Port Dover Lions Club Commitment to Silver Lake

Firstly, the Port Dover Lion's Club is the majority property owner in the area now known as Silver Lake. (approx. 800 meters of shoreline).

As you can imagine, purchasing such a large property through fundraising projects must have involved a huge amount of volunteerism including money raised and supported by sweat equity on the part of local residents. Our interest and concern can best be understood by beginning with a brief history of its beginning and the Lion's Club involvement to date.
Silver Lake had its beginnings when the first dam was constructed in 1856 by Andrew Thompson to support Norfolk Woollen Mill in Port Dover. The Lake was created by building what we now call Misner dam on the south end of the Lake below Ivey’s Dam (which itself is designated as a heritage site). A significant part of Port Dover’s history has been linked to Silver Lake. The Lake has been broadly described as one of Norfolk County’s hidden crown jewels. The wetland at the upper end of the lake has provided a habitat for great blue heron and green herons, native fish, turtles and other aquatic animals and birds. Generations of residents have fond memories of fishing (sun fish, large mouth bass, silver/white bass and carp), canoeing, swimming, snowshoeing, skiing and ice hockey on the lake. At one point in our history, the lake provided the ice for local families’ ice boxes!
To illustrate the extent to which the Lake has been a part of community culture, when Ivey’s Greenhouses closed in 1992, the Port Dover Lion’s Club purchased the land around the Lake to develop trails, picnic areas and sitting areas for lakefront viewing. In order to do this, community residents gave generously of their money and time to continue developing the area that has become a destination for tourism and diverse recreational pursuits to this day. The club retained a consultant to advise on the project layout to define the Master Plan. It was recommended that restoration focus on Carolinian tree species; the landscape architect drew diagrams and prepared lists to indicate the possibilities. Since this time, a soccer field has been developed on the land south of the previous greenhouse area. The berms at the sides were planted with approximately 2000 Carolinian trees (ash, honey-suckle, Kentucky coffee, dogwood, maple, cedar and oak trees) by the Lynn Valley District Scouts, Cubs and Beavers. (This tree planting continues as an ongoing process). The remaining portion of the north greenhouse area has been seeded with common grass seed, with native grasses and plants in strategic areas. Duck boxes have been placed around the property. A road network has been laid. The whole community has made considerable investment in this public site both in financial support and hands on work. When the site was initially being cleaned up, local residents turned out in droves on Saturdays. Tens of thousands of roses had to be pulled out by the roots and burned to honour the green house license requirements for disposing of hybrid breeding stock.. Approximately 150 people each week worked on the project and sported the scratches to prove it when they gathered in the local churches on Sunday mornings.
Community residents have given generously to support park development. Businesses and individuals have purchased memorial benches that are set up around the lake for visitor viewing pleasure. Scotia Bank bought 20 benches but asked to have only one inscribed so that the remaining 19 could be sold again! This is certainly a community that has always worked together to invest in its future.

The park development is still in process. The plan includes a boardwalk over the wetland area with interpretative signage for educational groups, interested residents and visitors. Most recently the new pavilion has been added to provide a stage for concerts and other outdoor events. It hosted its first weddings in the summer of 2011. Although many features of the plan remain to be completed, the park hosts more than 65,000 visitors annually. Eight years ago, the Lynn Valley Trail Association set up a new geocaching activity for hikers and bikers that has become unsafe due to the growth in disease arising from loss of natural predators. People come to the park for educational and recreational activities that result in boosting the economy in town in the town itself and also in surrounding villages.
In summary, our town has huge investment in getting the lake back. Once the Dam is repaired, a dedicated team of Lions is ready to continue with our fundraising projects to deal with cleaning up areas in stages. It should be noted that the current situation is untenable. While the surface looks dried up and cracked there are artesian wells that bubble up and upset the natural circle of life It has become a breeding ground for ticks, flies, and mosquitoes spreading such diseases as Lyme and West Nile virus. The Lake now serves as a choking point for all the silt that has been flowing into it over a long period of time. The Dam is a silt trap that has protected the docks and access channels of the Port Dover sailing squadron (300 Members) at the forks of the Lynn river and Black Creek. There are some 3,000 water craft berthed on the river above the lift bridge in Port Dover. That protection is also extended to the Commercial Fishing Fleet in the Port Dover Harbour. Those Commercial fishermen (12 tugs and 100 jobs incl. spin offs) have been making a living fishing on Lake Erie for generations and they require clear channels to operate their tugs in and out of the Port Dover Harbour. Dams that have been removed in other fishing towns, such as Port Burwell and Port Stanley, are much less efficient because the silt has taken over the harbour and is preventing large boat traffic there. The Port Dover Lions Club is the largest single owner of property on Silver Lake and therefore is the biggest stakeholder (approx. 800 meters of shoreline).

As of September 2019, Norfolk County is due to issue tenders for the repair of Misner Dam with a construction start of July 2020.

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