An innovative freshwater marsh restoration venture, Project Paradise includes a range of conservation projects, but is dependent on the Fishway, the first carp barrier/two-way fishway structure on the Great Lakes. The current restoration initiatives began in 1993 as a component of the Fish and Wildlife Project, part of the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan, supported by the federal and provincial governments through the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. It was created to connect the Gardens with community partners that have similar goals concerning the restoration and stewardship of our two river mouth marsh complex’s, the last remaining in the Hamilton/Burlington Area and largest on western Lake Ontario. It requires strong partnerships with outside agencies, and is reflective of the fact that many of the issues affecting the marsh originate in the many watersheds that drain into our lands.
The long term goal is to create the underlying conditions for ecosystem recovery, while in the short term it is to manage the non-native carp that dominated and destroyed the wetlands. Ultimate sustainability is based on returning water quality and water cycles to conditions to those reflective of conditions naturally occurring in Ontario. With the degraded conditions, carp (Cyprinus carpio) had reached densities of 800kg/hectare, with decline of marsh habitat beginning at densities over 20kg/hectare. Key restoration species are cattails (Typha sp.), white water lily (Nymphaea sp.) wild rice (Zizania sp.), and yellow perch (Perca flavescens) The critical plans for recovering these are the watershed plans of Halton, and Hamilton Conservation Authorities, the City of Hamilton Stormwater and Wastewater MasterPlans, and the St Lawrence Board of Control Water Level Regulation Plan.
Public involvement is essential and we partner with groups such as the Bay Area Restoration Council and the RBG auxiliary to engage the community to participate and learn how they can be involved in the stakeholder plans that affect inflowing water. Monitoring results on the status of the ongoing wetland recovery are presented each February at an open house at the RBG Main Centre. Other opportunities include marsh replanting, monitoring of amphibians, shoreline and stream cleanups, and Trailwatch.
Carp exclusion has a dramatic positive effect on the recovery of the wetlands, particularly within the locations not directly impacted by degraded inflowing water. The Hamilton Conservation Authority (Cootes Paradise Marsh watershed) and Halton Conservation Authority (Grindstone Marsh Watershed) produce watershed report cards to provide updated information on the health status of the inflowing waters. Detailed information on various contaminants flowing into the area are also found in the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan Contaminants Loadings and Concentrations reports.