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Residents explore Bloomfield Mill Pond Park improvements

By Sharon Harrison
Driving through Bloomfield, many would never know the Mill Pond Park was there, unless you knew it was there, tucked just behind Main Street, sandwiched between it and Stanley Street, enveloped by mature trees, a large green space and watershed, a true nature spot for the community to enjoy, hidden from sight, but right there in the centre of the village.

Revealed at a well-attended public open house-style meeting Monday evening in the Bloomfield town hall, preliminary concept designs and project plans for a park improvement initiative were outlined, in what is a first and very early step in what is intended to be a community-driven initiative.

Hosted by the Bloomfield and Area Business Association (BABA) and the Bloomfield Recreation Committee, Bloomfield business owner and BABA member Sarah Soetens led the meeting. Landscape designer Marc De Leon with JAM Design Workshop outlined in a little more detail, proposed concept ideas referencing display boards set up around the room.

Both Bloomfield-Hallowell ward councillors Phil Prinzen and Brad Nieman were present.

Engagement and feedback from residents was encouraged, where much dialogue, ideas and comments were shared with organizers as folks provided thoughts on how best to clean-up the pond and make the park better, as well as enhancing access.

Some felt it was best to leave the pond alone, while others believed it was in need of some major help.

Soetens said there has been a lot of excitement expressed with a lot of people wanting to see it preserved, protected or at least improved.

She said public feedback thus far was mostly positive, but the smell of the pond and algae were mentioned, and some wanted the entrance to the pond to be more defined. Many had environmental concerns and were worried about the quality of the water, and another asked about who takes care of (and who pays) for on-going maintenance and for new infrastructure.

Opinion was mixed on whether the pond is man-made or natural, with one gentleman explaining how it was constructed as a man-made mill pond when grist mills were prevalent in the area back in the early 1800s.

 

 

Soetens provided some context to the project, some background, plans moving forward and goals.

“While BABA and the rec committee are jointly leading this, we want this to be for the community, and hopefully this is the start of something really great for the village of Bloomfield,” adding Quinte Conservation has come to the table indicating they will work with the group.

“I know I am not the only Bloomfielder that sees the Mill Pond as a hidden gem in metropolitan Bloomfield. It has a park and a tennis court, an outdoor theatre and a Quaker cemetery on the pond’s east side,” said Soetens, adding the pond is home to many species of migratory birds, frogs, muskrats, beavers, otters, swans, bats, turtles, salamanders and a lot of plant species.

“While we have all that, it is hard to access. The benches are falling apart, the algae is building up, and the pond’s health needs much improvement. I’ve heard villagers say the pond is dead, it stinks, the water barely moves. I’ve heard that people say they can’t access it because there’s a curb on Mill Street. I’ve heard that there are invasive plant species and the algae blooms that come back.”

The project will be a benefit to the community through its ecological and environmental stewardship, she said, with the main point of the whole project to help preserve the natural beauty for all to enjoy and to promote native planting that will help to protect the health of the pond.

Improved access to recreational space is also an important consideration in the project.

“We have both young families and a healthy aging population which will only grow with the future of development with the Pinecrest retirement community, so having accessible amenities was the minimum that this village can offer… and the fact that there is a curb that is four inches wide to even get there, or you cross onto somebody’s private property to get to the park, is not accessible.”

Another goal is heritage awareness and education where she said they hope to add more interpretive and better wayfinding signs, but also signage for facts on vegetation, wildlife and ecology.

Questions and comments abounded when the floor was opened up to the public, as folks spoke to how no one appears to be looking after the pond now, excepting a few residents who have taken it upon themselves to do a bit of research and a little clean-up, including breaking up beaver dams (where someone else said it wasn’t a good thing to break apart the beaver dams).

One person spoke to how the sludge and the weeds issue could be addressed, others raised poor water quality and poor water flow and terrible oxygen levels due to the pond being so shallow.

“What I am really concerned with is the ability for the pond to retain life. I used to canoe there, seriously there were a billion minnows there in the mill pond, now there are no kingfishers there this year, no fishing, there are no cormorants coming in,” said one man, adding that he would like to see remedial action taken to restore the mill pond to its source of life given to the fauna and flora.

One woman who said she has lived on the mill pond for 60 years agreed that it needed to be more accessible, but wanted the pond left alone.

“I feel that the pond is the pond, and the pond knows what it is doing. I’ve heard people say it is a man-made pond, it is not a man-made pond; everybody talks about the berm as if it was a man-made berm, it isn’t,” she said. “I don’t understand why we have to do things like maintain the pond or change the pond or break down the beaver dam. I don’t understand why we can’t just let the pond be. To decide we’ve got to clean-up the shoreline and we’ve got to cut down all these trees to make it the way we think it’s the way it’s supposed to be, I have a lot of problems with people not allowing the pond just to be the pond.”

De Leon walked the audience through some of the ideas for the concept, addressing the main problem points such as accessibility, where he spoke to the first time he attempted to visit the mill pond with his family.

“Walking down Mill Street, I was lost at one point. You could see the spillway, you could see a silhouette of a park walking further down Mill Street. You could see the private property there with signage basically saying ’no trespassing, no access’.”

He wasn’t alone in figuring out how to access the park as several locals admitted they didn’t know how to access the mill pond and park as it just wasn’t clearly marked by those unfamiliar.

De Leon also highlighted the amount of lawn space in the park.

“It just seems like a missed opportunity to have this much lawn and not have it used. I have no problems with it, and it definitely has its place and purpose, but I feel lawns should not be wall-to-wall carpet.” He further noted how fencing can be more of a function than fencing itself keeping people away from property and defining the property line, suggesting a call to artists to collaborate and make something more aesthetically pleasing.

His ideas include pathways, seating, multi-functional gardens, a lookout onto the dam, but he also spoke to biodiversity and the lack thereof, as well as the invasive species on site, saying “we have black walnuts, an introduced species there is changing the pH on the site itself which are not beneficial to the eco-system, and Manitoba maples, irises and more”.

Soeten explained how several different grant applications they had applied for, for much-needed funds to get the project off the ground, had been denied since 2021, when during the pandemic and post-pandemic there was a push to get outside, where outdoor recreation amenities were being encouraged.

Finally, just four months ago, the County indicated that some parkland reserve funds were available in the amount of $80,000 to kick-start the initiative where the group swiftly hired a landscaper to help draw up the area and provide some technical guidance, along with completing some surveys and other professional work that was needed.

The project, she said, has two phases, where currently they are getting themselves organized, have put together a project team, and are getting property and topographical surveys done, as well as consulting with the public, and the municipality, the cemetery board and Quinte Conservation (who have already agreed to do some water and soil testing).

Once public consultation is complete, the design plans will be finalized and phase two would be to proceed with whatever decisions are made.

Information on the design plans for the Bloomfield Mill Pond park initiative are to be available on the County’s website where there is also a survey to be posted on the Have Your Say page.

At the Mill Street side of the park, the rock and plaques state: The Henry Leavens Conservation Area – This parkette is dedicated to the memory of Henry Leavens who served on the Prince Edward Region Conservation Authority from 1965 to 1983. Plaque at left reads: Bloomfield Mill Pond rehabilitation – a water control project of the Prince Edward Region Conservation Authority in co-operation with the Province of Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources. Completed 1976. Participating townships/members: Ameliasburgh, Roger Redner; Athol, Clinton Green; Bloomfield, Henry Leavens, Hallowell, George Vincent; Hillier Robin Adair; North Marysburgh, Jim Hughes; Picton, Norman March; Sophiasburgh, Gary Fox; South Marysburgh, Donald Bond; Wellington, Gordon Lloyd. Part of Lots 71 and 72 was donated to The Prince Edward Region Conservation Authority.

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  1. Leigh-Anne Arnold says:

    leave it alone… why must humans always feel the need to encroach on nature to “better” it. The existing wildlife loves it, folks who truly appreciate nature love it. Can’t we just leave it to exist?

  2. Barry Turpin says:

    Thanks for the excellent coverage of this meeting and the Millpond

    This project will enhance the Millpond park and hopefully promote

    future improvements to this Park and all others in The County

    Barry Turpin Bloomfield Resident

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