Friends of Petrie Island – 2003 Year in Review
The year began with an application for a two-years Ontario Trillium Foundation grant to complete initiatives launched in 2002 as well as a review of the uses of the various trails and natural areas. The extreme west end of the islands is designated as a non-human activity zone in the City plans and FOPI will install signs and platforms requesting the public to stay out of these areas, using funds from the Trillium grant. The grant received was for $11,700 over 2 years. The sand operator started to dismantle his operation in March and had cleaned up and left the site by the end of August.
FOPI participated in City planning meetings for the new beach park. Spring flood levels were low in 2003, and as a result the picnic area required little cleanup. FOPI operated the picnic area and trails from May through October with attendance of approx. 92,200 visitor hours, as compared to 72,000 in 2002, this despite many rainy and wet weekends in July and August.
The nature centre was further improved and used as a display area and our new 10-minute slide show “Dawn to Dusk”, along with our 20-minute show, and eight new display boards were shown at the center on eight theme days. The Trillium Foundation funds were used to acquire additional audiovisual equipment, materials for printing displays and two new folders, as well as building an observation platform and signboard along the trail. We did not receive Trillium funds to hire summer staff so we had to seek support using membership funds and donations to operate the centre.
High school regular and co-op students, university students and home school students, (Amphibian Conservation Club, ACC), worked on various tasks and studies, including transferring turtles and frogs from a small pond before it was filled in as part of beach development, as well as research projects on turtles, invasive plants and future plans for the island.
Four trails were completed and named; they are respectively 500 m, 800 m, 3.5 km and 4.2 km long, the last trail being integrated into the new park area.
Construction of the new park began in October and stopped in December with the basic shoreline and erosion control as well as fish habitat structures now in place. The basic grading is almost complete and parking lots have been started. The raised portion of land is the site of the beach house and septic system. The picnic area beach has been improved with erosion control rock headlands and more sand being added. The only remaining picnic area work is upgrading the parking lot and a pathway from the nature centre to the new beach house. The beach house parking, pathways and landscaping will be completed in 2004.
FOPI is also working on a canoe launch site with City and Ministry of Natural Resources as well as looking at ways to integrate wildlife habitat into the landscaping plans for the new beach and retaining a natural look to landscaping in the new park.
The month of December brought heavy rains followed by cold weather causing ice jams on the Ottawa River and flooding more severe than in the spring. Despite four inches of ice covering much of the picnic area and trails, the nature centre and various bridges, signs and platforms have survived. A number of people have been observed skating on the parking lot. 2004 will be an interesting year with completion of the park and its facilities. We plan to operate the picnic area and keep the nature centre open on weekends in May, June and September and daily in July and August. We will be relying on support from membership fees and donations to achieve our aims.