Found the Blanding’s Turtle this morning. It was just in front of the “Turtle Viewing Platform” and only had its head sticking up. First one I have ever found in August. Usually see females in June and males in October.
Its been a long time since we’d been down to Petrie and even longer since I sent in a “Dispatch”. We found ourselves at Petrie at 1:30pm on June 21st, not the best time to see things, but we headed out for what was a 4.5km walk to renew old acquaintances. We checked out all the trails but the Sunrise Trail.
Lots of people fishing, didn’t see anyone catching anything, but then fishing isn’t always about catching fish. There were a few heron around in the bay to the west of the access road, but no ducks.
It wasn’t the best time of the day to see turtles – too many people and sun too hot – but we did see a few good sized map turtles as well as the usual painted turtles. There were a few destroyed snapping turtle nests, but nothing like the number I used to see. Fewer turtles? Fewer predators? Better protection?
The yellow iris and blue iris (blue flag) were out in many places as well as lots of anemones and one fern still in fiddlehead stage.
Canada Geese I know have been at Petrie for a while, but they were never there when I frequented the Island 10-15 years ago. There were 6 geese in the bay by the Beaver Trail. One family with 3 goslings at “causeway” on the Bill Holland Trail and another family with 5-6 younger goslings were crossing the road at the start of the Bill Holland Trail.
A few mallards were swimming in various spots included a pair, the male of which was blue, almost purple, headed. There was no green sheen. I checked for blue/purple headed mallards on the web and it seems they are not unheard of. The reason for the odd colour is not certain, but some think it is a sign of low testosterone – either for genetic reasons, or younger duck. Given this was the first one I have noticed, I suspect the testosterone rational might be a better story.
A good number of leopard frogs were along the trails and a few bull frogs were heard and seen.
Of course beaver aren’t in evidence at that time of the day, but there were signs of beavers at work last fall and several beaver lodges, included one on top of one that was deserted many years ago.
We’ll have to make a point of coming down much earlier sometime in the future to get a feel of the “real” Petrie.
Pictures at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/745D76F5A54955D
The road to the island is now open; however, most of the trails are partially flooded and have limited access. We foresee that they will be clear within the next week. We are excited to say that the temporary Nature Centre is open and we have staff on duty daily. Feel free to ask them about our programs and memberships for the summer.
The City granted us with a trailer that we will be using as an office and we are working on obtaining a shipping container where we will be able to put our displays.
Our 4 summer students: Emma, Manisha, Alessia, and Émie are currently working hard to plan and prepare events for our opening within the next week.
About 55 Grade 7 and 8 students from Ashbury College came out on April 20th to help with an Earth Day Cleanup. On May 6th, we had great success with our Jane’s Walk about turtles, and a turnout of around 40 people. Although the roads and Nature trails were flooded, we met on the causeway and brought out displays that people really enjoyed
Saturday, June 2nd from 10AM – 3PM is our registration/information day, which will be hosted at the Nature Centre. If you have any questions with regards to our programs and opportunities this summer, we invite you to come out and get more information.
We are looking forward to our WWF cleanup on Sunday, June 3rd where we expect about 300 people. We intend to get our Nature trails and the Nature Centre in great condition for this summer.
Sunday, June 10th is our Turtle Day.
From Dan Chenier, General Manager, Recreation, Cultural and Facility Services, City of Ottawa, regarding FOPI’s nature centre, or interpretation centre. This was an old cottage built by the Grandmaitre family in the 1960’s. It is now demolished.
The City has received the condition assessment report that was undertaken by Concentric Associates International Inc. Their report outlines the findings of their investigation and details a significant list of deficiencies that are related to original construction issues, poor construction practices and foundation displacement and settlement issues. Important deficiencies identified include sagging of the roof, main floor and exterior deck, the building does not appear to be mechanically connected to the foundation in a tangible way, load bearing columns that rest on plywood floors between joists with inadequate support, at some locations the existing exterior grade is higher than the floor framing, floor beams that do not appear to be structurally adequate for the current occupancy, and more.
Based on the consultant’s review, it is their recommendation that the structure is not fit for occupancy without extensive remediation. This would include at a minimum upgrades to the foundation system, reinforcement of existing floor beams, wood blocking within the floor system, lintel reinforcement, and modifications or replacement of the exterior canopy framing. Given the age of the structure and the extent of work required, the consultant recommends that we demolish the building. Preliminary cost estimates from the structural elements only (not including permits, taxes or engineering fees) is pegged at a minimum of $150,000, though it is reasonable to assume that the final cost would be more than this when restoring interior finishes, accessibility requirements and programming needs are included.
Given the above, we are recommending that the building be demolished. As well, as an interim measure we are proposing to install a trailer that could be used by your group as a home base for your activities at the park. The trailer is City owned and has been renovated. I am attaching pictures to give you a better idea. We would propose to install the required equipment so that a hydro connection can be made to the trailer and restore your access to electricity. The trailer would be set down on a gravel bed, and we would discuss with RVCA whether it had to be removed each winter, or whether it could stay. This is being proposed as an immediate and temporary solution to the loss of the cottage building and to allow more time to work on a more permanent solution and the funding that would be required to achieve this.
We understand the value that the cottage building brought to programming at the site, and the important role in played in the environmental activities at Petrie. Unfortunately, the building has reached its end of life. The Asset Management Unit will take the lead on arranging for the demolition. Preliminary discussions indicate that it may be possible to get this completed before winter.
After a short winter period Petrie Island was flooded to the highest level in many years during April and May. Floods caused damage to the causeway, which delayed repairs to the beach and picnic area and the area was not officially opened until late June. Petrie Island and the road was closed for 60 days.
Beavers were very active during the flooding, debarking many large Cottonwood trees, many of these trees were in higher elevations where the Beavers would not normally be able to reach them. Fopi members managed to wrap about 10 large trees to save them from dying. The City came in to remove over 60 large dead Ash trees in January and planted 95 trees and shrubs in October as replacements.
FOPI received grants to hire five students from Canada Summer jobs. Unfortunately most of the school tours had to be cancelled due to the flooding. Only two of fifteen scheduled tours were held at the end of June. Our adult tours and clean ups were cancelled, however we did run our successful Naturalist programs and summer tours. Due to the flooding we were unable to use our nature centre as it was closed while being evaluated for mould and structure damage. We also lacked power and had to operate with a generator, displays and other equipment were moved to our tent area which became our operation headquarters. The City removed mould and damaged materials from the nature centre in September and we are still waiting to find out what renovations will have to take place.
We continued our Wednesday adult workdays on a variety of projects to maintain the picnic area trails and repairing and restoring picnic tables and observation benches.
The Membership program was cancelled which included three clean ups, educational tours, removal of invasive species, all due to the flooding and reconstruction of the area. We did send out regular dispatches to members starting in May. Many people offered to help with restoration work in June but were unable to help as the island was inaccessible. By the time we were able to get in we were working on our summer programs. FOPI held one clean up in late June in cooperation with the World Wildlife Federation that included a display trailer from the Vancouver aquarium. We also hosted the release of 400 young Eels into the Ottawa river in cooperation with the Ottawa Riverkeeper, Environment Ministry staff from Ontario and Quebec.
We continued to support Kayaking at Petrie Island with the Petrie Island Canoe club under Sarah Kennedy. They ran full day camps during the summer using the FOPI tent and picnic area for parts of their program. We participated in the Cross fit event and received $3200.
Despite the difficulties we completed our 20th year of operation. We would like to thank members for their support of our programs which will continue in 2018. We plan to have some celebrations next year to mark our 20th.
As we now find ourselves at the end of August, the season is starting to wind down. The city will finally be coming in soon to remove the mold and debris from the nature centre. This will include removing the tile flooring and the insulation from the walls. When this is done, they will do a final evaluation of the building and decide what improvements need to be made to restore it. Although we lost many school tours during the spring flooding, we did have several summer tours for camps and home school groups. The naturalist programs were successful as usual and were well attended. A good portion of the summer workdays were spent restoring benches, picnic tables, and observation platforms. The Wednesday workdays will continue into the fall and the educational displays and signs will be out through September. Most of the protected turtle nests are still intact and we are waiting for the hatchlings to emerge. The executive would like to thank the summer students Shannon, Diana, Robert, Emily, and Sarah for their work on the island this season, and wish them all well in their studies. We would also like to thank all of our members and volunteers for their support. It was a difficult year but we still continued to strive towards our goals of protecting the wildlife and educating the public.
Last week Friends of Petrie Island hosted an Eel Release Day in partnership with the Ottawa Riverkeeper, Canadian Wildlife Service, and Ministry of Natural Resources. Four hundred eels were tagged and released into the Ottawa River at Petrie Island. The event brought out many volunteers and spectators, and we would like to thank everyone who stopped by! For more information on why the eels were released, see the following news article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/researchers-tag-release-eels-ottawa-river-1.4202694
Elsewhere on Petrie Island, many wildflowers, trees, and shrubs have begun to bloom! We are identifying as many as we can with informational signs along the trails and in the wildflower garden. Unfortunately, many of our reference books that we often use for plant identification were damaged or lost in the flood along with many other items. If any of our members have any plant or animal reference books we would welcome any donations! If you have no books and still wish to help, we are still accepting monetary donations and new/renewed memberships.
Our picnic area, trails, and beaches have been mostly cleaned of the flooding debris and damages. The nature centre is still closed, however, and we currently have displays under the white tent for the public to browse. We are looking into getting a trailer to store our equipment and displays while the centre is closed. The power has not yet been restored to our buildings, so we have been using a generator in the meantime.
We had a very successful cleanup with WWF two weeks ago, thank you to everyone who came out. Our Wednesday Workdays are still ongoing, executives and other volunteers meet at 9am every Wednesday, everyone is welcome to drop by and help out. For those who cannot make it on Wednesdays, please feel free to stop by the island any day between 10am and 8pm, we can always use extra help!
Now that July has finally arrived, our FOPI events will be in full swing! The junior and youth naturalist programs started this week and will be running every Tuesday and Thursday. Next week on July 12th (weather dependent), we are planning an Eel Day with the Ottawa Riverkeepers/Sentinelle Outaouias. They will be releasing ~400 eels into the river and will have informational displays about their activities. We will be updating with further events as they are planned.
Finally, turtle nesting season is coming to a close, but we just wanted to remind everyone to keep their eyes out for turtles on the roads and trails, and let us know of any turtle activity you see!
Just a quick update about Petrie Island. Currently, due to construction on the causeway, there is no vehicle or pedestrian access to the island. We do not have a date for when access will be restored, but we will keep you updated. Once we are able to get onto the island again we are planning a cleanup with volunteers from the community, so stay tuned for details!
Water levels on the Ottawa River have now receded enough that Petrie Island is accessible by foot. The road, however, is still closed due to damages at the culvert. Some of our members and staff were able to walk in to the island this week to assess the damages and start the cleanup. While there was considerable water damage to several buildings, most of the debris has been removed and sorted through, and the floors have been cleaned of all of the mud. The picnic area is in relatively good condition, however there is still debris that needs to be moved and paths that need to be restored. Most of the trails are still under water along with part of the picnic area, but we are hoping they will be accessible soon. In the coming weeks we will be needing volunteers to help with cleanup and trail maintenance so we can start our programming as usual. If you are interested in volunteering please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or stay tuned here for more information on FOPI workdays.