Kim Killeen has a beautiful view from his home on Four Mile Creek that includes the Virgil dam and reservoir.
The pond is home to hundreds of ducks, geese, and herons, as well as lots of frogs and fish, he says.
He sees people fishing in the pond, which is also part of the nature trail that follows the creek — more fishermen than in pre-COVID years.
After vandalism to the dam this Saturday, not for the first time, about 25 feet of mud, usually under water, was left exposed, he says.
“There are a number of boards gone from the dam, and this isn’t the worst I’ve seen. The water has dropped significantly.”
He has lived near the pond since 2017, but it wasn’t until 2020 that he realized it wasn’t the weather that was making the water level drop, he says.
“The water had dropped to such an extreme that the water receded about 50 feet from the shore, all along the west side of the pond at our end. The west side was a vast exposure of mudflats, and the remaining pond had a depth of only five or six inches of water at most along much of the pond. You could literally see the backs of the large fish cresting out of the water as they struggled to swim.”
He has witnessed ongoing vandalism since then, and suspects, although he has no knowledge, that the perpetrators are kids.
He says he appreciates that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, which owns the dam and is responsible for repairing it when damaged, is usually very quick to respond after it’s been vandalized.
When Killeen contacted the NPCA in May, dam boards had been removed then as well, at a time when the carp had started spawning.
He thought then it was likely kids, although when the water is lower, there is more dry land where the fishermen set up, he says.
This most recent episode is making him question how seriously the NPCA is taking its responsibility to the area, when it has not come up with a permanent solution to the problem.
“This reservoir is built right beside a growing suburb brimming with teenagers looking for something to do,” he said in an email to the NPCA. “The lack of security on the reservoir is a serious issue. You do not even have signs telling people they will be fined for removing boards.”
It should be simple for knowledgeable people to come up with a permanent solution, he adds.
“I feel bad for what happens to nature, to the egrets and herons, the ducks and geese, when the water level drops.”
He and his neighbours are becoming “disenchanted with the failure to produce a workable solution to this on-going problem.”
He is hoping the conservation authority “takes its role seriously,” and comes up with a solution. In the meantime, with water levels decreasing, “wildlife hangs in the balance.”
After Killeen’s recent email to the NPCA, and his frustrated call to The Local Monday morning, the dam was fixed.
He was also assured he would hear from Adam Christie, director of land operations about a permanent solution.
Christie told The Local Monday he is working on it, but it’s not simple.
“It’s a massive dam,” he says, far too large to fence off. The solution will have to be one that makes it difficult to vandalize, but will have to be in conjunction with the town, which adjusts the water level when it’s being used for irrigation.
“This needs to be done in partnership, with the two organizations working out the best solution.”
The NPCA has tried to get there within 24 hours of vandals doing their work, he says.
“We have vandalism in all of our conservation areas, all over our watersheds. We see damage to buildings, graffiti, but pulling out boards to lower the water,” he says, seems “so random, how do they even know about that?”
The need for the town to control the water level “is what makes this a bigger conversation, one that needs to be done in collaboration.”
He was planning to meet with the town this week, he says, and “I’m sure we’ll come up with something to fix it.”