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Upper Canada Mall pond work garners concern for wildlife

Pond expected to return, mayor says, but in the meantime the geese are homeless
20220921-Upper Canada Mall construction-JQ
Workers have drained the stormwater ponds on the eastern edge of Upper Canada Mall.

Newmarket resident Christian Dewan has watched with concern as workers drained the ponds on the eastern edge of the Upper Canada Mall property.

GFL Environment has been working extensively on the ponds, closing off part of the Upper Canada Mall Property in the process. The effort has garnered concern from some Newmarket residents as the ponds were well populated with wildlife, including geese.

“That’s their nesting ground, and they come back every year,” Dewan said, adding that he worries “they’re gonna come back next year, there’s gonna be no pond.”

Multiple local Facebook posts have raised concerns about the impact to local wildlife.

“I am not sure what is going on in front of Upper Canada Mall parking lot, but their pond is gone,” one comment said, with a picture of geese on the road. “Now they are heading for safety and believe it or not, cars were honking at them to move. Shame on you!”

NewmarketToday did not receive a response to a request for comment from Upper Canada Mall before publication time. 

A development application on the municipal website indicates that the project includes modifying the existing driveway and entrance “to permit enlargement of the existing south stormwater management pond.”

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor responded to the post and said the ponds are being redeveloped and will still be present. But that does mean they have to be out of use for some time.

“Every stormwater pond has to be dredged every 10 to 20 years, and we do that on a regular basis,” Taylor said. “If we didn’t, it would cease to exist. A number of years ago, we had to drain and dredge all of Fairy Lake. Impacts to ponds in residential areas occur every year.”

Still, multiple residents lamented the loss of the ponds and questioned if wildlife will move to other areas in town. 

“This is very sad to hear. Those ponds have been there since I was young. No wonder people are having problems with wildlife,” another comment said.

But Taylor said geese crossing roads is not unusual in Newmarket. He repeated town concerns that locals avoid feeding geese and potentially encouraging their population.

“It is difficult to manage wildlife in an urban setting. Geese have wandered across roads in Newmarket for decades and will continue to do so after the pond is back and running,” Taylor said. “The town has expanded the protected natural area in Newmarket by hundreds of acres over the past 10 to 15 years, which provides more truly natural areas for animals to live. Virtually every town has a goose management plan as their population has got very large in urban areas.”

The town put $25,000 into a study this year to explore how to best manage the geese going forward and how it stacks up to other municipalities. It came in response to complaints about geeses' impact on area parks.

Plenty of development is set to happen in the Upper Canada Mall area over the next few decades, with the municipality approving a plan for 5,000 new residential units over the next 30 years in the vicinity. But the municipal development website does not list any new, unannounced projects in the area or any specific other development linked to the stormwater pond work.