The Minister of Public Works, Michael Weeks updated the public on the work that has been ongoing at the Pembroke Nature Reserve between the Department of Conservation Services and the Solid Waste Section within the Ministry of Public Works.
The Minister said the Pembroke Marsh Nature Reserve [19.32 acres] is Bermuda’s largest natural peat bog. Although attempts have been made in the past to completely infill the area earning it the name Marsh Folly they were all eventually defeated by its deep levels of peat, on average 40 feet deep, and in some parts extending many feet below sea level.
“Today it is important, not only as the largest remaining open water freshwater marsh, supporting resident and wintering water birds, but also as a sump and holding area for storm water runoff from the nearby City of Hamilton to prevent flash flooding and as a natural filter and settling pond for polluted leachate from the former dump,” Minister Weeks said.
He added: “Protected as both a Nature Reserve within the Bermuda National Parks System and an internationally important RAMSAR wetland the marsh is an integral part of the large green space north of Hamilton which is to be restored as the first part of the future Pembroke Park.”
Spearheaded by the Department of Conservation Services and the Solid Waste Section, the Ministry of Public Works has embarked on a three year phased program to restore the Marsh as not only a critical sanctuary for water birds and as beautiful “green lung” for local residents, but to improve its function as a natural water purifier for the adjacent composting facility and as a storm water sump to help reduce flooding of the Pembroke Canal downstream.
The periphery of the Marsh will be redesigned with new dykes and a sluice to better contain storm water and address occasional flooding caused by storm water runoff. These will be topped with a series of walking trails and foot bridges to allow public access around the Marsh but that “will not disturb the wildlife”.
The interior of the Marsh will be dredged of invasive plants to create islands which will be restored to their natural state with marsh loving native and endemic plants. “The Ministry would like to stress that all of these works will be constantly monitored for any possible harm to the environment,” Minister Weeks said.
Currently work has already begun on phase 1 of the restoration to clear the invasive plants clogging the shallow water areas of the Marsh along the south, west and northern boundaries.
A spokesperson said, “This was started in early summer and it is anticipated that this work will continue for several months using specialized machinery suitable for the “boggy” nature of the Marsh to complement the Government landscaping crews which will continue to work on more solid ground.
“While this on site work is being completed the Ministry will complete the infrastructure design which will be installed as Phase 2 of the project.
“This ambitious restoration project illustrates this Government’s continued commitment to its pledge to preserve Bermuda’s natural heritage for future generations; setting aside and improving threatened habitat for not only Bermuda’s unique wildlife but also for the social wellbeing of our people.” Minister Week said
This plan has already been presented to the National Parks Commission and has their support and is being developed in partnership with the Department of Conservation Services, Solid Waste, Structures and Highways Section of the Ministry of Public Works
“We are looking to utilize the prison day release program in addition to existing work crews to undertake the clearance of solid ground areas and we will use the specialized equipment to do clearance that cannot be safely cleared by hand.
“I also wish to add that all specialized machinery is locally available and plants for the Marsh have started to be collected and grown for the project.”