During the COVID-19 pandemic, the experience of the public realm in urban areas has all but vanished. There is one place where the public realm hangs on in many cities, the local parks. Unfortunately several cities around the province have resorted to the closure of their urban parks due to the reluctance of their users to practice proper social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. Several cities have recognized the culture of park users in the past does not necessarily reflect the new reality we are facing and have made some excellent adjustments to help curb the spread of the virus. We know that access to parks and green space is an excellent way to improve public health, and park users often have decreased stress levels when visiting a park. These are both great reasons to work to keep our parks open during a pandemic!(more…)
Category: Parks and Open Space
Learning from Spring Wildflowers, and how We Bring Them Back
Every year myself and many others eagerly await the arrival of the ephemeral spring wildflowers. In the past few days I’ve been out scouting for them around Peterborough, and it appears they will be in full bloom soon! In Peterborough it is possible to see these ephemeral forest flowers in Burnham Woods, the Trent Nature areas, the Fleming College Property, and some places in Jackson Park. When visiting these places, be sure to tread carefully and take nothing but photographs.
Being more than just photogenic and beautiful to look at, early spring wildflowers can be an excellent indicator of forest health. These early wildflowers support insects and pollinators of many different varieties. Notably, many of these spring wildflowers are pollinated by various ant species, instead of other flying insects. A good reminder to not forget about ants as an important pollinator in our ecosystems! Beyond pollinators, many larger animals rely on these plants as a source of forage. Many spring flowers produce fruit, and leaves that forest animals will feast upon.
These flower species are often sensitive to environmental changes and human activity, which also makes them an early indicator of a declining forest health. Changes in the water cycle due to nearby construction, trampling of plants by humans, and invasive species can all have an impact on the health of these wildflower and forest communities.
Here in Peterborough’s Jackson park, these spring wildflowers are few and far between. The forest has experienced many of the impacts mentioned above, and trampling of the forest floor has reduced the chances of their revival to a minimum. It does not need to be this way, communities in other parts of the province have created simple and effective ways of managing the human impact on the forest ecology.
In urban forests, often the forest undergrowth becomes trampled by people walking through the forest. The trampling of the undergrowth results in a decline of flowers, and the remaining flowers are often picked by visitors. In London Ontario, along the Thames River the Garden Club of London had an elegant and beautiful solution to this problem. Last year I visited their woodland garden to explore this oasis in the middle of their city. By strategically placing fencing throughout the forest and adding pathways where people frequently passed through the forest, the woodland garden was able to revive the local forest ecology while still providing opportunities for visitors to pass through the forest and marvel at the beautiful flowers.
Urban forests, although not pristine, do not need to be resigned to an eternity of ecological degradation through human use. With some tender care the Garden Club of London shows us how some careful planning can bring back the wildflowers for all of us to enjoy. It is my personal hope that in the coming years we can bring the flowers and pollinators back into Peterborough’s own Jackson Park.
Where to Find Spring Wildflowers in Peterborough
With spring finally showing up on our doorstep I thought I’d share some of my favorite wildflower hotspots in Peterborough! The spring wildflowers are incredibly diverse with some early ones quite delicate such as hepatica, or incredibly showy such as the iconic trillium, it’s difficult to pick a favorite. (If I did pick a favorite it would be Bloodroot) There are many places to find them in and around Peterborough, but some places are better than others. Most species seem to prefer upland deciduous forests. By appearing before the tree canopy fills in, they are able to soak up the sunlight before disappearing until next year. Many of these flower species are also pollinated by one of the less known pollinators: the humble ant. So if you want to find some spring wildflowers, look no further than this list.
1. Fleming College Trails
The lands surrounding Fleming College in the south west corner of the city make for perfect wildflower viewing. Some years the forest floor is blanketed with trilliums in a way that I have never seen elsewhere. Many of the other spring wildflowers such as hepatica, bloodroot, and trout lillys are present.
2. Burnham Woods
Probably the best place in Peterborough to see spring wildflowers is Burnham Woods. The old growth deciduous forest makes perfect setting to see all of the spring classics. Blue Cohosh, Mayapples, and Bellwort are all visible along the paths through the forest. Look close to the forest floor and you might even be able to find a violet or two.
3. Lady Eaton Drumlin at Trent
Again, this is perfect habitat for Spring wildflowers, parking is easy at Trent now that school is out for the summer, and it is also quite accessible by bus! Access the drumlin by walking up the slope behind Lady Eaton College at the university. You’ll be astounded by the diversity of wildflowers that are present at the top of the hill. In some of the low lying areas around the hill you can find another spring classic… the showy marsh marigold.
Hopefully this inspires you to get out and explore the best that Peterborough has to offer! Subscribe to Steward’s Notes to get more tips about nature spots in Peterborough or follow on Facebook or Twitter.
Steward’s Notes Celebrates Successful Bid to Replace Simcoe St. Parking Garage
Today Steward’s Notes is pleased to announce a successful bid to replace the Simcoe St. parking garage with a natural outdoor park! This will provide an excellent opportunity to bring daylight back to Jackson Creek and create outdoor space for the downtown community! After working with municipal counterparts it was agreed that the parking garage was underutilized and should be replaced with a showcase of Peterborough’s Natural heritage and beauty! Once again daylight will shine on Jackson Creek for the first time since the 1960s. The multi-million dollar contract will enable the total removal of the parking garage and subsequent replacement with outdoor greenspace. The bus terminal will be relocated to the King St. Parking Garage once construction begins. The benefits of this park promise to be immesurable and include:
- Health Benefits for Nearby Residents
- Reduced Urban Heat Island
- Improvements to Water Quality in Jackson Creek
- Improved Capacity to prevent major flooding
- Opportunities to fall for an April Fools Joke!
Explore the possibilities with this exciting new project on May 11th with Dylan Radcliffe as he leads a Jane’s Walk exploring the river as it meanders hidden through Downtown Peterborough!
Exploring Jackson Creek’s Lost Tributary
EDITORS NOTE: Since the writing this article in, um… a long time ago, it has come to my attention that this tributary is in fact called Brookdale Creek.
About two years ago I was having a conversation with a friend and he asked me about a small little creek that ran through his backyard at the time. Knowing where he lived, I knew it was a tributary of Jackson Creek, but nothing more.
I’ve passed by this creek countless times, small creeks have always fascinated me but I’ve never had the opportunity to explore this one in particular. Small creeks and streams are some of our most fragile yet least understood aquatic ecosystems, yet they make up a large part of our watersheds. As Peterborough was built, countless small creeks were filled in, many people have wet basements because of it, but this small creek remains.
Having recently acquired a copy of a historical atlas of Peterborough, I wanted to understand how some of these environmental features of early Peterborough might still be visible today. This little creek seemed like an excellent starting point.
Blessed with a sunny day and high spirits, I decided to go out exploring….
At the base of Hidden Creek you can see where it spills out into Jackson Creek. The culvert has clearly been installed for several decades. Its nearly invisible this time of year, with Jackson Creek’s levels so high. Its not clear if any water is actually spilling out from underneath the bicycle pathway.
One block north on McDonnel St. it is possible to see where the embankments have been stabilized to make room for more construction. The heavy concrete construction seems to indicate that this creek may have been a bit of an engineering problem at the time. I suspect that before sewer system upgrades this little tributary received a lot of rainwater runoff from the city to the north. Continuing several blocks to the north, you can see how this little creek has been tucked away between lotlines, hidden from view. Neighbors have attached their downspouts to the channel to quickly convey rainwater away. From street level there are sometimes ornate iron bars that prevent passers by from falling into the channel. As you approach the head of the stream the water is not frozen, perhaps there is a hidden spring feeding this creek from below the city.
Finally upon reaching Parkhill road, is the most natural portion of the creek. Its “headwaters” you might say. From underneath the roadway Hidden Creek spills forth into a small grassy space. Apparently this land is municipal property! A great opportunity for a community group to install a pollinator garden or do a small tree planting along the creek’s edge!
Peterborough is full of long forgotten creeks, and this is but one of them. Do you know anything about this tiny Hidden Creek? Do you know of other little environmental hotspots in the city? Perhaps as the summer progresses I will try to discover more of these forgotten places.
Peterborough Natural Areas Atlas
With the fall colours upon us, there is no time like the present to get out and enjoy what Peterborough’s natural areas have to offer. Over the course of the winter I will be working on an updated version of the Natural Areas atlas for people to enjoy next spring! In the meantime, why not head over to the downloads page and get a copy for yourself? The atlas covers some of the most interesting natural areas within the city limits and has some suggested walking trails marked on the map. Make sure to share your wildlife sightings on iNaturalist, ebird, reptile and amphibian atlas or some other citizen science program! Bring a friend and I’ll see you on the trail!
Peterborough Nature Destinations Summer Bucket List
If you’re looking for a way to get out and explore the incredible environment that we live in, look no further. Recently Drew Monkman (@NaturesYear) published a list of excellent nature destinations to visit around Peterborough and the Kawarthas. After a brief conversation we agreed that it would be great to have a map to accompany the excellent write up that was published in the Peterborough Field Naturalists monthly newsletter. You can read all about the destinations listed on the map in the issues linked below. Perhaps if you’re interested in exploring these places with an expert, you should join the Peterborough Field Naturalists and tag along on our Sunday outings.
Read up on the locations, then hit the road with the handy map below! There’s lots to explore!
The Environment, Jackson Park, Springtime, and Elections
With the upcoming provincial election possibly having a dramatic impact on the jewel in our city that is Jackson Park, I decided to take a stroll along the creek to explore the lush green valley that has recently sprung to life. The polls seem to suggest that the Progressive Conservatives will be the ones to lead the province for the next 4 years. Thus far they have not indicated in any capacity that the Natural Environment is of concern or a priority. Tomorrow, make the effort to go to the polls and cast your ballot with the future of Ontario and Peterborough’s natural environment in your mind and in your hearts. In the meantime, enjoy the eye candy that is Jackson Park in the spring!
This Is Why Jackson Creek Matters
This spring so far has not given us much in the way of precipitation, but that’s not to say that we can’t see our surrounding environment hard at work. In Peterborough we have a long history of flooding in our downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Looking at old maps of Peterborough, it is easy to see why this is the case. When the area was first settled 200 years ago, Jackson Creek meandered through a wetland located where the downtown currently resides. The river still carries memories with it, when the downtown flooded in 2004 the path of the stream passed through buildings and shops in much the same way as it did in times gone by. (more…)
Peterborough’s Natural Heritage System Metro
One of the obvious metaphors for a natural heritage system is a road or subway network for species that aren’t humans. Just as you require pathways to to work each morning, species need a pathway to move from their homes to their feeding grounds, water, and breeding areas. As a fun little project I decided to create a fictional metro system for all of our feathered, furry and slippery friends in the city. Each of the metro lines correspond with a real corridor that may be used by foxes, birds, snakes, and others to move between the core natural areas in our city. When we discuss the protection of our nature areas, we must not forget the metro system that connects these important natural spaces.
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