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Friends of Wellers Bay outline plan to engage community

By Sharon Harrison
The Friends of Wellers Bay group wants to build community and support stewardship around the bay which sits at the western corner of Prince Edward County.

About 30 friends spoke to the group’s achievements over the past year, and outlined plans for coming years during a recent virtual annual general meeting, the first ever held via the Zoom internet program.

Joining the meeting via Zoom were Janice Maynard, Ameliasburgh councillor, Jim Alyea, deputy mayor Quinte West (and FOWB member), and Brad McNevin, CAO, Quinte Conservation.

The registered not-for-profit charity run by a small board of volunteers is dedicated to keeping the bay healthy and sustainable, and enhancing the enjoyment of the water and its beaches.

While the COVID-19 outbreak meant some of their group’s events could not take place this year, Dave Ashton, FOWB vice-chair, noted a well-received float in the Santa Claus parade, and a successful Flashback February event at the Consecon Legion which focused on the history of Wellers Bay from a marine perspective.

The Friends of Wellers Bay was established in 1988, initially to take on responsibility for the breakwall, and the dredging of the channel between the bay and Lake Ontario.

They opened up the channel to ensure safe boat access for both residents and visitors. At that time, the bay was in poor shape, with insufficient depth for safe boat navigation, poor quality water and was overgrown with weeds.

The channel was successfully dredged in 1989, and the task became the responsibility of Quinte West in 2015.

“Since then, we have done an ambassador program and some community outreach, a state of the bay report, as well as undertaking the strategic plan process which we finished early this year,” said Karen Fischer, FOWB Chair.

“We are well on our way with activities and events that were are planning on for the next five years.”

Fischer noted mission statement includes providing resources and relevant education topics, participation in research and activities, providing stewardship for the dredging of the channel and the maintenance of the breakwall, develop and maintain relationships with stakeholders, and promote pride and responsibility in the care and protection of Wellers Bay by engaging with the community.

She noted four priority goals with items of importance including water quality and testing, shoreline protection, regular and ongoing input on the state of the bay report, and community outreach.

“We would also like to become an information repository on relevant information and resources.”

One of the key goals is shoreline and property protection and development which will involve providing general guidance in disseminating regulations.

Community building and communication is a key goal the group has identified to build relationships and work closely with municipalities, conservation authorities, provincial and federal agencies and local businesses.

“Essentially, we want to build that community around Wellers Bay that supports the stewardship of Wellers Bay as we do,” stated Fischer.

Also included under community building is member outreach and volunteer recruitment, activities and events, and social media presence.

“We are looking for new members and people who would like to work with us on single-time activities, or as a member of the board, or as a member of a sub-committee,” said Fischer.

“We are very interested in volunteer recruitment. Once people become more familiar with what the different activities and events are that we are going to be undertaking, perhaps people will want to become more involved in Friends of Wellers Bay.”

Other points covered included liaising with governmental agencies around safe dredging, the breakwall and supporting safe channel navigation with the installation of signs, buoys, and so on.

“These activities are overseen by Friends of Wellers Bay,” said Fischer.

Board member Karen Mouck spoke to environmental protection and the stewardship lake partner program.

“The lake partner program is a way for volunteers on bodies of water throughout Lake Ontario, in partnership with the provincial government and the Ministry of Environment. It offers a way for us to sample our water which is analyzed” for phosphate and calcium levels, as well as for depth measurement.

“There are very strict rules on how you sample the water, using filters, rinsing test tubes and how the water is stored before sending it in.”

While the water testing wasn’t offered this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Mouck noted the testing has been completed in Wellers Bay for 10 years.

Water clarity (depth) in Wellers Bay varies from 2-4 metres (a higher number is best for demonstrating clear water).

“If you were in a boat in the middle of Wellers Bay on a calm day, you set the secchi disk down to a depth of about three metres,” said Mouck.

Mouck notes how the clarity has dropped in the last two years, something she associates with the flooding playing a role.

Phosphorous levels in Wellers Bay range from 11-16 ug/l (a lower number is best).

“Phosphorus levels are very important in a body of water because it is a prediction of how likely you are to have an algae bloom.”

Mouck said she compared results to other areas in Lake Ontario where she found some levels as low as five or six, with others as high as 20.

“Going from 11-16 is a pretty narrow spread when you consider how wide it could be,” said Mouck. “We fall into a low range of mesotrophic and are exactly where we should be and therefore we have a very low risk of ever having a major algae bloom.”

The water is also tested for calcium, a critical element for some organisms, but because of the limestone in Wellers Bay, calcium levels are good.

Mouck noted the bay is not tested for E. coli, but overall, the quality of the water is considered to be of good.

Mouck also spoke to the Love Your Lake program, a non-profit group that works in partnership with Watersheds Canada.

Love Your Lake approached FOWB last year, as lake associations and organizations are invited to participate.

Since the program began in 2013, more than 39,000 lakeshore properties across Canada has been assessed through the program.

“Every property on the lake will be assessed using a standard assessment protocol and data sheet,” explained Mouck. “The shoreline property owners will get a personalized property report with details on the state of their unique shoreline.”

The report will include recommended voluntary actions for improving their shoreline and lake health for people and wildlife.

The program is expected to begin for Wellers Bay in 2021.

The issue of invasive species was addressed and included the mute swan and phragmites.

“Believe it or not, the mute swan is not a native species,” said Mouck. “It is a territorial bird, and they can attack humans, and there are concerns about this bird when there are high numbers, it will drive out native birds.”

The advice she gave was to not feed mute swans.

Mouck also addressed invasive phragmites which she said grow aggressively, and in abundance by the channel.

“When it grows, it roots out native plants and animals rely on those local plants.”

Mouck also noted there will be a cull of cormorants this fall, organized through the provincial government.

Ashton hopes the group will be able to have more face-to-face events next year and asks the public to share ideas.

Fischer added youth in the community are most welcome.

“If anyone has a child or grandchild with a keen interest in the environment, or an interest in learning about being part of a board, we would like to hear from you, and if you have any ideas on an activity or an event,” Fischer said.

For anyone wishing to find out more about the Friends of Wellers Bay, to become a member, join as a volunteer or a board member, visit

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