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Fort Creek

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 9 months ago

Fort Creek Biological Inventory

 

         

               The Critter Tree—Don Hall

 

Club members from Sault Ontario will likely be aware of the HUB trail initiative. The new non-motorized trail will encircle much of the city. Walkers, cyclists, roller bladers, skiers and people concerned with climate change certainly feel that this is long overdue! Support from the Sault Naturalists has been strong, both at executive and general membership meetings.

 

A portion of the trail is to go through the Fort Creek Conservation Area, and an environmental impact study (EIS) is required before construction can begin. The first step in preparing an EIS is a biological inventory. Given that naturalists have a knack for identifying plants, birds and other living things, the club saw an opportunity to support a worthwhile endeavour, while having some fun outdoors. Late last year the club agreed to take on the inventory as a volunteer project, thereby allowing money that would have been spent on consulting fees to be used for actual trail construction. During the winter, students in natural resources programs at Sault College laid the ground work, preparing up-to-date GIS-based maps of the existing trails and other features.

 

Four outings were scheduled for spring and early summer, and several informal outings were staged as well. In total, 27 people spent 158 volunteer hours at Fort Creek. The botany outings were quite structured, with teams sent off to survey the vegetation in pre-determined plots. Bird outings were more casual, just making sure that all the trails in the study area were covered, and careful records were kept. We were always on the lookout for special habitat features, species at risk, or anything that might be damaged by trail construction. Fortunately, we did not find many serious concerns with the proposed trail corridor. The route follows an existing trail, so removal of trees can be kept to a minimum. Some our more interesting findings and recommendations include:

1) Monarch Butterfly caterpillars feed on milkweeds along portions of the trail, and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) lists Monarchs as a species of “special concern”. We are suggesting that the monarchs be compensated for habitat loss by planting a new patch of milkweed in an area that is currently mown lawn.

2) There is a cavity tree (believed to be home to a pair of Great-crested Flycatchers) almost in the middle of the trail corridor. The poplar is still alive, and likely to provide good wildlife habitat for another 15 to 20 years. We are suggesting that the trail be realigned slightly, to avoid damage to the tree.

3) The conservation authority has been brush sawing and weed-whipping a wide right-of-way along the existing trail corridor. We suggest that natural vegetation be allowed to grow right up to the edge of the new trail.

4) If trees must be felled, we are suggesting that rather than being removed from the property they be distributed through the forest and allowed to decay naturally.

5) Well away from the proposed trail corridor we found a really interesting “critter tree”. If you lightly scratch the bark when someone is home an unidentified furry critter will peer out at you. It is likely a Northern Flying Squirrel, but no one has had a good enough look to be able to say for sure.

 

The Fort Creek Conservation Area is an interesting and diverse forested area, within the city limits! The club has been able to contribute to its conservation and environmentally friendly use and as Martha Stewart would say “that’s a good thing.”

We would like to thank the many club members who put so much effort in to the inventory project. Many hands make light work! The project reflects well on the club, and is a significant service to the community.

Our report was submitted to the Conservation Authority on July 11. A copy will be available for review at meetings beginning in September.

 

Submitted by: Marjorie Hall & Don Hall

 

See the Hub Trail Update for current information about routing the Hub Trail through the Fort Creek Conservation Area.

 

 

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