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.

Dispatch #3 – August 28, 2019

By Teyana Aviles Molina

Things are starting to wind down at Petrie Island as summer is coming to an end. We would like to recognize and give a special thank you to our summer students; Emma, Emie, Atirah, Laura and Teyana, as well as part time summer student Justin, for their dedication and hard work. We would also like to thank our summer volunteers; Loriann, Anthony, and Christopher for all their help. Another important acknowledgment goes to our Wednesday Workday staff; Al, Paul, Mike, Steve, Gil, Martin, and Bill, who continuously contribute to the upkeep and restoration of the island.
For our three months here on Petrie Island there were many different projects that were completed following the flood damage. The cleanup and restoration of the area was a major ongoing project throughout the summer. Information boards and other displays were greatly affected by the floods, therefore restoring and improving the boards for the general public was a priority and a continuing task. We also misplaced many of our picnic tables and benches along our trails which were then graciously recovered by our Wednesday Workday staff. Despite many setbacks from the flood, such as starting our season late, we were still able to successfully run tours, our Naturalist Program, turtle conservation efforts, and the Tree Inventory. 
This summer we had great success with our Naturalist Program for Preschool, Junior and Youth. Our Naturalist program this year featured talks about a specific topic, such as Turtles, Frogs etc., with a toured walk around our trails, games related to the subject, and a nature based craft to finish the program. This year our Naturalist program topics were all translated into french allowing our programs to be fully bilingual. Our Youth Naturalist programs were also quite successful with our Youth Naturalists contributing to Petrie Island through the construction and decorating of our new bug hotel, bee houses and bat houses. Thank you to all our Naturalists for a great summer and we hope to see you next year! 
From August 17-18, FOPI held a Tree Inventory! The purpose of this event was to assess the biodiversity and the number of trees on Petrie Island, specifically in the Grand maitre Ecological Reserve. There were many trees affected by flooding, disease, and beavers, therefore, it was important to obtain this data. Sherry, our Head of Communications, meticulously organized the event to ensure it went as smoothly as possible. We had many volunteers able to attend both days to measure and identify trees and we were lucky enough to have two experts, Janet from the Ottawa Stewardship Council and Owen from the Ottawa Field Naturalists to help with the identification. Overall, the Tree Inventory was a success, and we would like to thank our volunteers and experts for helping us make this event possible.

Although we experienced some setbacks this year, through the hard work of our summer staff and volunteers, the generous donations, rentals, tours and programs, we were still able to have a great summer. FOPI hopes to see you all next year for another amazing summer!

Émie Gaboury 2019/07/28

Thank you everyone for another month of support! This month the Friends of Petrie Island staff, along with the help of our Wednesday workday volunteers, have accomplished multiple tasks that have contributed to creating a more welcoming and informative area for all of Petrie’s Islands visitors. The construction and painting of our new display structure, a new table for our container, the ongoing creation and upkeep of our new wildflower garden are just a few examples of the many tasks that have been completed throughout this past month! This upcoming month of August boasts exciting opportunities that we would like to share with you, our dedicated members!

In partnership with the Ottawa Stewardship Council (OSC) and the Ottawa Field Naturalist Club (OFNC), Friends of Petrie Island will be conducting a tree inventory on Saturday August 17th and Sunday August 18th from 8:45am to 3:00pm, and we are looking for volunteers! Volunteers would help to measure and record information about the trees on Petrie Island. No previous experience is needed and tree experts will be on site to instruct volunteers on how to take measurements and help with tree identification. This is a great opportunity to learn about the trees and the natural history of Petrie Island! Please visit our webpage, https://www.petrieisland.org/tree-inventory-2019-2021, for more details about the event.  If this is of interest to you, we ask that you please register ahead of time at inquiries@petrieisland.org, with the subject line ‘Attention Sherry – Tree inventory Volunteer’. We are looking for approximately 20 volunteers, so do not hesitate to share this information with your friends and family! 

In other news, our children naturalist program is still accepting registrations for our Pre-school, Junior and Youth naturalist sessions. Children learn about a variety of different topics such as turtles, invasive species, fossils and dinosaurs and many more exciting subject matter! The staff is having a great time running the program and getting to interact with the youth about the wildlife and biodiversity at Petrie Island. If you or someone you know may be interested in joining us, you can email us at inquiries@petrieisland.org and we will answer all your questions!

Are you looking to host the perfect picnic, family gatherings or work event in one of Ottawa’s most beautiful locations? Petrie Island’s various picnic areas offers multiple options that will fit  your every need. For smaller groups, up to 25 people, picnic area 2 and 3 offers 4 picnic tables with shade, that can be rented for 20$ and can be yours for the day. For bigger gatherings, the event tent can accommodate up to 100 people and can be rented for 100$ for half the day or 125$ for the full day. There are a lot of dates available for the rental of the picnic areas in August. As always, inquire at inquiries@petrieisland.org to reserve your picnic today.

In relation to the area rentals available at Petrie, FOPI staff are also available to host birthday parties as well as tours for any age group. This past month we have hosted successful kids and adult tours! If you are apart of or know any club or group that might be interested do not hesitate to contact us at our inquiries email for more information!

Finally, we wanted to emphasize that we are in the process of rebuilding multiple structures after the impact of this years flood. Each Wednesday dedicated volunteers arrive for our Wednesday work days that are especially busy with building and repairing displays and other areas that need reconstruction. This includes manual and carpenting work. If you would like to participate in our rebuilding efforts, you are welcome to join us on Wednesday mornings. We ask that you please notify us in advance which date you would like to come out and help. 

As always, thank you for supporting Friends of Petrie Island, and we hope to see you soon at the island!

Émie Gaboury 2019/07/07

We would like to thank you for all of your support in 2018! With your help, we were able to work on many projects last year, such as launching our Naturalist programs and building our display area. We also received much support during our Wednesday Workdays. Let us all work together, new members and old, and make 2019 an extraordinary year for Friends of Petrie Island! 

Petrie Island is officially open after much reconstruction courtesy of the City of Ottawa. As you may know, this year the flooding at Petrie Island was the longest to recede even compared to 2017. It delayed our reopening for a couple of months. The water was almost a meter above the ground, and the water line can be seen among the trees and buildings in the area. In the meantime, we were working out of Queenswood Heights Community Centre getting things ready for our grand return. Of course, when we were able to safely enter the Island, there was much work to be done. Displays were faded and covered with mud, the tool shed and craft shed were still flooded inside, and almost all of our benches were displaced or lost. With the help of our staff on Wednesday Workdays, much of our benches and our displays were recovered. At the moment, most things are done and we are able to operate our programs; however, there is still more to do. Our staff is still hard at work getting things back to the way they were. We are rebuilding our lost display area and doing our best to clean up our picnic area. Luckily, we do have our picnic rentals up and running and our container and office have been delivered. Overall, we are excited to say that the Nature Center is open and we have staff on duty daily. Feel free to ask them about our programs and memberships for the summer!

In terms of programs and events, we recently held our annual Turtle Day on June 23, 2019. It was a great turnout! We had the Canadian Wildlife Federation come in and do a presentation on turtles in Ontario, and we had various games and activities for kids. Moreover, our Children’s Naturalist Program officially started on July 2, 2019. This year we have preschool (ages 2-5), junior (ages 6-8), and youth (ages 9-12) naturalist groups. Preschool and junior being every Tuesday and Thursday, and youth every Wednesday and Thursday.  Our themes this week were turtles and fossils. Both the younger and older groups have a variation in teaching and activities by increasing or decreasing the complexity of the subject. For example, the youth group focused on turtle nesting on Petrie Island; whereas our junior groups focused on the identification of turtles on Petrie Island. Finally, the Plant Group has returned! They will have their sessions on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 PM.  

The trails around Petrie Island are starting to dry. Bill Holland and the Turtle trail are not flooded; yet, the Basswood, Muskrat, and Sunrise trails are still partially flooded. Given the warm weather ahead, the trails should clear soon! Our staff has been going down the Bill Holland trail everyday to look for signs of turtle activity. We have recovered six nests consisting of snapping, painted, and map turtle eggs which are protected on our Turtle Trail. 

Last, but not least, we do have new additions to our student summer staff! Teyana, Laura, and Atirah are our new Park Monitors this summer! Emma and Émie are returning for their second year as the Children’s Program Manager, and Coordinator of Staff, Volunteers, and Memberships respectively. Let us all wish our team good luck for the summer!

We do hope 2019 will be a great year for Friends of Petrie Island! There will be many new projects to work on, such as, a new turtle pond, programs, and more species conservation efforts. Without your help, none of this would have been possible. This is why we give our utmost thanks for your support. Let us help preserve Friends of Petrie Island for many generations to come!

Paul Le Fort 2018/09/05

I saw twin bolts of lightning during the first storm, obviously hitting somewhere near Jean D’Arc (North Service). It caught our little dog as he was looking out the patio door. He has been sleeping sheepishly since.

Al Tweddle just confirmed serious damage, many trees down, one hitting the Morin house, another missing the trail shed. Others fell on Turtle Trail, across the road between our location and Morin house. Al reports no other damage, unless you include the wet floor in the container, he having left the end open. So all is OK, we trust the City will clean up. The power pole to the pavilion was split by lightning, it appears, and there are trees down along the access road past the causeway. Hydro was on site, and their report on the outage app showed two sites on Petrie, undefined (when I looked it up before we lost power ourselves.)

Bill Bower 2018/08/11

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.

Jim Robertson 2018/06/21

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

FOPI Staff 2018/05/18

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.

City of Ottawa on the future of the nature centre 2017/11/03

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.

Al Tweddle, 2017/11/09

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.