By James Matthews (Local Journalism Initiative reporter)
Highlands East municipal staff will remove a beaver dam that threatens flooding on the Dillman’s Trail.
The dam removal is part of work discussed during the township council’s Oct. 11 regular meeting.
Dillman’s Trail is an original road that continues to be considered a town highway under the Municipal Act.
John Davidson and a group of concerned citizens lobbied the town to keep the trail open as a multi-use trail and to keep it free from flooding.
Davidson suggested the beaver dam be removed in the fall when the water level is at its lowest. After Public Works staff removes the dam, he said the citizens group would take the responsibility to ensure no beaver dams are built in the future.
They’d like council to delegate road bed repairs to the group to ensure the thoroughfare remains multi-use.
Mayor Dave Burton said the municipality has somebody who controls beaver activity in certain areas of the township.
“I would certainly support you doing it with your group, but there may be hoops to go through first,” the mayor said.
Shannon Hunter, the township’s CAO, said the first step would be to remove the dam.
“We could probably agree in principle, but we would need to receive some kind of plan and process of how this is going to be done,” Hunter said. “I believe, if there’s volunteers going to be utilized, they would have to be recognized by a motion so they could be covered by insurance or provide their own insurance.
“Council in the end would have to ensure that we’re maintaining environmental practices.”
Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall said he’d like to have a letter of understanding that sets out who group members are and outlines “rules of engagement” for the work to be done.
“It’s a question of making sure the environment is properly protected, that the people who are doing the work are properly protected, that the municipality is properly protected,” he said.
“And, at the end of the day, we get a product that everybody’s comfortable with.”
Ward 1 Councillor Cam McKenzie said it would be easier to have municipal staff remove the beaver dam as opposed to the group of volunteers.
“I know life gets complicated when we start having volunteers these days doing projects like this,” McKenzie said.
Hunter suggested council follow steps taken by a group of property owners who endeavoured to restore Glamor Lake’s shoreline. The group identified trees that needed to be removed and trails that needed work.
A plan was suggested by the group and presented to Highlands East council in 2019. In the end, the municipality got behind the plan and the work was done.
“I think what I’m hearing is that the presenters want steps moving forward and council needs to determine if this is something they’re interested in doing,” she said. “Either way, if it’s done by the group or done by staff, a plan needs to be adopted.”
Davidson said the group’s preference would be for the municipality to make the trail suitable for multiple uses. But availing of township resources be may not be available in this year’s municipal budget.
“We’re quite willing to help out,” he said.
Burton said the priority is water level. Maintenance and repairs can be done later, maybe in the spring of next year.
Ryall supported the municipality taking the lead in the project with input from the community group.
Ward 2 Councillor Suzanne Partridge said the concerned citizens group could keep the township apprised of any new beaver activity in the area.
“Council will be wanting to keep it free (of beaver activity),” said Burton. “As far as repairs, once we get the water levels down and controlled, I think, would be a good time to have a good look and see what it actually needs.”