In 1993, a group of conservation-minded volunteers from the Dunnville Bio Region Association (DBA) hosted a workshop to create a sustainable development plan—related to social, economic and environmental concerns—for Dunnville. One of the action items proposed was to build an outdoor education facility by restoring Thompson Creek, the Wetland and Tallgrass Prairie and plant a Carolinian Arboretum.
While that goal wasn’t entirely realized at that time due to changing resources and partners, on Wednesday, September 25 the new project partners—Dunnville Horticultural Society, Ducks Unlimited Canada and Haldimand County—will celebrate the completion of the vision with the opening of an Eco-Centre at Dunnville Thompson Creek Park.
“We are so excited to have been able to help re-start this project and get it done,” says Dunnville Horticultural Society (DHS) Past-President Debbie Thomas, who co-chaired the project with volunteer Dan McKay, the original President of the DBA and now a DHS member. “This was a wonderful project when it was started more than twenty years ago and, although it stalled somewhat due to unforeseen circumstances, we are so happy to have been able to work with the volunteer who had a lot to do with the original vision—Dan McKay—and build on it with our Ducks Unlimited Canada and Haldimand County partners.”
The event begins at 10:00 a.m. and runs until 2:00 p.m., with an official welcome at 11:00 a.m. Volunteer tour guides and guest educators will give visitors an opportunity to explore the Park’s revitalized wetlands and tallgrass prairie, as well as the Carolinian arboretum, and learn about the history and significance of the Park from an ecological and conservation perspective. As well, the Park is now home to a Heritage Tree, estimated to be more than 250 years old and newly-designated by Forests Ontario.
DHS’s request to complete the original vision of the DBA was a project approved through Haldimand County’s Community Partnership Program, including grant funding of 35% from the municipality.
As well, for more than twenty years, the County had partnered with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) to manage the parklands. For the new restoration DUC provided resource funding to support wildflower replanting—for the next five years—of the grassland area. This work was initiated in spring 2019 following a controlled burn of the area arranged by DHS.
Other work undertaken by the partners during the past year to help prepare the site for the restoration included the spraying late last year for invasive phragmites, removal of dead and unsafe trees in the arboretum, brushing of overgrown areas, creation of a new naturalized pathway around the wetlands and tallgrass prairie, a controlled burn to rejuvenate the area intended for wildflower replanting and installation of educational signage along the Eco-Centre pathways.
“It has been incredibly gratifying to have the opportunity to work with the Dunnville Horticultural Society and its wonderful volunteers to realize the Dunnville Bio Region Association’s original vision for this Park,” adds Dan McKay. “I am excited by the community’s interest and engagement in the new project, and feel confident this is only the beginning of the ongoing conservation of this ecologically-significant Park.”