Five Norfolk County residents have been featured in a photo-documentary series surrounding Lake Erie.
Mat and Melissa Vaughan, Holly Anderson, and John and Jan Everett each told their connection to the lake in the online series.
North of Long Tail is a collaborative project between Environmental Defence Canada and documentary photographer Colin Boyd Shafer that discusses the need to protect the waters.
The Vaughans, owners of Hounds of Erie Winery, spoke about their property being next door to the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve, and the different wildlife they see.
“I think what we’re hoping [readers] see is that it’s a small, family-run business, we are always trying to engage our customers and get them involved in all aspects of wine and hard cider,” Mat Vaughan said in a phone interview. “They were interested in our family-run boutique winery, the types of environmental programs we run here, and how they relate to Lake Erie.”
The property is part of Alternative Land Use Systems, providing safe habitats for bluebirds, barn owls, hawks, and falcons.
“We provide habitat for species at risk,” Vaughan explained. “That’s really the big part of how we contribute to that program. In addition to that we also have a few strips of wild flowers for pollinators.”
Holly Anderson, founder of Cleaning Up Norfolk, is a local artist, boater, and advocate for the water.
In a phone interview, Anderson said she feels advocating for the lake is one of her life’s purposes.
“They got in touch with me and said they were featuring people that were connected to the lake, and I was like, that’s basically what sustains me, it’s my reason for being, in a way,” she said. “It’s a purpose to protect the lake.”
Anderson worked on a Great Art for Great Lakes project last year with Suzanne Earls, where they made a sturgeon out of plastic found along the shorelines of Lake Erie during Cleaning Up Norfolk events.
John and Jan Everett are retirees and turtle advocates with a cottage in Long Point.
“No one really knows about Long Point,” John Everett said in an interview. “When Jan and I give our turtle talks to public schools in Jarvis, and Grand Bend, nobody knows where Long Point is, nobody knows anything about Long Point.
“They all focus on Lake Huron or Port Stanley. We want an awareness that this is a beautiful part of the province that people should explore.”
Everett went on to say that what is happening in Lake Erie is a litmus test for all of the Great Lakes, and brought up phragmites as another issue facing the shorelines.
Everett added that his blood pressure drops 20 points every time he crosses the causeway to get to Long Point.
“It’s so relaxing.”
The couple has a love for protecting the local turtle population. John has helped place “Watch 4 Turtles” signs along the causeway and worked as a director at the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve, and Jan has authored a children’s book, Never Give Up, following ‘Johnny’ on his quest to save turtles.
Norfolk County residents are not the only ones with connections such as these to the lake.
“Lake Erie is more than just a body of water. So many people rely on the lake for so many things — to support their business, for drinking water, recreation, or just a place to unwind and relax,” Keith Brooks, programs director with Environmental Defence, said in a press release. “When Lake Erie’s health is impacted, so are the lives of the people who live near and love the lake. We wanted to show that through this project.”
Shafer met with people from all different walks of life while travelling along the shore of Lake Erie.
“What I heard over and over again from people was how essential Lake Erie was to their community and local history, and how it was a lifeline for them,” Shafer, who is from Kitchener, said in the press release. “Having the chance to meet these people and capture these stories has had a profound impact on me. It has given me a different perspective and relationship with Lake Erie.”
Other locations featured include Pelee Island, Chatham-Kent, Leamington, Waterloo, Guelph, and Port Stanley.
The entire photo series can be discovered at https://environmentaldefence.ca/north-of-long-tail/.