The Friends of Petrie Islands are a group of residents who are interested in preserving the natural areas on the Western end of the islands and mainland while developing a passive recreation area on the eastern portion of the Islands. This is consistent with the region’s zoning and the Cumberland Recreation and Culture Master plan recommendations for the islands.
The group was initiated by the Cumberland Nature Trail Committee and had its initial meeting in November 1997. Participants are largely from the Orleans/Cumberland area with many members having a wide variety of experience in community, recreational or youth movements.
The Friends first approached the Region in October 1997 with a plan for an experimental or demonstration picnic area and were told that the region (staff) supported the idea but preferred to lease the land to the Township as recreation was a Township responsibility. On July 7, 1998 Cumberland Council approved the picnic area proposal to operate from August 4 to September 8.
The Friends held 3 Open Houses -in October 1997 and May 1998 at Petrie Island, as well as a display at Place d’Orleans in June, 1998. Various articles in the local papers have informed the public of our plans. We developed a questionnaire based on the June 1997 Cumberland Petrie Island Master Plan proposal and 516 questionnaires have been completed to date, (the results are listed in Appendix A). The Friends have also contacted local environmental groups and agencies and plan to work with the Ottawa Field Naturalists and Ducks Unlimited.
The Friends of Petrie Island began a cleanup of the proposed picnic area in May of this year. In addition to the regular winter damage, additional work was required to clean up debris from the ice storms as well as spring flooding, which covered the entrance road to Petrie Island with about 2 feet of water, and flooded most of the islands. 45 volunteers contributed 448 hours of labour: in addition to site cleanup the group cleaned up and secured the cottage (Regional owned), cut the grass, leveled the ground, restored a portion of the beach by removing sharp stones, concrete and asphalt and restoring the area with sand. The sand was donated by the Grandmaitre Sand operation, who also provided fill and grading for the 16 car parking lot. Two short nature trails around the picnic area were constructed, one along the pond for turtle and bird watching and one along the river that shows the effects of erosion and damage by a mini tornado in June 1996. Some local divers have begun cleaning up the river bottom at the picnic site.
The picnic area was monitored from August 1 to September 8 by volunteers who also provided information to the users. The area was open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and monitored at peak periods, 35 monitors volunteered 387 hours. Township Parks and Conservation area bylaws applied to the area and monitors informed users about these rules. Bylaw enforcement and police officers made regular checks of the area. These agencies reported that they had received no complaints during the picnic operation period. The most common problem, at the start, was pets not on a leash but most people readily complied by the end of the lease period. No vandalism and very little littering occurred. Some littering was caused by animals (raccoons) and fishermen leaving bait containers on the shore, some debris was washed onto the shore from boats or residences upstream. Weekly garbage removal by the Township was adequate, and there were no incidents of illegal dumping.
A portable toilet at the site was chained each night and serviced weekly, no problems were encountered. The grass was cut twice by volunteers and 3 times by the Township and the cutting became easier as the ground was leveled.
Some parking problems were encountered due to a lack of parking space and the increased use of the area. "No parking" and "stop" signs were installed and along with additional monitors at busy periods, to ensure efficient use of the parking areas, the problem was resolved. A maximum of 28 cars could be parked at the picnic area. The amount of traffic was monitored on weekends and week days. The highest traffic count was 80 vehicles/hour on a Sunday afternoon and 20 vehicles/hour on a week day, with 6-10 vehicles/hour going to the sand operation. These numbers are below values for many minor collector streets in Cumberland.
The majority of users were young families and couples, and an increasing number of seniors and handicapped are also using the area. On a typical Sunday 154 groups (360 people) used the site, many were first time visitors exploring the area: 27 groups were picnicking, 19 arrived by bike, 8 were fishing and 11 had a dog. The total attendance over the leased period was 5,554 people, and since Labour Day approximately another 1000 people visited the area.
There are many different groups that use the island, shore and boat fishermen, canoeists and kayakers, bird watchers, and other naturalists. The sand operation river shore is a favourite spot for boaters on a weekend afternoon, with up to 50 boats and 200 people. The east beach became the area used by residents who parked along the road (40-50 cars). As the summer progressed and the picnic area opened in August many of these latter users began to use the picnic site.
OBSERVATIONS AND COMMENTS ON THE USE OF PETRIE ISLAND
The increasing use of the island will necessitate the adoption of measures to protect the environment i.e. sensitive turtle breeding areas, and still allow the various users to pursue their particular interests. Bird watchers and naturalists prefer a quiet, undisturbed natural area with accessible trails. It is suggested that the west end of the islands, where the trails are proposed, should be closed to bikes, pets and shore fishermen. The shore fishing areas should be limited to the present areas used around the causeway and road and adjacent lands with more accessible trails and picnic tables provided for their use. The areas presently used by the fishermen cause the shoreline to be worn down to bare ground and in most places there is a large amount of litter and debris. White Styrofoam bait containers are especially noticeable and non degradeable. It has been suggested that a refundable deposit on the bait containers might reduce this litter. It is suggested that no shore fishing be allowed in the picnic areas where children are playing adjacent to the shore to eliminate the casting of fishing lines and the possibility of fish hooks along the shore. Contact has been made with some of the fishermen and we plan to enlist their support in reducing these problems.
The speed of motorboats and personal water craft should be controlled on the inland channels and motor boats should be banned on some of the inner ponds, which are shallow and sensitive to propeller action. Most boaters do not use these ponds but the occasional one goes in and gets stuck and causes considerable damage to the area. The noise level of some of the water craft is also excessive and should be policed, although the fact that this is an interprovincial waterway may make enforcement difficult.
Many local people biked to the area, but there are also some who came along the Ottawa River bike trails from Beacon Hill, Vanier and Ottawa. Petrie Island makes a good destination for recreational cyclists, improved connections and mapping from the river parkway to the Cumberland trunk sewer line were improvements suggested by several cyclists.
Many people asked about the quality of the water in the river and tests should be conducted to inform the public of the standards and how close the water is to these standards as many people do wade or swim, especially at the sand operation shores.
It was noted that the water is generally clear in the mornings but can become quite murky when wave action increases. For instance, one morning the water was clear at 9:00 a.m. but became murky within 10 minutes from the wakes of 5 boats passing by. The potential use of the water for swimming and wading or a beach area is enhanced by clear water. Many boaters, motorists and bicyclists used the sand areas of the North and East beaches on weekends. Many people who preferred a full sunny location (our picnic area is both shaded and sunny) picnicked, walked on the beach or waded in the water and we feel all the sandy shore area should be left as natural as possible. Many children also enjoy playing in the existing sand piles and any future plans for the island should leave some piles or dunes as a natural play area.
The Friends are collecting information for educational and interpretive programs. The Ottawa Field Naturalists have provided a list of trees, shrubs, flowers and herbs as well as 105 types of birds which have been sighted on the islands. Visitors from various states and provinces have heard about the birds of Petrie Island from local people and have visited when in the area.
The 1998 picnic operation has been very successful with hundreds of positive comments being received. The Friends of Petrie Island have:
The picnic area and nature trails along with interpretive and educational
programs should be continued next year. The Friends of Petrie Island will
continue to monitor and clean up the island throughout the fall and winter
months. 257 people have indicated their willingness to participate and
we will be contacting them over the winter months for next year’s operation.
SPECIFIC SUGGESTIONS FOR 1999
- Expand parking - 25 in 1998, 50 for 1999
- Add picnic tables - 10 in 1998, 25 for 1999
Partial operation from May 24 to June 1, and Labour Day to Thanksgiving
Full operation from July 1 to Labour Day, (with toilets, more monitors)
- Improve signage - dog controls, motorized vehicles, etc..
- Washrooms - 1 at least, may require 2 and more frequent servicing
- Garbage collection - weekly but cover containers to keep animals out and provide glass and metal recycling containers
- Ensure 2 or more monitors at busy times
- Enlarge lease area to west by 200', include cottage for storage
- Grass cutting - 6 cuttings for full year
- Development of interpretive information, signage
- Programs be developed for Youth and adult groups
- Improved access for wheelchairs
- Investigate potential for winter use of the island i.e. skating, cross
|Toilet rental (2 months)||$248.10|
|Materials and administration**||$304.18|
**(Signs, equipment, etc)
Volunteer labour 448 hours x $7.50 = $3360
Monitors 387 x $7.50 = $2902
Donated material* $1900
Organization 78 x $7.50 $ 585
TOTAL DONATED $8747.
* Grandmaitre Sand and Gravel operation ($1500)
PETRIE ISLAND EXECUTIVE
Chairman Al Tweddle
Vice Chairman Rene Cloutier
Secretary Pete Waddell
Treasurer Steve McPhee
Monitor co-ordinator Romeo Messier
Planning: David Villeneuve, Dave Redmond
Interpretive programs: Jim Pearson, Claude Lalonde, Paul Lefort