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Written by Terry Spraque   
Jul 05, 2014 at 09:00 PM

 

 THE FRIENDS OF WELLERS BAY


Wellers Bay, photo by Terry SpragueThe Friends of Wellers Bay is a non-profit association of volunteers dedicated to enhancing the enjoyment of waters and beaches on the bay. Over the years, the association has become an active voice working to improve all aspects of life on the bay.

Wellers Bay on the West side of Prince Edward County is surrounded by history. Separated from Lake Ontario by the Bald Head Peninsula, this 12 kilometre sand spit is similar to Sandbanks Provincial Park with its dunes, sandy beaches, marram grass, poplars, wormwood and star-flowered Solomon’s seal.  In the 1940s, the Department of National Defence used the Bald Head area as a bombing range. Much of this stretch of sand is now the Wellers Bay National Wildlife Area.

Marram Grass, photo by Terry SpragueAcross the bay stretches the Millennium Trail from the Murray Canal to Picton. Prior to the late 1990s, it was a CNR line, and from it, was a spur that went to a loading wharf at the east shore of Wellers Bay. Remains of that wharf are still present, and if you wander along the route of the track, you can find the location of the roundhouse and other hints from the past when this railway extension was built to carry iron ore from the north to be shipped to Cleveland, Ohio.

How much the dock was used, if at all, is unknown, for surely undependable water levels in the north channel  due to silting must have been challenging, even back then. It was this channel, or lack thereof, that was responsible for creating interest in forming a Friends of Wellers Bay group, in 1987. By then, the channel had become choked with weeds and shifting sand, resulting in a loss of water quality in the bay due to poor water exchange. In 1989, the channel was dredged and a break wall constructed to help in controlling the shifting sand.

The Kente Portage Road, located on the bay’s north shore is the oldest road in continuous use in Ontario, and some of the original houses still mark the route. This road was used extensively by trappers and First Nations tribes. The Indian trail formed an important route between the Bay of Quinte and Wellers Bay. Little did these early explorers, settlers and trappers know that some years later, from 1882 to 1889, the Murray Canal would be built to provide an alternative shipping and transportation route.  This 12-kilometre canal saves boaters a 160 km trip around the outside of Prince Edward County.

Kayakers. This shallow open channel is now completely sealed by invasive Phragmites grass. Photo by Terry SpragueWellers Bay continues to see changes and one of the challenges of the Friends of Wellers Bay is to respond, when necessary, to these changes. A natural, but very shallow channel, that shows up on even the earliest navigational charts and maps, located not far from the dredged channel at Barcovan, has succumbed to the invasive Phragmites grass. This invasive species, similar to the tall ornamental cultivars commonly seen along driveways and in gardens, has totally claimed the one time channel, its grassy foliage and plumed tops towering some five metres in height.

Thanks to the Friends of Wellers Bay, this important body of water continues to provide pleasure to anglers, sun worshippers, canoeists and kayakers.  A cattail marsh separating Bald Head Island from the spit itself is a Mecca for wetland birds, including American bitterns, Virginia rails, pied-billed grebes, marsh wrens, and nesting waterfowl. Guiding a canoe or kayak through the growth of wild rice in late summer and viewing the wetland inhabitants in their native habitat is a pleasant experience.

The mission of the Friends of Wellers Bay is as follows:

  • Provide leadership and resources for the restoration and preservation of the environment of Wellers Bay.
  • Raise the funds and oversee the maintenance of the break wall and the dredging of the channel.
  • Provide information to the public for the purposes of promoting and enhancing the Wellers Bay environment.
  • Work with the City of Quinte West, Prince Edward County, Dept. of National Defense, Canadian Wildlife Service and other organizations for the betterment of the Bay.
  • work for the continued enjoyment of the Bay and its natural wonders.


     
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