occurs through nutrient assimilation (E-coli absorption).

We appreciate your continued annual membership support as it provides funding to continue with E-coli monitoring and other projects in coordination with others to improve water quality.


2017 June 29  Avon River Quality Update

We have encouraging news to report.  The recently installed “Please Do Not Feed The Waterfowl” signs on the south shore and east end are very attractive and of high quality.  We thank Stratford City Council and more directly Mr. Quin Malott, Cemetery,Parks & Forestry Manager and his team for getting this done.  The signs seem to be having a positive effect.  Without an official count being made, there definitely appears to be fewer ducks around the lake.  The Canada geese on the other hand are a more difficult problem and are prolific breeders.

We have just completed June 19, 2017 E-coli readings at the usual three bridges and they are considerably better than the last readings on October 31, 2016.  Ontario Provincial Government guidelines have recommended no more than 200 CFU/100ml for safe swimming.  Therefore, despite these latest results, do not assume you can safely swim near the William Hutt Bridge.  E-coli levels are very weather dependent and can deteriorate rapidly!

For your information, the laboratory cost for these latest six analysis results are $193.23 plus travel to/from London at 25 cents/km plus copying, etc; so your membership fee are hard at work.  We intend to perform more test again in the Fall.


2016 November AGM – Presidents Report

Another year has passed in our quest for cleaner river water.  The ducks and the Canada geese are still with us on Lake Victoria in significantly greater numbers than ever.  This is not good news.

As reported last year, the Parks Board developed strategies to deal with the over population of wild waterfowl.  These have been put in place and enacted upon.  A ban to stop feeding the ducks and geese has been approved by city council with an appropriate official bylaw.  There will be an applicable monetary fine to impose on persistent violators.  Some of these violators are known to the Parks Board and consist of a few persons who insist, on the misguided notion of kindness, on taking large bags of corn or other seeds to feed the wild waterfowl.  This is disastrous for the mallard ducks and Canada geese by interrupting their natural migratory instincts.

The installation of signage at the water’s edge to notify the general public regarding the ban on feeding the ducks and geese in accordance with an enforceable city bylaw is now in process.  Due to the application of a monetary fine in the bylaw, further legal approval is required and this is now in process.  Once completed this will allow the signage to be installed.  I anticipate that these signs would be in place sometime in the Spring.  We trust that this future signage and enforcement will prevent feeding abuse and encourage migration; and as a result improve water quality.

The results of recent E-coli readings at 3 bridges crossing Lake Victoria were much higher than last year.  This was partly due to low flow (little rainfall) but also due to the significantly greater numbers of geese and ducks on the lake.  Also to be noted there were no bulrushes planted this year.

We appreciate your annual membership support as it provides funding for our continuous E-coli monitoring, postage and printing operational costs.


2015 November AGM – Presidents Report

The major water pollutant concern this past year has been the proliferation of Canada Geese adding to the already very large duck population.  This large number of waterfowl is out of control.  One Canada Goose produces two pounds of excrement every day which pollutes the river and the sidewalk around the river.  I attended a Parks Board meeting in September where I was invited to talk about e-coli levels AREA had measured over the years.  Our existing transplanted bulrushes at the east end of Lake Victoria are working in absorbing water borne e-coli nutrients.  These plants grow up to six feet tall which proves they are working but it is an uphill battle indeed as the water fowl population upstream is far too high.  At the September Parks Board meeting it was approved to investigate and come up with a more affirmative approach to control geese population and encourage migration.

The major bulrush planting this year by Upper Thames Conservation (UTRCA) occurred July 9th, 2015 and involved the construction of three large rectangular log cribs which were then placed on the existing underwater shoal.  These cribs were then filled with transplanted bulrushes.  This strategy is defined to defeat the fast flowing Spring runoff which have washed away transplanted bulrushes in the past.  We know from past experience that once the plantings are established with their root systems firmly anchored into the river bed then the Spring runoff is not as great a problem.

You will have seen that the recreational fishing pier has been constructed on the North Shore.  This initiative provides shaded aquatic life habitat and physical support to the shoreline.  As reported last year, this is a Fisheries and Oceans project which was supported financially by AREA and the Rotary Club of Stratford.  We have been recently approached by UTRCA and the Rotary Club of Stratford to offer support (not financially) to Rotary’s application to the Guardian Foundation for a similar North Shore crib wall project.  These types of structures are excellent in providing shade and habitat to encourage expansion of aquatic wildlife.

I was invited to reapply to be a member of the Energy and Environment Committee as AREA’s representative again for the next two years so I have done this.  I think it is useful for us to be aware of other group’s environmental activities and correspondingly inform them of ours.

We hope that you will continue to support AREA in the past by renewing your membership and encouraging others to become members.  Thank you for your support.


2014  November AGM – President’s Report

Additional rip-rap stones were installed along the periphery of the east pad (between Festival Bridge & Railway  Bridge) to avoid the effect of spring run-off flooding and washing away any newly installed bulrushes.  UTRCA has installed basking logs on this same large east pad.  This will be an enhancement for aquatic and bird life.  This will also help to slow down the flow speed of the Spring run-off.

AREA and The Rotary Club of Stratford were requested by UTRCA to support them financially in their application for funding from the Departments of Fisheries and Oceans.  UTRCA was successful in securing Project Funding.
The project will be done in two parts.  The first part is the Lake Victoria north shore Recreational Fishing
Enhancement.  The project will provide stability to the immediate shore area and provide proper shade conditions for the fish. The second part is the Bank Erosion Control  which involves the planting of natural vegetation
(bulrushes) on the shoreline.  All this kind of naturalization of the north shore helps to improve the water quality and offsets the need for expensive sterile stonework reinforcement proposed by consultants to the city a few years ago.

As an environmental enhancement group AREA would like an all natural shoreline erosion control design with no sterile rock or concrete edging.  This would not only improve the river environment but also save taxpayer dollars.
We are delighted that the City Parks Department has decided to plant and allow growth of shoreline plants on the south shoreline as well.

We have located a new good source of bulrushes locally for replanting.  Unfortunately, this year has seen very high water levels in the river due to heavy rains making replanting impossible.  Sometime in the future when river levels are lower, we will be able to undertake planting in an 8′ x 8′ log square (that will be constructed by ULTRA) on the east pad.  This will provide further protection to this area, along with the benefits of cleaner water, and enhance aquatic and bird life.

I was recently invited to be a member of the Energy and Environment Committee as AREA’s representative so I have been attending those monthly meetings.  I think it is useful for us to be aware of other environmental activities.

We hope that you will continue to support AREA as in the past by renewing your membership and encouraging others to become members.  Thank you for your support.



2013 November AGM – President’s Report

The highlight of the year was the planting of bulrushes at the western end of the project site close to the shoreline.  This planting extended from the main drain outlet and all along the shore of the Festival Bridge.  AREA volunteers and Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (ULTRA) staff were on hand and we were especially delighted that the staff members of Manestage Hairdressing Salon of George Street were also involved and were a great help.  This event occurred on Monday, July 15 and was reported in the Beacon Herald.

A much less satisfactory event was the loss of almost all of the bulrushes planted last year at the outside edge of the larger east pad.  Unlike the existing plantings of years past, their root systems were just not established well enough to withstand this year’s fast flowing spring run-off.

To avoid a similar loss, the new plantings are up against the shoreline and are also reinforced with coconut fibre coil staked in place.  It has been decided that the best approach for the larger eastern pad is to increase the height of the rip-rap stones to resist the spring thaw run-off and to plant behind this barrier up to the shoreline working outwards from the shoreline.  We are constantly reminded that completing a project of this nature is a slow process.  But eventually it will be complete and I think before this decade is out, all the planting will be done and well established.  Meanwhile, the river is slowly getting cleaner so that is encouraging.

The next step will be to have the rip-rap stones added while the ground is hard.  In this way we will be ready for the next Spring/Summer plantings.

The membership fee at $10.00 has always been the same since 2001 because quite often members will add a voluntary donation (we are not a registered charity).  I will propose that we leave the membership fee unchanged.  We trust and hope you will continue to support AREA by renewing your membership.


2012  November AGM – President’s Report

During the past year, a contractor was hired and progress was made to repair the rip-rap stone edging of the underwater shoal and add additional topsoil.  This was completed satisfactory, but the attempt to add bulrushes in their winter dormant state was not successful.

To counter this disappointment, a joint effort with ourselves, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) and the City of Stratford taking part.  We waited until late spring when the bulrushes were active and growing. Twelve truck loads of bulrushes were dug out of City property near the dog park and replanted by hand along the outside edge of the project.  These plants took root successfully.  We hope to repeat this process next spring with the assistance of UTRCA and the City.

What we are looking for with respect to AREA members is this.  Many members are retired people who are simply not up to the physical effort required for digging and lifting wet clumps of bulrushes.  We realize this and so ask you if you have a family member or friend who is younger and who would enjoy helping on a specific day or days yet to be determined.  We have inquired renting a pick-up truck when performing this work.  There is funding left in the project account and also AREA has some funds as well.  In addition, we are pleased to report the ladies of the Mane Stage Hairdressing Salon recently raised $745 which they donated to AREA for project work.

On inspection of the existing bulrushes this year it seems that the new City sign “DO NOT REMOVE BULRUSHES OR PART OF” is working.  No new evidence of cutting bulrushes detected.  Thank you City of Stratford for installing this sign.

This past April we had a successful display with the Civic Beautification and Environmental Awareness Committee at the Festival Mall.

We took a set of E-coli readings on September 12, 2012 to see what difference there is just after a significant rain event.  It can be seen that the levels are significantly higher due to retained run-off leaving suspension of E-coli in the samples taken.  Please refer to table of the E-coli levels measured in Lake Victoria over the last ten years.  It makes for interesting comparisons. With the exception of early sewer location measurements, (sewer now decommissioned) it can seen that the higher levels are consistently at the old trestle Railway Bridge where the Avon River flows into Lake Victoria.

With the sad passing of our good friend and executive member Jake Sheepers we have a need for someone to look after promotion of our activities.  This would involve recruiting new members and seeking opportunities for publishing reports in the local press.  In the interim, other members of the executive are willing to carry on subject to your vote of confidence.


2011  November AGM – President’s Report

You may recall that I wrote a letter to the Beacon Herald and the Gazette concerning loss of bulrushes on the south shore.  I quote my letter as follows:

“This spring it was discovered that up to 50% of the existing planted bulrushes have been lost in the re-established marsh natural area east of the Festival Bridge.  The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (ULTRA)  examined the area and determined that a large number of bulrushes were cut down by persons unknown; presumably to make decorative dried arrangements for home use.  This is indicated by the deliberate angular cuts on the stems.  This and the higher water levels this spring combined to make this bad situation worse.  When these plants are cut low and the water level rises above the cut, the plant dies.  Also the brown seed pods are now not there to provide further desired growth expansion.”

This is all very unsatisfactory because ten different organizations, public and private, financially supported the project which includes your donations as well; and the project is still not completed four years after the Stone Plaque was put in place.  However, I am advised by our friends at UTRCA that environmental  projects are always slow to come to fruition.  In any advent, cut bulrushes is a set back we did not need.  The City of Stratford through the Parks and Forestry Division do have a sign on order to erect at the site with appropriate words to discourage further removal of plants.  Hopefully this will help.  On the positive side, we do have money left to repair the project by replacing stone, lost soil and bulrushes.  Along with our partners, the Rotary Club of Stratford and UTRCA we will search for, and recommend a contractor to do the work, remembering that we will need to be prudent in our cost control.  The AGM will be a good opportunity to discuss this further.

We now have a website www.avonriverenvironment.com for you to refer to and make others aware of it.  I have enclosed two AREA business cards for your use.  Please pass them on to anyone you think might be interested in what we are doing.