Soon the leaves will be changing… I can already see some of the signs that fall is almost here. In the mornings, the dewy, damp, cool air hangs over the trails in the Glen and the steam rises off of the ponds at Dufferin Islands. Our peak of the fall colour is still about three weeks away but there is still so much to do to wrap up our summer.
The Spring Ephemeral Inventory conducted this past spring was delivered to us this summer and wading through the 80+ pages of documentation, I am discouraged and encouraged all at once. The team of botanists and ecologists were unable to locate some of the rarer species we had hoped to find. It begs the question, are they gone or was this just one of those years when the conditions we not optimal. I have learned that “the more we know, the more we know we don’t know”. I was encouraged to know that some of the trees I was concerned about are in fact in good health. The combination of an aging forest infrastructure, years of less than ideal weather and a host of tree diseases makes me very nervous.
We were also able to document the natural areas at Queenston Meadows this past spring with help from some Niagara College post graduate students. This is an area I have mentioned before is becoming a pet project of mine as I struggle to determine what we should be doing there in terms of restoration. “What does this site want to be?” That is a question I have asked myself repeatedly while standing on a pile of old quarry rocks, looking out over the field of butterfly weed and non-native phragmites. Whatever we decide to do here will be challenging!
We have been working on the protocols for monitoring forest health and biodiversity at Paradise Grove (far north end of the Park). Two permanent monitoring plots there will allow us to look at changes over time linked to climate change and even our management of the site. Along with our partners, we are measuring diameter and height of the trees. We are recording the depth and width of their canopies and the regeneration that is going on beneath the majestic oaks and their associates. Every tree no matter how small is considered…it is a monumental task but we are committed.
Niagara Parks has formed a strong partnership with the bouldering community that lists the Niagara Glen among the best climbing spots in the country. On October 1st, we will formally acknowledge this partnership with a kick off event at the Niagara Parks Nature Center. Join us on that day to learn about this unique form of rock climbing with demonstrations and tours of the nature reserve.
A new Butterfly Garden is being developed to showcase native plants. It is located in front of the floral clock. In partnership with Ontario Power Generation, NPC has chosen this location to highlight the use of native plants to attract native butterflies. Planting of the site will begin this fall and be completed in the spring of 2012.
The Habitat Stewardship Program of Environment Canada has granted us funding for the coming year to work on our trail markings and maintenance, and the removal of invasive species throughout the natural areas of the Park. We will be focusing again this year on Buckthorn species in the north end of the Park and also, Tree of Heaven which is fast becoming the nightmare of the forestry crew here at NPC. If you are not familiar with this tree it is a weedy, brittle, seed spewing beauty of a tree with “walnut-esk” compound leaves. In its defense, I do understand why people like it… the name alone might sway some. It is a pretty tree and it does grow fast and offer decent amounts of shade. But, if you have ever seen what it does in a natural area like the talus slopes of the Niagara Gorge, you would understand my reticence.
The prairie near the lilac garden was seeded back in June, and I am happy to report that despite the long, hot summer, there is good germination happening. The spring will tell how much of it is going to come up for us. Stay tuned on that.
So, another day has come to an end here at the Park. The sun is shining but I hear thunder rumbling in the distance and the wind is picking up. I love a good thunderstorm but maybe from the comfort of home…