No, this isn’t a political post, although governments are involved. The non-political damage that needs to be repaired involves the dam at Glen Villa, my garden in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and the pond the dam created.
The pond dates back well over 100 years, to about 1870 or so, when a stream was dammed to provide power for a sawmill. In the days of Glen Villa Inn, the grand resort hotel that stood on the property from 1902-1909, hotel guests fished for trout in the pond. That’s when they weren’t playing golf — a drive across the pond to the hills beyond was the first hole on the hotel’s 9-hole course.
The site was a powerful local attraction as well, deemed so appealing visually that it featured not only in the hotel’s brochure but in advertising campaigns by the village of North Hatley where the hotel was located.
The waterfall that the dam created was an even bigger attraction.
It still is. Driving in and out from our house, the waterfall and the gorge, or glen, formed by the stream, offer dramatic views in every season. In summer, after a storm, water pours over the rocks with a force that is almost frightening.
In winter, when snow caps the rocks and icy beards dangle, the water slows to a freeze.
But now the dam needs to be repaired. Instead of water flowing over the main portion, it is taking the easiest route, using a side channel built in the 1960s to manage high water levels. The reason is simple: after about 60 years, the cement on the side channel is crumbling, making it lower than the main section.
Repairing this defect isn’t a major job but permits from the local and regional authorities as well as from the provincial Ministry of the Environment are required. I applied for a permit a few years ago because the pond was silting up. My request was denied — the shallower pond was not an environmental problem, only an aesthetic one.
A few days ago I was fortunate enought to received a permit to repair the dam but I’m still waiting to discover if I’ll get a permit to dredge the pond. This is now essential, not because the pond is too shallow but because the silt is too deep. It is blocking the water intake for a fire hydrant, making the hydrant useless and the municipality potentially liable, should a fire occur.
We discovered the problem when we began to drain the pond, a necessary first step in order to repair the dam. Draining a naturally fed pond takes time — it took more than three days in our case.
With most of the water gone, the need to dredge became clear — the blocked pipe was evident immediately. But while we wait for the permit to be issued, the pond simply sits there, no longer its lovely self …
but an unattractive, muddy mess.
Standing near the dam and looking in the opposite direction, towards the bridge and the public road, the contrast between a pond with water and one without is equally striking. Compare this spring view from a few years ago…
to the current ugliness.
On the upstream side of the bridge, the work that needs to be done is even more evident. Silt there has formed a ledge several feet thick and what once was a large pool of open water is now a gravel-based island covered with rough vegetation.
In the twenty years that we’ve owned Glen Villa, we’ve dredged the pond twice. It is a big job, with big equipment. And before the work can start, the mud at the bottom of the pond has to dry out enough to allow heavy machinery to drive onto it. Otherwise, trucks will sink into the muck — not a nice prospect.
So I’m hoping the sun will beat down, the rains hold off and the snow wait to fall until the job is complete. And, of course, that the necessary permits are issued in time.
I’m confident. What is damaged can be repaired. Needs to be repaired. And will be, once the muck is gone.