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LECC Environmental Awareness Newsletter, Issue 3

PHRAGMITES, THE INVADER

Phragmites (pronounced “fragmitees” by some), are those very tall (up to 15 feet) feathery fronds that clog ditches and ponds. They have the dubious distinction of being labeled as the “worst” invasive plant species in all of Canada by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada in 2005. Their incessant march through the watercourses of Southern Ontario has only continued since that time. Their reputation as worst invader is well deserved. The dense root systems of phragmites, in addition to choking out native plants, also produces two distinct toxins, which destroy virtually every plant with which they come into contact. Phragmites thus decrease biodiversity, destroy habitat for other species and (because of the dense root systems) don’t allow for areas to drain properly. They are often the first plants to establish themselves in disturbed areas – just watch what grows up in ditches that have been scraped clean of other vegetation. It has even been suggested that nothing will nest in them and, unlike the cattails that they often choke out, phragmites do not process the nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural runoff.

Phragmites are difficult to get rid of. The Province of Ontario has strict regulations on both what herbicides can be used and when they can be applied (only when there is no standing water as millions of people depend on these watersheds for drinking water). The Province also has regulations on the cleaning of any equipment that goes near stands of phragmites because they are spread so easily. Controlled burns are sometimes used as is mowing or cutting (which should be done when the plants are just into flowering). Often multiple methods are used together and are still not always successful.

Here at LECC, we see the invader everywhere. It stands in the shallower water throughout the marsh, towering above the remaining stands of cattails that survive in the deeper water; fronds dangle into the road along the marsh; and, at the east end the invader has completely taken over large areas. When we travel on county roadways, our view of oncoming cross traffic is often obstructed by a thick curtain of phragmites. What can we do? Do not disturb the edge of the marsh. If you find one or two plants on the north side of your leased land, pull them out or cut the flowers before they seed. Do not take ATV’s, golf carts, tractors, etc. near the edge of the marsh so the seeds are not carried to other areas. And, finally, appreciate those gently swaying cattails that don’t kill other forms of vegetation; that provide welcome nesting habitat for many species; that process agricultural chemical runoff; that, in other words, have been a longstanding symbol of a healthy watershed, and deservedly so. Nurture the cattails.

Your Environmental Awareness Representative, Gloria Mitchell
January 2021

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LECC Environmental Awareness Newsletter, Issue 2

THE MARSH

Essex County has the distinction, among all of the counties in the Province, of being surrounded on three of its four sides by water. All three of these bodies of water are part of the Great Lakes system (an immense reservoir of fresh water). So as far as waterfront properties are concerned, we are fortunate to have a relative abundance of this in Essex County. Those of us who reside at Lake Erie Country Club have the further unprecedented, and likely unique, privilege of having waterfront on our south side and relatively undisturbed wetland marsh on our north side.

The marsh is a priceless jewel whose value increases with each passing year as flooding, global warming and polluted water supplies all become of greater and greater concern. Estimates are that more than 70% of wetlands in Southern Ontario have been destroyed through human habitation efforts, poor land use decisions and planning. Tax payer dollars are now being directed to the restoration of these valuable, life-sustaining environments. Ontario’s Environment Commissioner, as quoted in a Windsor Star article (April 06, 2019) stated, “Even a wetland as small as two hectares can retain water runoff from an area 70 times its size.” As the author of the same article writes, “Trees and wetlands are critical to flood mitigation. They store water during heavy rains, slow storm water runoff and reduce flood peaks.”

If one takes the opportunity to just sit and watch the marsh, you may be astounded by the activity there, seeing muskrats, ducks, fish, many different kinds of birds including waders (herons, egrets) and song birds in addition to the swans and geese. You may even encounter a frog, turtle or small snake. It is a calm, unhurried and unassuming environment. We are extremely fortunate to have it on our doorstep and it doesn’t stop at the water’s edge. Many of the waterfowl spend considerable time on land rearing their young; frogs of several varieties go through much of their life stages in the water but spend much of their adult time on dry land. Nor do the several breeds of turtles confine themselves to the limited definition of the marsh, coming onto the land in search of the ideal nesting sites critical to the continuation of their species. Even insects (such as dragonflies) require both the marsh and dry land to complete their life cycle.

We are the stewards of this rare environment and have an obligation to protect it from being torn up, filled in, used as a dumping ground, or paved over. This is recognized in the mission statement of the Board of Directors of LECC and was a value of previous generations, as evidenced by the many dilapidated piers that jut out into the marsh. We are able to enjoy the many environmental, health and psychological benefits of this special place. We must ensure that this same opportunity is passed on to our children and grandchildren.

Gloria Mitchell, Environmental Awareness Representative

September 2020

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LECC Environmental Awareness Newsletter, Issue 1

TURTLES

May and June are busy months for most turtles. Many clutches of eggs laid during the previous Spring, especially those of the painted turtle, hatch during the month of May. Then, within just a few short weeks, in June, mature females leave the marsh to secure suitable nesting habitat in which to lay their eggs and begin the life cycle anew. Turtles are slow to mature, only reaching egg laying status anywhere from 6 to 20 years of age, depending upon the species. Of the 8 species of turtles in Ontario, most reside within the Big Creek watershed. All are covered under the Endangered Species Act, with some designated as “at risk”, some designated “of concern”, and 2 species considered “endangered”. The painted turtle, which is most common in this area, was the last of the 8 species to be placed on the list, as a “species of concern”, in May, 2018. In 2017, Ontario placed a hunting ban on snapping turtles (which only reach sexual maturity anywhere between 17 and 20 years of age - later than humans!).

Most turtles lay their eggs in sandy, gravelly soil that is not too moist nor too dry. Because they often travel considerable distances to find suitable nesting conditions, they are frequently hit by cars as they cross roads. They face other perils as their eggs are dug up by racoons, skunks, foxes, etc. and development destroys more and more suitable nesting areas when sandy soils are covered by cement, asphalt, or heavy crushed stone. Despite these perils, hatchlings do emerge, often the following May, (although they can surface throughout the first summer). Baby turtles, smaller than a quarter (if painted offspring), then have to immediately find their way back to the marsh. Many are casualties on the roadways.

As a pedestrian, when you are out for a walk, you can move any live babies that you see to the marsh side of the road. If you encounter an adult, they should be moved to the side of the road in the same direction they are travelling. As a home owner, you can maintain some open lawn/ground on your property and ensure that access to the marsh is easily gained (keeping in mind that this access is for something smaller than a quarter climbing over obstacles). Even with this help and having survived against almost overwhelming odds, baby turtles still face predation by marsh birds and bigger snakes once they reach the water. However, if they are the lucky one in a hundred (or hundreds) to attain adulthood, their only predators are human, and they can live for many decades, enriching our lives and the ecosystem.

Environmental Awareness Representative, Gloria Mitchell June 2020

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Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbour Watch

Due to the high number of break-ins reported in the Amherstburg area, we ask that all LECC residents exercise safety measures when dealing with their homes and properties. Also, please keep your garages and vehicles locked especially during the evening. If you notice any suspicious behaviour on the beach, take note of the person's appearance and/or the license plate number of their vehicle and notify the police. As a courtesy, also inform a LECC Board member that you have contacted the police.

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LECC History

LECC

Thanks to Nanette Adams for providing this document from the Marsh Society about the history of Lake Erie Country Club.It was published in the Amherstburg Echo August 10, 1934.Lake Erie Country Club Limited celebrates its 100th anniversary on October 18, 2018.

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