Dispatch #4 – December 11, 2019

Our last dispatch of 2019 looks back at what a productive year it
has been.  The big theme is the power of Mother Nature as record
flooding, a tornado and extreme heat all served to remind us of who is really in charge! Notably access to the Island was delayed by
construction on the causeway in the winter.  Once spring arrived the
Islands were pretty much entirely under water with the exception of
the beach house and parts of the marina.  This lasted into June which
severely impacted clean up efforts and school tours.

Repairing and re-building took alot of the physical effort this summer as volunteers and summer staff worked on trails, displays, picnic areas, benches with much of it was washed away, damaged or covered in mud by the flooding.  Particular attention has been made to the anchoring of all our assets to better withstand future floods.  Our top purchase this fall was a new pump to help with clean up

That said it was a productive year from the education and awareness
side of things.  A grant from Canada Summer Jobs secured five summer staff who worked on interpretative signage, delivered nature programing ( including a new Youth Naturalist session), and helped with FOPI administration.  Youth Naturalists did more advanced activities including building insect hotels and bat houses and removal of invasive species.  A regular Plant Group was run on Tuesday evenings to work on a wildflower garden and encourage visitors to learn about the uses of native plants.  We ramped up social media and now have almost 1200 followers on the Facebook page, an active Facebook group with over 300 members and Instagram.  Other activities included articles in the community newspaper, a VIP Walk and Talk and an Art Day.

FOPI also continues to work to protect the flora and fauna of Petrie
Island.  One way is by monitoring and reinforcing the rules- no dogs
on the Island, no foraging, lower speeds where the turtles cross.
Turtle Day was very popular with over 400 attendees.  We also
harvested some vulnerable turtle eggs and put them in protected nests.  We were pleased with the interest in the release of the hatchlings in September with over 130 attendees over two days.  Another conservation activity was the Tree Inventory that we did with our partners and volunteers in August.  The central part of the Island was the focus this year and the work provided a solid baseline to track the overall health of the tree populations into the future.  Silver maples are the most common tree in this zone with the largest ones being over 100 cm in diameter.

Unfortunately the short season resulted in less revenue from tours and rentals.  As well, attendance at the Naturalist programs was down a bit.  On the plus side membership revenue was up, there are a couple new volunteers attending work days, and social media is going strong.
And another bright spot is interest from the Forest School and a local elementary school, Orleans Wood, in looking for ways to engage their students with Petrie Island.  One group of students even saved mussels that were stranded when the river’s water levels dropped.  Some students participated in guided walks on the Island learning about nature and how it changes with the seasons.

Overall, it was a very productive season with new and exciting
opportunities on the horizon for 2020.  We anticipate more ways for
people to get involved, perhaps in helping with guided walks or
improving interpretative materials.  Thank you very much for your
support through your memberships and participation.  We hope that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season and that we see you soon out on Petrie Island.