WEDNESDAY, JULY 11: The rubbish-infested Pembroke Canal could be transformed into a beautiful ‘linear park’, according to a prominent environmentalist.
Dr David Wingate says the overgrown and polluted channel that spans two miles from Glebe Road to Mills Creek still has huge potential if government and the businesses and schools that border it work together.
Dr Wingate told the Bermuda Sun that large stretches of the existing canal would have to be dredged and widened if a ‘linear park’ and waterside path was to become a reality.
He called on planners to impose stricter regulations on developers who wanted to build on the low-lying land bordering the Pembroke Canal.
He said: “Planning should designate this as a special development area and mandate new compliance standards for any new development or re-development on the filled areas of the two marsh basins.
“There should be a greater setback distance from the ditch or canal for any new development or re-development to permit widening of the flood channel to 30 feet and widening the actual ditch to 12 feet.
“This would create space for the linear park and facilitate rapid runoff via the sluice gate in heavy rainfall events.
“They should mandate a minimum height above sea level for all new development floor levels or road and car park levels
“This should be at least six feet above the normal level of the water in the ditch which is essentially at mean sea level.
“This would provide protection against those rare storm surge events in hurricanes when north winds exceed 100 knots causing water to pile up in Great Sound as happened in Hurricane Emily in 1987.”
Dr Wingate said that pumping stations would not provide any relief in a storm surge as water cannot be drained up hill.
He added: “As sea level is rising at an accelerating rate and predicted to be one meter higher by 2100, this problem can only get worse.
“I would recommend an eight-foot minimum height above sea level for all new development or re-development rather than six foot.”
The former conservation officer for the Parks Department believes the linear park project could be modelled on a small section of the canal just east of Saltus Grammar School, which is bordered by a grass verge and well-kept path.
“It would be wonderful if we had a path running alongside the canal from the beginning to the end.
“People could jog along the water or take their dogs for a walk.
“There is definitely scope in most, if not all sections, to widen the channel to around six feet so long as the landowners agree.
“It would not have to widened significantly, just enough for a small, custom made, floating barge to go up and down sections of the canal to dredge and clean it on a regular basis.
“Then a pathway could be added on the waterside.
“The canal itself continues to attract a wide range of waterfowl and other wild life and a linear park would prove a huge attraction to islanders if everyone was prepared to work to the same plan.”
Anne Hyde from Keep Bermuda Beautiful said the group fully support Dr Wingate’s project and was willing to take the lead.
She added: “We would be willing to champion the initial clean-out of the canal.
“But we need to engage the businesses and the schools along the route as well as government in the project.
“We have been given a small grant and we plan to start work on clearing up Mills Creek in sections within the month.”
Wildlife: Clockwise from above left, a red earred slider terrapin, a night heron, green heron, and pond ducks are just some of the residents that have come to live at the Pembroke Canal. Despite the pollution from nearby industrial buildings and dumping, the canal still attracts a wide range of wildlife. *Photos by Simon Jones