The Clarksons: Visionary Thinking Brings a Buried Stream Back to Life

Two landowners stand by a restored stream

Nestled among the rolling hills in Caledon sits David and Faith Clarkson’s family farm. The property has been in the Clarkson family for 35 years, and until recently, the meandering freshwater stream that stretched across the fields during David’s youth lay buried 10 feet underground within a concrete pipe.

The concrete pipe—known as a tile drain—is commonly used by farmers to drain excess subsurface water from the soil to improve crop growing conditions. David’s father, A.G. Clarkson, installed the tile shortly after he purchased the farm, burying the stream to drain and unite the farm fields.

Eventually, the tile drain began to fail and the Clarksons needed to make a decision: replace the tile or remove it altogether. Replacing the tile 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.

A collaborative vision toward conservation excellence

David and Faith met with Mark Eastman and Sherwin Watson-Leung, CVC’s agricultural and stream specialists to discuss the tile drain. Together they realized there was an opportunity to remove the tile drain and restore (daylight) the stream.

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

From L to R: David Clarkson, Faith Clarkson, CVC’s Mark Eastman, Lt. Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, CVC’s Sherwin Watson-Leung

“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.”

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

Daylighting the stream improved biodiversity and contributed to the health and connectivity of local ecosystems. “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,” said Sherwin Watson-Leung.

In January 2018, the Clarksons received the Ontario Heritage Trust Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Conservation Excellence, recognizing their exceptional contribution to conservation. When asked why they 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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