Many thanks to Tim Warris Photography for allowing me the use of this Photoshop picture which displays so eloquently the way many people in Port Dover feel about their beloved Silver Lake.
“We Give a Dam” was on the poster of one of the people who came to the Misner Dam in Port Dover Ontario this morning. I was proud to be one of about 70 people who came to show support for the reconstruction of the century old dam which has been a centre of local controversy for over five years. Last week someone replaced the stop logs which had been removed to lower the lake level a few years ago and for a few days the smell subsided and the beauty returned to the little lake which is at the heart of Port Dover. Yesterday the County began removing the logs again much to the dismay and disappointment of many locals.
A few years ago Silver Lake, a man made lake supported by the so called Misner Dam, has been part of Port Dover’s history for many years. It was the centre of industry in the town supporting the work of the Misner Fertilizer plant, a large canning factory and the famous Ivey’s Florists for longer than people remember. It was also the proud lakefront property of many prominent citizens and is fondly remembered by locals over 50 as the place they all took swimming lessons, learned to canoe, fished, and began their careers as novice naturalists by identifying birds bugs and hunting frogs.
Before the lake was drained a few years ago it was also home of the Silver Lake rowing club which was beginning to gain membership and momentum only to suddenly find themselves without a home.
With private residents mostly on the east side and a few on the west, most of the west side of the lake is owned by the local Lions Club who had the foresight to buy the property when the Ivey plant closed. They have erected a large stage, installed a soccer field, made walkways and planted trees along the rail trail which runs through the property. The old buildings which remained standing were turned into a market place and retail and storage space. They turned a little bit of sacred local history into a place the whole community could enjoy.
Then someone pulled the plug on the beautiful landscape. The Ministry of Natural Resources, found the dam to be unsafe and they are also putting on a push to restore waterways to their natural state. This is a noble idea but as one of this morning’s protesters said, “One size does not fit all.” Turning a place so important to a town into a silt dump with a little river running along the side of it is not what the citizens of Port Dover want.
There are some anglers who have been arguing the advantage of the move but there are few people in town who can see their point.
With the leadership of a long time Port Dover resident, Marion Gadsby, a group of engineers are volunteering their time to put together a plan which they hope will satisfy the Ministry, the property owners the anglers and the people of the town who love their little lake. Another group, named “Save Silver Lake” have been hosting a Save Silver Lake,Save Silver Lake Facebook page, and holding fundraisers for several years to accommodate the dredging of the lake when the dam is either replaced or repaired. The Norfolk County Council has been holding $1,000,000 in trust for five years for the rebuild of the dam.
In short Marion’s plan includes a rebuild of the dam with a fish ladder and a electrical power source. It will also be strong enough to withstand the dreaded 1000 year flood officials keep talking about and will return the lake to it’s former water level so it can once again be enjoyed by everyone who visits. Now and for the past few years it has just become an eyesore and in the summer the stench is unbearable.
When I asked Marion this morning about the stability of the dam with the stop logs in place and the water level returned to it’s previous level she said she had read the ministry report and she doesn’t believe it would be safe to have the dam in use in its present state.
The folks who met this morning for a peaceful protest at the dam want answers and want local politicians to make some moves to reinstate the lake. They listened to Tim Rodger who organized the protest, talk about the things he knew. Since then other information has been flying around on local Facebook pages, which seems to be the best place to keep up on the news. I would caution anyone reading it to beware of the sources. When people are angry stories have a way of growing beyond their original truth.
Some who are property owners and pay waterfront taxes want to sue the city for the devaluation of their property and for back taxes on property which clearly is not lake front.
I and many others who love Port Dover hope this “prank” of returning the stop logs has finally put action to words and some positive steps will be taken toward rebuilding the dam and the lake.
A word to the person who put the logs back in last week. The people who were there this morning want you to remain anonymous because they don’t want you to get in trouble but they also want to say “Thank you” for making a move which is making other people move on this matter. At one point this morning someone asked the crowd, “Who put the logs back in,” and without hesitation a large number of the people there said, “We did.”