Hey Peterborough! Hey Jackson Park! Congratulations! We did it! On December 6th 2021 city council voted to add Jackson Park to the official heritage register under the Ontario Heritage Act. For over 100 years Jackson Park has been a fixture in the Peterborough community. Envisioned by the Nichols Trust as a respite from the growing city; this beloved park has more than fulfilled it’s role.
Tomorrow we’ll get back to work, but let’s celebrate this beloved park. By the numbers, Jackson Park is an impressive place. A summary to date (December 2021):
143 Bird Species have been catalogued on the Jackson Park Ebird hotspot
All of these things add such great value to Peterborough, and it is all worth protecting for the future. There is lots of hard work to be done to further protect and restore this important heritage location. From invasive species, trampling of the undergrowth, to climate change, or even just trails in disrepair there is still lots to do. I’m personally looking forward to tackling these challenges to pass this space along to future generations.
Thanks so much to councilor Kim Zippel to bringing this motion forward from the Heritage Committee. And thank you to council for seeing this motion through to completion.
Monday December 6th 2021 will hopefully be a momentous occasion for Jackson Park. Peterborough City council will sit down to vote on a heritage designation for Jackson Park. The implications of this are huge for one of the most cherished locations in Peterborough. In September 2019 the City’s Architectural Conservation Authority Committee recommended that Jackson Park receive this illustrious designation and hopefully this will come to fruition on Monday.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Jackson Park more than deserves this designation. The park has been a fixture in the Peterborough ever since it was donated to the city by the Nichols Trust 1893. It features prominently in the shared memory of the city. One is hard pressed to flip through any historical account of Peterborough without stumbling upon several references to the venerated park.
Indeed there are many parks on the continent that have received special protections that Jackson Park does not have. Parks built and designed in the same period by Frederick Olmsted generally receive substantial heritage recognition and protections. Meanwhile, Jackson Park has yet to receive protections (or attention) afforded to significantly younger designs and buildings in the city of Peterborough.
One hopes that this can be a first step towards protecting and enhancing Jackson Park for future generations. There are many threats facing the park, and hopefully this designation can assist in pushing the envelope for greater attention to those threats. If you haven’t already, take a moment to go sign the petition being passed to city council. Or write to your councilor to voice your support for this designation.
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.
Field notes are brief reports I occasionally publish that describe the local environment. Subscribers to Stewards Notes do not receive and email when field notes are published and they are not listed on the front page. Follow along if you like.
Spring wildflowers are appearing in Jackson Park. Today (April 14th) on our outing we noticed Colt’s Foot, Trout Lilies and Wood Lilies. Additionally we noted an Osprey overlooking the Old Mill Pond near the pagoda bridge. Over the past week we have also noticed a Blue Heron in the pond during the evening hours. Looking forward to more flowers coming in to bloom!
This time last year, wildflowers were in full bloom across the Kawarthas. This spring has been rather slow to start the bloom. I wanted to be prepared for the eventual blooms of wildflowers throughout the city, so I started with the closest park. Jackson Park isn’t exactly prime wildflower habitat, I suspect that nearly a century of heavy human use has probably had an impact on their diversity in the area. Nevertheless I was able to find some early signs that Trout Lillies and Marsh Marigolds will be blooming soon in Jackson Park!
The willow is starting to put out buds and the poplars and birches have catkins weighing down their branches. I also noticed that two of the mighty white pines adjacent to the pond are in rough shape, and may in fact be dead… A sad day for sure. Also plenty of signs of woodpeckers in the park. Noticed a beautiful Pilliated Woodpecker high up on a dead tree.
Today I took a stroll up to the Lilly Lake Subdivision to discover what had come of last week’s events. I knew that on Friday there had been activity on site, but I didn’t feel like popping my head into an active construction site, one that my actions may have precipitated. It seems that the construction company has fixed the giant hole in their sediment fencing by adding several more layers. Sections of the fence now are 4 layers thick. In addition, a wall of boulders was constructed at the outlet of a giant erosion scar. It will be interesting to see if even they can hold the water back. (more…)
This past week my partner alerted me to the fact that things in Jackson Creek looked a little off. “Like chocolate milk” is how she described it. I’ve seen rivers that looked like chocolate milk before, but never Jackson Creek. I decided to go have a look to see what was causing the phenomenon. First I went down to the creek near the entrance into Jackson Park. Indeed the water was murky with silt and mud.
Murky water like this is bad for fish and other aquatic organisms. It can suffocate fish, decrease light reaching into the water to allow plants to grow and can mean increased nutrients will lead to algae blooms and decreased oxygen concentrations.
After discovering the milky water that had found its way into creek I wanted to see what the water looked like upstream of any housing developments. I drove outside of town to see what the water looked like where the river crosses under Ackinson Road.
Sure enough the water was clear and crisp. Some tannins were in the water that gave the water a “tea like” appearance. This is a natural phenomenon and no immediate cause for concern. It was obvious that there was something along the banks of Jackson Creek that was causing the pollution in the area.
Flowing into a small tributary along the North side of the housing development on Lilly Lake road was one of the most egregious cases of poor sediment control. Along the slopes of the new construction, huge gullies of sediment had been carved out of the embankments and sediment was pouring into a failed stormwater pond to be deposited in Jackson Creek.
I’m not sure what how to fix this situation, city council is consistently unwilling to take action on these issues, Peterborough is home to several failed stormwater ponds. And it seems like the problem is not getting better any time soon. Perhaps a new city council will be willing to make the changes required to ensure the continued health and wellbeing of our waterways, and ultimately our community as a whole.
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…)