Category Archives: Dispatches from Petrie Island

Dispatches are short notes from visitors to Petrie Island. They accumulate over the years to give a history of the changing island.

Malcolm Fenech (6 April 2022)

Turtle research study at Petrie Island

The turtle season is right around the corner and turtles should start basking in the next few weeks at Petrie Island! As many of you know, we will be continuing to research the turtles at Petrie Island in 2022 and here are the projects that we will be running:

1) Continuing my thesis research about why freshwater turtles (painted and northern map turtles) aggregate at basking sites. I will be collecting data for the second half of my project by conducting controlled disturbance trials of basking turtles by canoe and testing the “many-eyes” hypothesis. Fortunately, the turtles at Petrie Island quickly return to basking sites once displacing themselves into the water after being disturbed.

2) Continuing the mark-recapture of northern map turtles and assessing turtles for injuries from motorboats. We had success last year catching over 30 northern map turtles and look to build on this number. However, we will not be capturing painted turtles this summer. Additionally, we will not be painting numbers on the carapace of captured individuals (as seen below from last year). We will be catching the turtles using basking traps as pictured below and will have appropriate signage on them.

3) We plan on conducting nesting surveys every morning during the nesting season to get a better idea of where turtles nest throughout Petrie Island and how this has changed over the years. We will also collect some nests to incubate at the Canadian Wildlife Federation. This conservation work will be coordinated with the Friends of Petrie Island and more details will be released closer to the nesting season. All of our research is conducted with the appropriate permits and approved animal care protocols and we will once again be collaborating with the Canadian Wildlife Federation. If you have any questions, I would love to answer them!

May be an image of body of water and nature
No photo description available.

FOPI Dispatch (April 2022)

Happy Spring to all our members!

As the Island emerges from hibernation, conversations turn to the 2022 season. And it will be a special one. The Friends of Petrie Island are celebrating 25 years! A small group of passionate people came together in 1997 to protect Petrie’s unique ecology and educate visitors about the importance of conservation and preservation.

To celebrate, we will be launching our Memorial Walk, to acknowledge our volunteers who are no longer with us. As well, stay tuned for a Biodiversity campaign to profile the unique life forms at Petrie Island. We are looking for volunteers to help create an archive of our historical materials for a local library. (Please email us if interested). And we look forward to the next 25 years, working with our three levels of government to find a way to rebuild a Nature Centre. MP Marie-France Lalonde (L – Orleans) has identified this as a local priority. At the municipal level, a refreshed Petrie Island Management Plan will be part of the agenda for the next term of Council. 

Pending funding for summer staff we plan to again offer our Young Naturalist Program for children and youth as well as the Friends and Family tours. Tent and picnic table rentals (which include a barbecue permit) are available through the website. Our trail team will be diligently maintaining the seven kilometers of walking paths. We will continue to build on our educational signage and displays to add to the Petrie Island experience. 

Conservation work is a high priority as well and we will be actively engaging volunteers and partners. Turtle conservation will continue with leadership from our colleagues at the University of Ottawa and the Canadian Wildlife Federation. We also hope to continue the wildflower garden, shoreline erosion remediation, invasive species removal and the tree inventory. Pretty ambitious so if anyone would like to take a lead role with these please send us a message. We had a suggestion to organize a blitz to remove the LLD moth egg masses that are on the trees. If anyone is interested in helping organize one in April please let us know. Several of you have identified an interest in volunteering so if you don’t hear from us in the next month or two please reconnect with us. 

We were delighted to see the success of online registration and payments through our website. We will relaunch a membership drive later this spring but you may do it anytime online. Our FaceBook page, and Group (Petrie Island: Our Small Wilderness) and our Instagram account continue to see high participation. We have some pretty amazing photographers and some strong champions for nature on our platforms! Thank you. 

It looks like spring flooding may pass quickly, which would allow us to restart our Wednesday morning (9-12) workdays. Whether you are at the Island to volunteer, to take in the sights or get some fresh air, do drop into the visitor area and say hi!

Thought for the day –  “The wild places are where we began. Where they end, so do we.” (David Brower)

FOPI Staff (August-September 2021)

As we close out summer, it is a great time to reflect on the progress to date and think about what comes next for the Friends of Petrie Island.  It has been a very busy summer and we are delighted with the increased interest in our beloved Island as evidenced by almost 600,000 visitors to date in 2021.  Memberships, volunteer hours, picnic table rentals and social media participation are all up significantly. Memberships have more than doubled from last year and over 1400 people are members of the Friends of Petrie Island Facebook Group.  Visitors continue to enjoy our educational programming such as our displays and Naturalist sessions.  A number of species are getting established in our expanded wildflower garden. 

We have made some real progress on the conservation side as well.  Our activities this summer have included: remediation of shore line erosion, continued work on our tree inventory, tracking beaver activity and removal of invasive species.  Thank you to Ottawa Riverkeeper and local guides and scouts for continued clean up events.  With our dedicated volunteers and staff we were able to protect over 200 turtle eggs from predation.  There is another turtle release planned on September 26 at 2 pm.  Please register through the email:  The University of Ottawa and the Canadian Wildlife Federation have also been conducting research on our turtle population so this all bodes well for the future of Petrie Island turtles. 

We invite you to check out these new points of interest in the Petrie Island landscape.

  • Our giant squid and other driftwood sculptures
  • Displays and signage in our interpretive area, for example on freshwater mussels, tree inventory, history of Petrie Island
  • More whimsy in the dogwood fairy maze.  Many thanks to Carol, one of our volunteers for the log castles and amazing bird paintings
  •  The Volunteer Memorial Trail and Bench.  Tucked under some trees and facing Petrie’s incredible sunsets, this place is a tribute to volunteers like René Cloutier, Bill Bowers and Helen Tweddle, who contributed to the Friends of Petrie Island but are no longer with us.  

While our summer programming has closed, we know that fall is one of the best times to visit Petrie Island.  Wednesday workdays (9-12) will continue while the weather permits.  Staff will be present at the office on weekends til early October.  The beach pavilion is closed for the season but the portapotties stay until after Thanksgiving. The City has removed the parking machines.  There are several fall events at Petrie Island such as a Vendor’s Market, a corporate service event and a general meeting of an environmental agency. You are all cordially invited to the Friends of Petrie Island Annual Meeting on Tuesday Oct. 5 at 5:30 pm at the Event Tent near the office. (Rain date- Oct. 19 at 7:30 at the Queenswood Heights Community Centre). 

The Friends welcome your comments and ideas for future activities. Your feedback is useful to improve programming, set priorities and stimulate creativity. Feel free to send an email (, stop by the office, or message us on Facebook.  A couple projects currently being scoped include a project to enhance our interpretive materials and a project by Carleton University students to examine bird populations at Petrie. 

In closing, we would like to thank you for your support.  Donations, memberships, volunteering, participating in events and social media, and being the eyes and ears of the Island, all contribute to our mandate of protecting the ecology of Petrie and engaging the community in the preservation of our small wilderness. Hope to see you out there. 

FOPI Staff (June-July 2021)

For all of our new members since May, we would like to extend a big thank you for supporting the Friends of Petrie Island! Your membership helps fund our conservation projects, maintenance of the picnic area and trails, and educational displays.

In June, the rest of our summer staff joined the team (Kyra, Catherine, Mason, and Clare), and in July, our new co-op student, Anita started! We have been very busy the last couple of months, with increased attendance in May and June compared to last year, and July at slightly lower attendance (this may be due to the frequency of poor weather). We have hosted lots of Naturalist programs and we are happy to see increased numbers of groups are reserving picnic areas. There have been a number of camps and children’s groups that we have hosted, including a Girl Guides group which helped us with our Gypsy moth caterpillar removal! Our staff and volunteers have been removing a number of invasive species, including dog-strangling vine, garlic mustard, buckthorn, and burdock, in order to protect the native biodiversity at Petrie.

We have had an influx of new volunteers and high school students helping us with our many projects, including our wildflower gardens, trail maintenance, and upgrading our Nature Centre area. The owner of BANANAS (the old restaurant on the beach), donated several thousand dollars worth of patio stone to us, which our volunteers helped turn into a new patio for the Nature Centre. Leftover stone will be used at the Memorial Bench and near our sheds. Our volunteers also helped us with our soil erosion project, burying the base of a tree along the shore with an exposed root system, in hopes to prevent the soil from further eroding. The Petrie Island tree inventory has started back up with three volunteers, who will be exploring the furthest parts of the island and noting the different species and their approximate age. Lastly, we had eight turtle watch volunteers this season who helped us find and protect 14 nests, including 6 snapping nests, 5 painted nests, and 3 map nests, for a total of 285 eggs protected! This is nearly three times the number of eggs we protected last year, which will hopefully increase the populations of these at-risk species. Turtle researchers from the University of Ottawa have also been active at Petrie this summer, observing basking patterns of map and painted turtles. They have seen ___ adults so far, and lots of last year’s hatchlings in Crappie Bay!

As we mentioned earlier, lots has been happening at Petrie! We’ve had several special events, including our successful Member’s Days, a garbage cleanup organized by our co-op student, and a video that The Friends filmed with the Orleans councilor, Matt Luloff, about the rules of the island. We have been working hard to increase awareness of the rules, promoting them on our social media, website, signage, and by producing this video. It will be in English and French, and it covers why it is important to follow the rules. There will be more updates to come on that, so please keep your eyes on your emails and social media! Additionally, the Friends of Petrie Island was also briefly featured in a CTV interview about the tree inventory, which you can check out here:

The summer staff have been working hard on our displays to make a fun and educational Nature Centre that we are glad to say has been enjoyed by many! We have updated some of our old signs and we have been adding French text to all of our signs that lacked it previously. The staff are working on new signs which will each highlight a FOPI project, including the tree inventory, invasive species removal, turtle conservation, and more. We have some new displays in our Nature Centre container, including a snowy owl figure (taxidermy), wildflower and tree specimens, a pond life aquarium, a mussel section, and a garter snake snakeskin, donated by one of our members! You may also have noticed that the river-side of our Nature Centre container has been painted! Our staff worked hard this week to create a scene of Petrie on the side of the container, which will be completed by the end of the summer. We also have a brand-new display area near this mural- we have repurposed an old wooden bridge to showcase some more educational signs, our dioramas, and a new display in the works, which will show Petrie throughout the ages.

All in all, it has been a very active summer so far, and we look forward to the rest of the 2021 season. We have a number of events planned for late summer and early fall, including our turtle releases which will likely be in September. We will update our members on as soon as the turtles hatch. Petrie will also be hosting a vendors’ market, which will take place at our Event Tent on September 11th and 12th. You can find more information about this on the Instagram page @petrieislandvendorsmarket. Lastly, there will be an event hosted by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) on October 10th, which focuses on appreciating nature and the exploring the health benefits nature has. More information to come on that in our August dispatch.

Thank you all for supporting and respecting the conservation of Petrie Island. We are working hard to preserve the biodiversity of this important ecosystem and create a space for people to enjoy nature. We greatly appreciate you following all of the island’s rules, including keeping your dogs at home, fishing in designated areas only, and only using gas barbeques (with a permit). All of the information about the rules can be found here:

We hope you enjoy Petrie as much as we do, and we look forward to seeing you on the island!



FOPI Staff

Norman Hooper (14 September 2021)

Quiet Morning on the Water

Norman Hooper

It has been 3 weeks since last paddling down at Petrie Island, and yesterday there was a dire need to refresh myself with an outing amongst the conservation area of the isle.

By 7:30 am, I was on the water and Crappie Bay was like a mirror, ideal for skipping stones. The dip and swish of the paddle had me soon entering Snake Channel where I found the plant growth under and on top of the water almost too much for any gliding. In the 22 years I have been paddling in this area, I have never seen such density, more than likely due to the lowness in the water level, with more sunlight entering the water resulting in more growth and cleaner water. My first Blue Heron was standing on a water laden tree log and quite docile as it scanned the water’s surface. I gave him a wide birth……knowing that he was a regular and quite use to passing canoeists and kaykers. Before leaving, I was surprised not to see the beaver in the water or near its abode.

Entering Muskrat Bay, I headed toward the slit in the embankment to enter Middle Channel, but only to find that a beaver had commenced creating a dam. I sure as heck didn’t want to return through the tangle again and around, so I decided, since I was already here, why not paddle within the bay first. At the far end next to the trail, I met up with Michael Rocco and had a short chat…….he was on a mission with his zoom lens camera in hand.

I made a second attempt through the slit by ramming my canoe upon the dam, crawled up toward the bow and disembarked. What a putrid smell from the clayish mud the beavers were using; however, I did manage to haul my canoe up and over this obstacle. On my way again and onto Second Passage, I soon spotted a Blue Heron in the grassy reeds, hunting of course. Again, before reaching the end of the island, there was another Blue Heron hunting for his breakfast, too. It was that time of day when the sun’s light was at its best.

Scanning the shoreline, I noticed a beautiful pink Hibiscus in full bloom partially hidden among the bulrushes. Again, I rammed my canoe in among the reeds towards shore, crawled up and over the bow and hauled in the canoe further. Not only was there this flower, but other species as well not seen from the waterway. I made a good choice to investigate and was rewarded.

Across the entrance of the channel with the Ottawa River, there was another huge Blue Heron along the shallow shoreline. I couldn’t believe I was seeing so many. And as I entered rounded the westerly point of Petrie, there was but a Blue Heron hunting in knee-deep water. Swinging out into the river, I drifted with the current to take in the marvelous techniques used by the Heron to hunt and capture its prey. It is an art! This was the first time this year paddling alongside the isle on the Ottawa River and it brought back a lot of fine sights from years ago, but now I noticed more erosion and missing trees because of the Spring ice break-ups and flooding. Before reaching the end of this stretch of shoreline, I informed an elderly gentleman on the path to backtrack and he would be able to view a beautiful Blue Heron grooming itself in some short reeds. As I passed, he waved and gave a thanks for the heads up.

By this time, I was numb-bummed and decided to rest at the beach where I met up with Al Tweddle and got caught up with the “happenings” on the isle over the summer, especially the scientific research counting, etc with the turtles. Appears that this research with continue on into next year.

After passing through the culvert, I noticed a light breeze and maple leaves were falling upon the water. Fall is getting closer as each day passed. Suddenly, I saw a slight movement out of the corner of my eye, and there, next to the reedy shoreline was another Blue Heron (7th). I think this bird had to be the same one I had encountered along Snake Channel……docile, even when two kayakers approached, although he tried to hide himself within the reeds and not move one iota,

Sitting in Second Passage in front of the entrance to Crappie Bay, I suddenly saw two ducks leave the reeds and swim towards me, their V-shapes behind them growing wider and wider. I wondered what was going on; I had always noticed ducks to be skittish and fly away. Next to my canoe, they gazed up at me quaking as if expecting a hand-out. I hope people are NOT feeding them because ducks are creatures of the wild. Soon, they became bored with me and swam towards the nearby kayakers, much to their delight.

I now decided to call it a day after being on the water for 4 hours. Other than the Blue Heron and the pass-over and honking of skeins of Geese, I didn’t see much other wildlife, but just being on the water, looking and listening, that was worthwhile indeed.

Norman Hooper (15 May 2021)

Canoe Paddle at Petrie Island

This morning was my first opportunity to go canoe paddling within the inlets and bays of Petrie Island. I was not only surprised to see the low water level, but also that the ramp and dock were not install. This did not deter me and I was on the water paddling by 7 am under a light, cool breeze with overhead scattered clouds and blue skies. The sun was trying desperately to show itself and when it did, the warmth was rewarding.

It felt so good to be on the water again listening to a variety of birds sounding out the morning……the Covid tensions had soon disappeared. My favourite paddle is by far through the twisting channel from Crappie Bay to Muskrat Bay……and the scenery was picturesque as always with fallen trees and limbs along the shoreline. I must have been early because the usual number of turtles were not out on the fallen trees sunning themselves as yet; however, I was not to be disappointed upon my return later in the morning.

During my trek, I had a chance to meet Mike, who was out photographing birds along the shoreline path, and later, Sharon in her kayak……..resulting in two great conversations on a variety of topics…….and one in particular, learning about the turtle traps and the research being conducted by students from the nearby university. Hopefully, we will hear about their findings on the turtle habitat at Petrie Island.

One area that really fascinated me was the dam the beavers had built at an entrance off Second Passage to a marsh leading to the causeway. With the raised water level, it certainly would be of a benefit for other habitat. I was aware of its existence, but was surprised in its length and size…….a job well done!

As usual, there were a variety of wildlife to be seen, muskrats, the splash of a beaver, ducks, geese and their goslings, Blue Heron, and scores of turtles and birds.

By the time I put out at 10 am, there were hoards of kayakers already on the waterways and more arriving in the parking lot. It is going to be a very busy day on the isle.

FOPI Dispatch #1 (26 May 2021)

Thank you for supporting the Friends of Petrie Island. While programming ended last fall after the Turtle Release, our volunteers remain active over the winter; there was a letter of concern about future development of a 25-story high-rise building at Trim Road submitted, social media continued, and onsite monitoring was done regularly. Attendance at the Island continued at record highs all winter, which may have been influenced by the lovely weather, low snow fall, increasing east end population and the increased COVID-driven interest in nature. 2020 attendance was almost double previous records. All signs are that 2021 will surpass last year’s numbers. During a spectacular April, 43,000 people visited Petrie Island, with a one day high of 6,040 as people enjoyed the 24 degree weather on April 10. While May has started off cool, forecasts show sunshine ahead.

Our first summer student, Cassara, has started and we are busy making plans for this summer and recruiting new staff. The Friends of Petrie Island has been approved for 5 positions funded by Canada Summer Jobs.

Students will have 10-11 week contracts and will be undertaking conservation activities, delivering Naturalist sessions and tours, managing reservations and permits and doing outreach to visitors.

The increased attendance has put more strain on the environment so we are working with the City to better inform visitors of proper conduct to preserve the integrity of the Island. The most common problems we face are dogs, which disrupt the local ecology (e.g. nesting birds and mammals); shoreline fishing, which harms protected marine animals and is increasingly eroding the shoreline; picking plants and foraging; and littering. There is a 9:00 pm curfew on the Island that we will better enforce this year.

We are hoping to engage more visitors as members and volunteers.

Memberships are an important funding source, and demonstrate appreciation of the work that Friends does and support for our goals. If you are interested in supporting our projects, feel free to reach out.

We would be delighted to see individuals that would like to lead or participate in projects, and we would also welcome small groups to focus on specific projects. Please note that activities will be accordance with COVID-19 safety practices. If you are interested in starting or joining a group, please let us know at

Here are our current projects:

– Turtle conservation- basking turtle counts, egg gathering, (this is separate from research being done by the University of Ottawa and the Canadian Wildlife Federation).

– Wildflower garden- preparing, planting, weeding, signage, gathering specimens (we would love to restart our Plant Group)

– Dogwood Maze/Fairy Garden- expand and add twig fences to protect the dogwood underpass

– Trail/Nature Centre amenities- benches, driftwood sculptures, sign painting, picnic table staining

– Art display- a semi permanent display of local artwork/artists

– Invasive species monitoring and removal

– Beaver monitoring- ideally a volunteer with a water craft to monitor numbers and locations and activity

– Tree inventory on west end of island and surrounding islands, ID special trees

– Tree wrapping

– Biodiversity plan- to be scoped

– Newspaper articles for Orleans Star- Petrie Island through the eyes of a child, an artist, a naturalist

– Events- clean up (Rotary Club is hosting on in June, date TBD), Turtle Day (date TBD, hopefully June)

– Leave no trace – handout and video on rules at Petrie

– Grant applications- funding for pavilion

– Shoreline- protecting shoreline/ erosion control with RVCA

If any of these speak to you, please let us know what you are interests are.

Of course, our members are always welcome to help out at Wednesday Workdays, and for now, people will be given independent activities until COVID protocols are relaxed. We will be hosting a Members Open House where we will discuss and demonstrate our projects, and a Members’

Guided Tour, both planned for June. Please watch your email, the website, or social media for specifics. We also welcome your comments and suggestions.

Hope to see you at the Island!

Too Big, too Tall, too close

By Paul Le Fort

The Friends of Petrie Island have submitted comments on the proposed development at Trim Road & Jeanne d’Arc Blvd.

An application has been submitted to City of Ottawa Planning, Development and Construction, on September 17, 2020, regarding a change to the zoning of 1009 Trim Road in Ward 1 (ref: D01-01-20-0016). 

It calls for amending the Official Plan, Schedule 2 (Urban Land Use) for the area of the site designated “Urban Employment Area” to “General Urban Area or Mixed use” in order to allow a major, potentially high-rise mixed residential and commercial development west of Trim Road, off Jeanne-d’Arc Boulevard. The Friends of Petrie Island have serious objections to this development as it presents at this point, and have made comments to City Planning as part of the consultation process. Here is a summary of the points made. You can make your opinions known to MP Marie-France Lalonde, MLA Stephen Blais, and Councillor Matt Luloff, as well as to the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority. Online reference: (

– There has been a significant increase in visitor traffic at Petrie I. since 2015, along with bicycle traffic and dogs.

– We are aware that Ottawa’s Master Plan includes urban development in that sector, and understand that proximity to a major highway and transit station make the area desirable for expansion; the concern is with the scale and exact location.

– A large increase in population and traffic will put additional pressure on Petrie Island and Trim Road, which cannot safely accommodate the current pedestrian, vehicle and bicycle mix. 

– Development of a public beach at Petrie Island has already destroyed habitat and negatively impacted the island environment.

– Petrie Island includes a nature preserve with a variety of plant and animal species, some at risk, some fairly rare in our area, and is a provincially significant wetland. 

– Setting aside a nature preserve requires continuing protection, including the critical buffer zones that surround it, to prevent habitat fragmentation. – – – Towers with extensive glass surfaces would be a death trap for the thousands of migratory birds that stop over twice a year.• We are concerned with the aesthetics of high-rise buildings so close to the river, and the proposed development appears to be on the 100-year flood plain.

Atirah Ally (13 September 2020)

Petrie Island: Then vs Now

Article by Atirah Ally, FOPI summer employee 2020

Everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been quarantined since April and only now have been allowed to properly resume everyday activities with proper precautions. However, it is often overlooked as to how our environment has reacted to the decreased presence of the public during the quarantine in comparison to the effects before the stay at home order. In this article, we will compare the effects on the community and the environment before and after the quarantine period. This will include the foot traffic in the island throughout the months, car presence, engagement, and the overall effects on the nature of Petrie Island.

To begin, it is common knowledge to our community that Petrie Island floods every year. It is the reason why the island is classified as a Class 1 wetland and an important area that houses various species of rare plants. This year, the flooding reached a peak of 43.28 m and ceased mid-April, much earlier than last year. In fact, last year’s flooding had a record-breaking height of 45.17 m, and only started ceasing mid-June. Moreover, the summer staff remained operating out of the Queenswood Heights Community Centre until conditions improved, almost until the end of June. The road itself was closed for 57 days and the trails at 73 days. With the large flood, it greatly disrupted the ecosystem that encompassed the area. For example, the turtle nesting period was pushed back, there was a significant amount of beaver damage due to the flooding rising above the protected nets for trees, and smaller turtle basking counts during the nesting season compared to previous years. However, with the flooding ceasing earlier, it would mean that the staff could operate on the island earlier and it allowed for the environment to re-establish better and reintroduce the natural patterns of many species. As a result, the nesting period for turtles became more normalized with the nesting period beginning in May and peaking in June. There remained some beaver damage along the shoreline, chewing on the unprotected dogwood especially. There also seemed to be a larger presence/activity of animals in the area. Which include more groundhog, beaver, and turtle sightings.

Figure 1. Ottawa River water levels above sea level in metres per year. Data represents the peak level between the months of March-May (flooding season). (Ottawa River Regulation Board)

Petrie Island was closed to the public by the City of Ottawa during April 2020 as part of the pandemic shutdown. However, the park was opened to the public since May 7, 2020. FOPI started operating on the island on May 20, 2020. As soon as the island opened, the number of visitors has spiked. Based on FOPI data from 2020, it was clear that even with the quarantine in effect (April) and mandatory social distancing, there was a large number of individuals on the island. From May-July, it has been the highest attendance numbers ever seen. They abided by social distancing rules and most were wearing masks. There were even inquiries about the status of island, programming, and rentals. However, most kept to themselves walking the various trails on the island, especially the Bill Holland Trail. Even in sub-par weather, we would see families walking in the park area and on our trails. It was clear that emerging from quarantine, the public desperately wanted to be outdoors and to be within nature.

Figure 2.  Comparison of the number of attendees per month (May – July) from 2015 to 2020.

Due to most of the community working from home, schools were closed, and rules starting to ease, by the end of May through early June the population coming to Petrie Island has spiked. During nice summer days, there were many gatherings some abiding by the group restriction and others not. With most individuals working from home, there were more and more families coming down to Petrie Island. Social distancing became harder to achieve the busier the days became. Most picnic tables were occupied, luckily, the area does provide adequate social distancing space. If no picnic tables were available or to decrease contact with COVID-19, many have brought their own chairs. In terms of the business, July 1, 2020 was one of those days. Canada Day was the busiest day on Petrie Island for this year. In previous years, Petrie Island hosted a major Canada Day event, with fireworks and entertainment. In 2020, there was no official event in place; nevertheless, many individuals came down to celebrate with their families. The parking lot was full, with many illegally parked. There was also barely any rotation between the families that have come down to the park with many staying until 9:00 PM. It should also be noted that there were more families in the Al Tweddle Picnic Area this year compared to last year.

Many people came here for the first time and enjoyed their experience. We have had many families and individuals come up to the FOPI staff to ask about the trails here on the island and what sort of facilities there are here. With those discovering the island for the first time, there are also more regulars coming to visit the island. We have seen many couples coming down to enjoy the scenery and relax within nature.

                In terms of the difference with FOPI and the island. The staff were less involved in tour and naturalist programs, allowing more projects to be taken up among all our staff and volunteers. Meaning, the staff has had more time to focus on displays and various other maintenance tasks such as trail maintenance. There were also more projects taken on this year. For example, the tree inventory, a turtle study, a wildflower garden, re-vamping the fairy house, updating flower charts, and a trial program called Guided Meditation. In terms of Naturalist and our rentals, we have seen a decrease in those that have booked or attended for this year. This was predicted to happen due to health and safety concerns. The Naturalist program focused on individual families or groups all limited to 10 individuals, in order to keep the social bubble the same. Thus far, the Naturalist program has been very successful. We had many book tours throughout the summer, and they all had very positive feedback. The most popular tour was of course, turtles.  The picnic area rentals were occurring at a steady pace generating some revenue for the Friends of Petrie Island. The number of rentals was lower this year most likely due to concerns of COVID-19. Another significant difference was the maxed-out parking on weekends. This happened on occasion last year; however, this year the parking lot was always full on the weekends with many being illegally parked. There was also a larger presence of By-law officers frequenting the island for infractions, the majority of looking for parking infractions. Furthermore, the Oziles’ Marina has been seeing more kayaks and paddleboats being rented for the season. In fact, a category of inquiries that we frequently see are that of boat rentals, with which we redirect them to Oziles’.  Even with the increased foot traffic on Petrie Island, engagement between FOPI and the community has been lower than usual. Last year, the community engagement mostly stemmed from our Naturalist program and school/camp tours. With groups sizes restricted for our programming, there was less Naturalist engagement. However, in terms of promotions for the Friends of Petrie Island, it seems more promotions were done this year. We were more active on our social media outlets such as Instagram (@dailypetrie) and Facebook (PetrieIsland). Online promotions were better helped by the creation of a FOPI PayPal account. We have had many of our memberships and donations from online. Thus, there was more outreach this year online compared to the previous year. More word was getting out for Petrie Island.

                Overall, these are the general trends that have been seen throughout the summer as a result of the pandemic. Despite quarantine and group size restrictions, the public still found a way to get outside and enjoy nature. There was more interest in exploring their community and finding new, undiscovered areas such as Petrie Island.

FOPI Dispatch #3 (August 1, 2020)

July is nearing its end and our last summer month, August, is finally here! We have been seeing the attendance on the island steadily increasing due to the warm weather, with the number of individuals peaking in July. The majority of our summer staff will be here until the end of August; therefore, all programs will continue running until August 30, 2020. In this update we will cover new policies, events, and how all our programs are running despite the pandemic.

To begin, it was brought to our attention that many of those that visit Petrie Island have been confused about the barbecue policy installed by the By-law versus that of the Friends of Petrie Island. In order to clear the confusion, By-law and FOPI have agreed that FOPI may grant a permit to allow gas barbecues and not charcoal. However, FOPI will require a picnic table rental in the Al Tweddle Picnic Area to obtain a barbeque permit. The rental is only valid within our picnic area and nowhere else throughout the park. If you would like a barbecue in the Stuemer Park area, you must contact the City of Ottawa for a permit. This policy has been in effect since July 10, 2020.

Our new Family and Friends Naturalist program has been going swimmingly! Thus far, we had several inquiries about the program and many tours. The themes remain turtles, insects, and amphibians. However, we may add another theme, such as fossils and dinosaurs, as a “summer special” based on the interest of the public. In terms of social distancing, since it is families and close groups there has not been a problem. Many take precautions in distancing, such as the use of masks. However, we do want to emphasize that parents urge their kids to social distance for their own safety and that of the staff.

Rentals have been occurring at a steady pace. There have been less inquiries about rentals since last year; however, as the count for individuals in a public or enclosed space increases, we can increase our ability to rent picnic areas. Based on the statement released by the Government of Ontario, public gatherings have increased to 50 individuals in an indoor setting; while, public gatherings have increased to 100 individuals in an outdoor setting. Of course, both will still require social distancing. Presently, we have changed our rental fees to include both the new rental fees made this year and the original from last year. Now, the tent rental will revert to last year’s fee which is $100.00 for a half-day (less than 5 hours) and $125.00 for a full day (more than 5 hours). The Area 2 and 3 rentals will remain $10.00 per picnic table.

Our display area has been in progress throughout the summer. As of right now, we have finished the layout of our display area, grouping all our boards into specific topics and regions. These regions include mammals, general information, history, children’s programming, and amphibians and reptiles. We also have live animals on display which are rotated every 2-3 days. The animals reside in filtered tanks or in regulated environments in which the bedding can be easily replaced. It should also be known that the shelter that houses the animals and other displays can only hold three individuals or a singular family at a time to maintain social distancing. Other boards that will be up soon are themed salamanders and snakes, biodiversity, and a history board that encompasses the history of Petrie Island and the history of FOPI in time for our 25 anniversary. We also have flower boards up on our information board next to the Wildflower Garden which shows the different plant species that can be found on Petrie Island. It includes medicinal and ecological purposes for each.

In other news, our Ecology Ottawa tour on July 18, 2020 went great! We did a basic tour of Petrie Island that included our Interpretation Centre, the Turtle Trail, and the Bill Holland trail. We included a bit about our Turtle Study, the history of Petrie Island, and facts about various plants and wildlife. The response has been positive, and it was a wonderful experience. We would like to thank all of those who tuned in to Facebook Live and watched the tour!

The pilot for the FOPI Guided Meditation on July 25, 2020, ran by our fellow staff member Bree, went very well! We have had many inquiries about registering for the session, even on the day it was first announced. Though the day of the event was on the warmer side, there was still a great turn-out and it had a very positive feedback. The Guided Meditation theme for that day was focused on surrendering yourself to nature. The class was entirely non-denominational, meaning no religious aspects were covered. If you are interested in this program, please contact

FOPI is holding its annual Art Showcase from July 31, 2020 to August 3, 2020. The event will occur during this time period from 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM at our Event Tent in the Al Tweddle Picnic Area. We will have artists displaying various art mediums and some will be selling their artwork.  The event will be socially distanced, meaning only 10 individuals at a time, including the artists. We will have a staff member onsite to ensure this rule is being followed for the safety of the artists and the visitors. Moreover, we have a new way to donate and to help support the Friends of Petrie Island debuting at the showcase: A Turtle Sponsorship! It will be $2.00 per turtle egg (from the eggs that have been protected by the Friends of Petrie Island this year) and all the sponsorship proceeds will help the Friends of Petrie Island continue their conservation and educational efforts. If you would like to know more information, please visit us at our Interpretation Centre in the Al Tweddle Picnic area or send an E-mail to

To close, we would like to thank our devoted fellow FOPI staff member Kyra for all her time and dedication spent working with the Friends of Petrie Island and on our Tree Inventory. It was a pleasure to have her work with us throughout the summer, and we wish her all the best in her future endeavors!

As a reminder, social distancing between different groups must still be implemented for your own protection. It is always highly recommended to bring a mask and hand sanitizer with you when visiting public areas.  

Thank you for reading! You can stay up to date by following the Friends of Petrie Island on Facebook and Instagram and joining our Facebook group where participation is encouraged.  If you have not purchased your 2020 membership, please stop by the office at our Interpretation Centre in the Al Tweddle Picnic Area.

FOPI Staff