By CVC’s Calantha Elsby, Environmental Outreach Specialist

David Clarkson strolls in waist-high grassland wildflowers growing on his Caledon farm. A Bobolink flashes by and perches on a wavering blade. He recalls how a bubbling stream cut through the property when he was a young man in his twenties—and then how it disappeared. His father installed a tile drain pipe to drain and unite the farm fields.

For over 30 years the stream lay buried 10 feet underground within a pipe of concrete. But the tile drain began to fail. David and his wife, Faith, needed to make a decision: replace the tile or remove it altogether. The tile drain replacement could be expensive and require frequent maintenance. But what were the benefits of removing the drain? They knew they needed advice and guidance on the best option for the land and their farm.

The Clarksons received an invitation to attend an information session about agricultural and restoration programs offered by Credit Valley Conservation (CVC). The Clarkson family was actively engaged in conservation for decades. Notably, David’s father, A.G. Clarkson, wrote the Chairman’s Message for CVC’s Watershed Report in 1979.

The Clarksons asked our experts what to do with the failing tile drain. Agricultural specialist Mark Eastman and aquatics specialist Sherwin Watson-Leung saw an opportunity to restore the stream and return the sparkling vitality of riparian life back to the farm.

Over the course of five years, CVC’s restoration team worked diligently to see the project through from start to finish. We provided technical services and project management expertise including project planning, design and fundraising, working with the Clarksons along the way to ensure all their considerations were addressed.

“Projects of this magnitude are very rare on private land,” says Mark Eastman. “They need special landowners like David and Faith to show initiative and stick with the project through sometimes lengthy design, permitting, fundraising and construction phases.”

The Clarkson’s longstanding dedication to the environment and commitment to their vision was recognized in February 2018. Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell presented the couple with the Ontario Heritage Trust award for Excellence in Conservation.

The rewards extend beyond provincial recognition: “Nine species of fish have already moved in, and we anticipate brook trout will follow. Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark—both threatened species—are enjoying the grassland beside the stream, and frogs and toads are thriving in the wetland,” says Sherwin Watson-Leung. “Together, we successfully brought the stream back to life.”

Watch the land transform and wildlife return to the restored stream.

When asked why he undertook the project, David reminds us: “Our connection to this place is fleeting. It’s been someone else’s before, it will be someone else’s in the future, and we have the privilege of being the custodians for now.”

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