For more on the media coverage on the opening of this trail, read the article here.
A couple of days ago, I went to check this new trail out, getting some photos in the process.
But backing up a bit, this first photo is what part of it looked like in April, 1989. Given that it was taken in that era, it is a scanned image, of course. I was giving some new regional MNR staff a tour of the MNR interests along the tri-county area shoreline, describing the various features that they should be aware of or would find interesting. Even back then, I seldom went anywhere without my cameras and various lenses, so I rattled off several rolls of film over the three hour tour. While passing by the eastern shoreline of Lake St. Clair, I noticed this property which really stood out. Had aliens visited it, leaving these strange shapes and lines as a hidden message visible only to viewers from the air? No, it was a wetland that had cookie-cutter equipment on site to create a more open wetland through the dense cattails, which is more conducive for wildlife in general and nesting waterfowl in particular. Little did I know at the time that I would be involved to some degree when this property would become open to the public for hiking and nature appreciation!
Trails have been a higher priority for the municipality in recent years. This is the latest result of the municipality of Chatham-Kent, along with the commitment and support by two local families in particular (the Cadotte family and the Allen family) and various community groups to make this trail available and open to the public.
Note in this first link the trail map from a publication put out by Chatham-Kent Recreation showing the location relative to Mitchell's Bay, and the configuration of the trail itself. The south part of it goes along a dyke which separates the agricultural land from Lake St. Clair, while the other part goes into the wetland itself.
Ontario NativeScape has been instrumental in the design of the trail through the wetland, as well as the restoration of prairie vegetation along the drier raised section of this trail. I was asked to provide ideas, text and photos for several natural heritage education signs for the trail. They are being prepared at this time, and will eventually be installed at various points along this trail.
There is only one access to this trail at the moment. It is at the corner of Winter Line and W. Lewis Line. An official parking lot has not been created yet, so one has to park along the road side.
With this trail's location along the Lake St. Clair shoreline and in a coastal wetland, there is bound to be some interesting wildlife, especially birds, that are recorded as time goes on. On the day I was there, I didn't see anything all that unusual, but did see expected species such as Great Egret, Common Gallinule, Green Heron and a dozen or so warblers feeding in the willows near the beginning of the trail. Here is my ebird list.
The trail itself is a wide gravelled pathway, making it accessible for hikers as well as wheelchairs. The vegetation along these slightly higher sections of the trail are predominantly tallgrass prairie, or will be once the restoration has matured. This is a wonderful thing, as at the time of settlement, depending on water levels in the lake, the shoreline and adjacent areas would be either wetland or tallgrass prairie. In fact a huge portion of the former Dover Township, where this trail is located, was tallgrass prairie according to some of the earliest surveys. It is also very productive agricultural land, and was easily converted so there is virtually no natural tallgrass prairie left. Re-establishing a bit of tallgrass prairie vegetation is perfect for this site.
|Painted Turtle basking|
At the farthest point, there is a raised mound to get a better look at the marsh closest to the lake. That is Walpole Island First Nation in the distance to the right.
Although wildlife can be seen from the trail, sometimes they are seen on the trail.
|Eastern Fox Snake (photo taken previously)|