Boondock Explorations Barrie, ON

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Holland Marsh: A Brief History


The Holland Marsh was once….You Guessed it! A large wetland…. It was part of the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail, although another route was also used because of the environment of the marshy area.

Professor William Day laid the groundwork for drainage of the wetlands in 1923 to prepare them for their current agricultural use. The canal system was created by engineer Alexander Baird of Sarnia and were completed by 1930.
In October 1954, Hurricane Hazel overwhelmed the marsh's drainage system with heavy rains, and the whole marsh was flooded within six hours of the dikes being breached at the north canal. The canals are designed with the bank on the outside of the marsh several inches lower than the bank on the inside of the marsh so that flooding will occur outside of the marsh first, but the amount of runoff flowing down from the hills northeast of the Holland Marsh was so great that this fail-safe became ineffective. The pipes underground the marsh that open into the canal system with one way valves to prevent flooding also became ineffective. Highway 400 was five feet underwater. The residents of the Holland Marsh were alerted to the flood because it happened in the evening when they were in from their fields, and the party phone line rang in all the homes as residents called each other to warn of the flood. Those with houses that had only one floor escaped to neighbours with a second floor, and many had boats or canoes that they used for recreation. Many residents were taken in over the winter by kindly neighbours in the Town of Bradford.

On May 31, 1985, a tornado touched down in the Bradford West Gwillimbury portion of the marsh west of Hwy. 400, lifting the roof off of one house on north Canal Road (Simcoe Road #8), and downing power lines and trees and ruining at least one house along Fraser Street. The devastation on Fraser Street was so extensive that it was renamed Tornado Road.
As of fall 2006 the municipal governance responsible for maintaining the drainage canal system has neglected to clean silt from the outer canals (as is their responsibility under the Ontario Drainage Act) since Hurricane Hazel in 1956. Every piece of land paved over in the 65,000-acre (263 km²) Nottawasaga region uphill of the Holland Marsh results in 6 times the amount of silt runoff than virgin land. Many residential subdivisions have been created in York Region, south of the Holland Marsh, stripping topsoil, felling mature trees, and flattening topography, with the result that even uphill land south of the Holland Marsh in King Township is suffering from silt problems and flooding of drainage ponds. A plan to redesign and clean the canals has been created by the Holland Marsh Drainage Engineer, but the municipality of Bradford West Gwillimbury expects farmers in the Holland Marsh to pay over four million dollars for the project, citing the Ontario Drainage Act, even though the majority of the silt is due to developers changing the topography of the Nottawasaga Watershed region. The municipal governance has also failed to build up the dyke roads to the stipulated height cited in the Holland Marsh Road Act, thus increasing flood risk, and has failed to enact a Holland Marsh Road Protocol for slow moving vehicles (as stated in the Official Town Plan of Bradford West Gwillimbury), thus continuing to put farmers at risk of crashes with fast driving commuters taking shortcuts through the Holland Marsh to Hwy 9 and Hwy 400.

-Wikipedia (Search "Holland Marsh") or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holland_Marsh

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