Lower Trent Conservation is celebrating its 50th anniversary! To commemorate this milestone occasion, we have released our ’50 in 50′ historical blog series. This special series features 50 articles highlighting some of the achievements, milestones and events of the past 50 years. We hope you enjoy them!
In 1989, a win-win project presented itself for two conservation organizations. The existing dam on Squires Creek at King’s Mill Conservation Area was in desperate need of work. As luck would have it, Ducks Unlimited was looking to establish more wetlands for waterfowl. An opportunity to kill two birds (or two mosquitoes) with one stone! By building a weir to replace the failing mill dam, the existing marsh wetland habitat could be enlarged for the benefit of many ducks, geese, and swans.
The project went ahead. A low head weir dam was constructed by Ernie Hamilton Construction, of Kingston, just upstream of the old mill dam. Ducks Unlimited contributed approximately 25% of the project costs. Ducks Unlimited also looked after the project tendering, contracting, and site supervision. The neighbouring Crowe Valley Conservation Authority generously chipped in by providing a qualified inspector for the dam’s construction.
But there is more to the King’s Mill Conservation Area story than just its new wetland and dam. King’s Mill Conservation Area is best known for its enduring and always picturesque grist and saw mill built around 1823. Its look is unique – huge inlaid wooden beams span the width of limestone walls – possibly inspired by elements of Scottish architecture as it was built by Robert Parker from Ayr, Scotland. Originally, it was completely water powered, used to saw logs in spring high water flows until a gasoline motor was installed in 1939. The mill was retired in the late 1960s.
This quiet Conservation Area is surrounded by a beautiful rolling landscape spotted with drumlin hills. Squire Creek squeezes between two drumlins here on its way to the Trent River just a few kilometres downstream. In addition to the large wetland, the Conservation Area also boasts mixed forest woodlots, some of which were reforested farm fields planted by Lower Trent Conservation and inmates from the Warkworth Penitentiary.
It is a little-known fact that, back in the day, King’s Mill was the hub of Lower Trent Conservation’s Conservation Lands operations. Lower Trent Conservation bought the property in 1970 to develop as a conservation area and to use as a workshop. There was even hope to restore the mill to demonstrate early milling methods and attract tourism, but that never materialized. Probably fewer people still know that Lower Trent Conservation staff reared ducks, geese, and swans in pens on the property. Mute swans that spent their spring and summer at the mill pond in Warkworth overwintered in pens at King’s Mill. Over time, workshop operations relocated to the current facility in Trenton.
Today, the mill sits empty, providing summer lodging to colonies of bats feasting on plentiful neighbourhood mosquitoes and an appealing backdrop for budding artists.