Conservation Volunteer Chantal planting marram grass at St. Peter's Harbour, PEI (Photo by Sean Landsman)

Conservation Volunteer Chantal planting marram grass at St. Peter's Harbour, PEI (Photo by Sean Landsman)

Conservation Volunteers: Trail blazing across Canada

Conservation Volunteers John and Ray working on a boardwalk as a part of the

Conservation Volunteers John and Ray working on a boardwalk as a part of the "Saving the Sand Dunes" event in PEI (Photo by Sean Landsman)

With the start of autumn, Canadians are trying to squeeze in as much time in nature as possible before winter arrives. Hiking through one of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) trails is just one of many great options.
Trails offer visitors an incredibly varied experience of natural landscapes across Canada. Visitors are directed along well-worn footpaths, separated from sensitive natural features, while they discover many diverse plant and animal habitats and a variety of Canadian species.

Many of Canada’s trail systems were largely built by volunteers and depend heavily on their generosity for ongoing maintenance, year after year.

Clearing trails in the Chase

Townsend's big-eared bat (Photo by Todd Carnahan)

Townsend's big-eared bat (Photo by Todd Carnahan)

This year, Conservation Volunteers (CVs) from British Columbia helped with the restoration and maintenance of the Chase Woods trails while waiting for the spectacular emergence of bats from the caves and cliffs that loom over the old-growth forest below. The Chase Woods trails were formerly used for forestry and agricultural purposes, resulting in established colonies of invasive plants typical of Vancouver Island farms.

Volunteers removed invasive plants, including Himalayan blackberry and scots broom, along the trails. They also learned about the high value of very old and often dead trees, boulder gardens and wetlands, which provide important habitat for at least four species of bat.

Chase Woods is known for hosting maternal colonies of Townsend’s big-eared bat, a species at risk.

Pointing the way

In June 2016, CVs from Alberta helped restore and maintain trails on two properties.

Conservation Volunteers clearing trail and hanging a sign (Photo by NCC)

Conservation Volunteers clearing trail and hanging a sign (Photo by NCC)

The Hicks property, which features rolling hills and scattered wetlands, provides excellent habitat for local wildlife such as mule deer and red-tailed hawks. On this property, volunteers installed directional signs and removed errant vegetation from the trails, while also removing an old section of barbed wire fencing.

The Coyote Lake Nature Sanctuary boasts a variety of scenic trails and offers many quiet spots from which to enjoy nature. There, Conservation Volunteers cleared vegetation, installed signs and installed bird nesting boxes to provide additional habitat for songbirds and waterfowl.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign!

Mapping where the signs need to be installed at Fishing Lake, ON (Photo by Nick Tardif)

Mapping where the signs need to be installed at Fishing Lake, ON (Photo by Nick Tardif)

Last year September, CVs gathered at NCC’s Fishing Lake property in the Frontenac Arch Natural Area in Ontario to mark trails and clear debris from the area.

This year, NCC staff continued the work that CVs started the previous year by installing more signage and monitoring the trails to classify the terrain and difficulty for visitors.

Saving the sand dunes

Although every recreational activity inevitably impacts the environment to a certain degree, volunteers in PEI found a creative strategy to conserve sand dunes on the island: they built a portable boardwalk! The Pinery Provincial Park in Ontario shared their portable boardwalk design with NCC’s Julie Vasseur in an effort to help protect the dunes.

Conservation Volunteer Kali planting marram grass plugs (Photo by Sean Landsman)

Conservation Volunteer Kali planting marram grass plugs (Photo by Sean Landsman)

In May 2016, volunteers gathered in St. Peter’s Harbour on PEI’s North Shore to plant 2,000 plugs of marram grass and build a portable boardwalk for people to explore the area without walking all over the newly planted plugs. Unfortunately, marram grass is very fragile and easy to disturb; even a few inadvertent steps can damage or kill the plants.

“Without marram grass, the dunes would be washed away, leaving surrounding habitats at risk. This is especially important at St. Peter’s Harbour, which has a wetland directly behind the dunes,” said Courtney Thompson, Conservation Volunteers coordinator for the Atlantic Region. This is NCC’s first time building a portable boardwalk that can be rolled up at the end of the season for storage.

Thank you to our volunteers!

From maintaining coastal footpaths in Brier Island, Nova Scotia to clearing the rustic trails along the forests of Shamper’s Bluff in New Brunswick, our Conservation Volunteers have built and maintained trails that contribute to the enjoyment, health and economic richness of local communities.

Check out some of our other Conservation Volunteer events to help with hands-on stewardship work!

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