- Multi-year environmental project enters its construction phase, supported by local funding partners: Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, Ducks Unlimited Canada and Land Care Niagara
- Project highlights include wildlife habitat conservation work, trail upgrades and educational signage
Fort Erie, ON – Phase three of the extensive wetland restoration and enhancement project at Gonder’s Flats is officially underway, thanks to the collaborative work of project partners and recent funding support through the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), Ducks Unlimited Canada and Land Care Niagara.
The area known as Gonder’s Flats, in Fort Erie, Ontario, was donated to Niagara Parks in the 1930s. This unique site holds the potential to become a highly functional wetland, due to a combination of its soil characteristics and vegetation, in an ideal location adjacent to the Niagara River. Under active restoration since 2014, with support from both Federal and Provincial governments, prior project accomplishments at Gonder’s Flats have included the design and installation of a protective coastal habitat in the river and the establishment of the site’s first hiking trails.
The current construction phase will continue into the fall, with project highlights including the excavation of a 1.5 hectares (4 acres) pond, hundreds of native plantings, as well as trail upgrades to enable greater public access. Visitors will also gain a deeper understanding of this rare ecosystem through new interpretive signage on the property.
The restored area will continue to naturalize gradually over time and once successfully established, the wetland will serve to improve water quality, support local biodiversity and protect species at risk. Other benefits include the prevention of erosion and flooding, while building climate resiliency and the creation of engaging recreational opportunities for the community.
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The Niagara River was named a degraded Great Lakes Area of Concern in 1987 due to water quality problems and habitat loss. Since then, significant action has been taken to advance the restoration, protection and enhancement of the entire Niagara River ecosystem. Thanks to a shared vision and strong partnerships forged through the Niagara River Remedial Action Plan program, the Gonder’s Flats project was prioritized for this critical environmental restoration work.
Quick Facts & Figures
- Wetlands are among Earth’s most productive ecosystems that provide numerous beneficial functions and support many species (including species at risk), such as migratory birds, fish and amphibians
- As the environmental and cultural stewards of the Niagara River corridor, Niagara Parks continually strives for greater sustainability through innovative project partnerships
- A 2015 Niagara River shoreline vegetation assessment estimated that over 75% of historic coastal and adjacent wetlands have already been compromised
- Since 2016, with support from Federal and Provincial governments, Niagara Parks has successfully restored seven coastal wetland sites along the upper Niagara River, resulting in approx. 7.5 hectares (18.5 acres) of wetland habitat created and 1,580 metres of shoreline restored
- There are no other similar projects of this scale and geographic location within the Niagara Peninsula watershed
COMPLETE Phase 1 – 2014/15
- Removal of eroded asphalt, archeological assessment, shoreline restoration, trail installation, and reintroduction of native plant species
COMPLETE Phase 2 – 2017/18
- Coastal wetland habitat installed, Ontario 150 Pollinator Garden planted, and educational signage added
ONGOING Phase 3 – Continuing through Fall, 2022
- Removal of dead Ash trees and other invasive species, followed by the excavation of 1.5 hectares (4 acres) pond and creation of berms
- Planting of native vegetation, including aquatic plants, trees, grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs, as well as the installation of a variety of wildlife nesting structures
- Trail upgrades will be made to allow for greater accessibility
- Project volunteers will regularly monitor the diversity of plants and wildlife species to help protect the health of this rare marsh habitat over time
This vital wetland habitat project is made possible with the funding support of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Land Care Niagara and Niagara Community Foundation.
The project is also supported by the Town of Fort Erie, Birds Canada, Bert Miller Nature Club and Niagara Falls Nature Club.
Quote from Niagara Parks Chair, April Jeffs
Niagara Parks remains committed to our environmental stewardship mandate and we appreciate the countless community volunteers and generous funding partners, who share in our passion to protect the Niagara River corridor for future generations. Taking these necessary steps to restore the precious wetland habitat at Gonder’s Flats will ensure it is preserved as both an important ecological site, while also improving its trail accessibility and providing new educational elements for visitors.
Quote from Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Chair, Rob Foster
The NPCA is committed to working with the watershed community to support and create climate-resilient and connected natural systems. We are proud to be working with several local partners to meet the significant environmental goal of restoring the Niagara River’s water quality and ecosystem health. Projects like the Gonder’s Flats wetland enhancement project are opportunities for our community to work together to chart the path that brings nature, and its benefits, to all.
Quote from Ducks Unlimited Canada’s Manager of Provincial Operations – Ontario, Lynette Mader
Ducks Unlimited Canada applauds the multi-year commitment to nature made by Niagara Parks at Gonder’s Flats on the Niagara River. Increasingly, we are seeing communities carry out innovative projects like this one that restore pockets of lost natural infrastructure to shorelines and flood plains. This newly restored wetland habitat will provide multiple benefits for the river and those who live and play there.
About Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority
The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) is a community-based natural resource management agency that protects, enhances, and sustains healthy watersheds. With over 60 years of experience, the NPCA offers watershed programs and services focusing on flood and hazard management, source water protection, species protection, ecosystem restoration, community stewardship, and land management. The NPCA is one of 36 Conservation Authorities in the Province of Ontario and manages 41 Conservation Areas within the Niagara Peninsula watershed held in public trust for recreation, heritage preservation, conservation, and education. Since 1999, the NPCA has been the coordinating agency of the Niagara River Remedial Action Plan working with many local partners to meet the major environmental goal of restoring the Niagara River’s water quality and ecosystem health.
About Ducks Unlimited Canada
Ducks Unlimited Canada Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUC uses sound science and partners with government, industry, non-profit organizations, Indigenous Peoples and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment. To learn more about DUC’s innovative environmental solutions and services, visit ducks.ca.
About Niagara Community Foundation
The NPCA gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Niagara Community Foundation (NCF). NCF is a public foundation and has been Niagara’s philanthropic partner since 2000. NCF connects donors to causes and charities to resources through permanent endowment funds, providing grants to eligible charitable organizations in culture, health, education, environment, recreation, and social service sectors. NCF turns intent into impact.
About Land Care Niagara
Land Care Niagara (LCN) is an environmental non-profit organization committed to creating a healthy and sustainable rural and urban environment, consisting of citizens who are knowledgeable and active in land resource management. Current programs include wetland restoration, large-scale tree planting, Species-At-Risk recovery, educational workshops, and management of a community tree nursery. In 2021, LCN received funding from the Government of Canada’s EcoAction grant program to improve wetland habitat across Niagara.