by Charlie Marshall
Lepper and McClure’s brook used to be a great place to fish, swim, and even ice skate. However that was in the past, nowadays there isn’t as much of fish abundance. The waters are shallow; throughout the winter the brooks freeze and refreeze which makes conditions for the fish to be more difficult. Another issue is that more waste and runoff is being leeched into the streams. The Story Stream Project is a project that is based on interviews of elders and other community members that grew up or lived around the streams. I interviewed Dr. Donald Julien (Executive Director at the CMM) who as a child, grew up in Millbrook and lived near both streams, and readily used both as well, not only for resources but for recreational activities too.
Don talked to me about how the brooks were “…clean and clear all the time I was growing up.” He also talked of how pollution was an issue then but not as much as today. “We knew that some of the sewer systems were feeding into that brook, but no one ever really got sick. … It didn’t seem to bother us at that time, but now we don’t know what’s being pushed into that brook.” It wasn’t perfect then, and it still isn’t now. Upstream there are still more pollutants, waste, and agricultural runoff are being leeched the brooks or are carelessly dumped without a second thought to where waste would end up.
Fishing was a major aspect of these brooks. People fished for food, recreationally and for medicinal homemade remedies. “We used to fish two or three times a week … used to be a family affair during the evenings, but also used to carry on with my friends. There was a lot of camaraderie with the guys… ” People would do day trips as Don said, “get dropped off in Alton in the morning and fish your way home.” Despite the runoff from the town dump and agricultural land, the fish were abundant and healthy, “Leppers brook, it runs down from the town of Truro up towards Young St. even though there was a town dump up there and there was probably a lot of leeching going on. That brook was always alive, there was always plenty of trout or eel, and sometimes you’d get a little salmon. It was very lively.” However that was in the past, and recently some community members of Millbrook noticed that the Brook Trout population was depleting. The water is becoming murkier than before; also sand and silt are starting to build up in areas causing the streams to become shallower and making it harder for the fish to survive.
Recreationally the streams were used a lot. Through the summer people used to swim at a place called Peter’s, it was the local swimming hole. “In McClure’s brook, there’s a culvert, we called it Peter’s. We played hockey there, but we mostly swam there. When the water was high people used to dive off the culvert. Used to be a lot deeper then it probably is now.” Don was right, even though he hasn’t been down to the either of the streams since he was a child, the streams are a lot more shallow then they used to be. Rock, sand and silt accumulated where “Peter’s” used to be. Once able to dive six feet off the ground into the brook, I recently went down to see Peter’s swimming hole, and it was just deep enough to touch my knees. He had also said they played hockey in the winter. The winters were cold enough that the streams would freeze completely over. “We did a lot of skating, used to go into Hilden and then you could go all the way back down to downtown (Truro).” The ice would have had to be strong and for people to skate on. Today you would be lucky if you could roll a puck on the ice without it dropping through the ice or going into one of the many holes because the winters are so mild that the streams, like I said earlier, freeze and refreeze almost constantly. This is even different compared to when I was a kid growing up. The streams and surrounding woods was our playground. My friends and I used to be able to play hockey without skates or used it to just cross the Brooks. Sometimes it would crack or break a small hole the size of your boot, but for the most part it was reliable, or what we thought was safe at the time.
After the story telling, I asked Don why the streams were important. His response was a short pause and he told me; “my childhood.” That was his personal reason why it’s important, but for the community he said “They are important, for vegetation, for the things around them, the things that feed off of them, the wildlife.” He’s right. If it wasn’t for these two streams, Millbrook would not have such a vast abundance of wildlife. The animals would find somewhere else, somewhere with more/cleaner waters. Don expressed that the attitude of a lot of people, even our own people, is that if it doesn’t directly affect them then they don’t care, but really eventually it will. If there wasn’t any streams, how different Millbrook would be compared to the old Millbrook where people used the streams almost every day for fishing or just having fun. There has been a lot of memories at these brooks, wither your young or old, there’s probably some occasion that has happened in or around the two streams.
Lepper Brook and McClure’s Brook are a great valued resource in the community, and should be taken care of not only by our community members, but by the people in surrounding areas like in Truro upstream Lepper Brook, and the farmers who’s chemicals are being runoff into McClure’s Brook. It has to be a team effort, and it won’t change overnight.