Parkbus, Hazel Bird Nature Reserve, ON (photo by NCC)

Parkbus, Hazel Bird Nature Reserve, ON (photo by NCC)

Thanks to Parkbus, volunteering in nature has never been easier

Volunteers, Hazel Bird Nature Reserve, ON (photo by NCC)

Volunteers, Hazel Bird Nature Reserve, ON (photo by NCC)

On a sunlit May 26 morning, 33 Conservation Volunteers (CV) stepped off of a bright blue bus at the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Hazel Bird Nature Reserve, on Ontario’s Rice Lake Plains. Their mission was to help restore native plant species and rare habitats. Thanks to Parkbus, not one of them drove a car from downtown Toronto to join in on the fun. The Plug for the Prairies CV event was the result of a brand-new partnership between Parkbus and NCC, and it was a sweet deal for all! 

Parkbus is a non-profit organization that provides bus service for city dwellers to experience activities like camping, hiking and stargazing. The organizers of Parkbus understand that not everyone has access to natural areas, especially those who live in cities and lack the means of transportation.

Des bénévoles plantent des fleurs sauvages indigènes à la réserve naturelle Hazel Bird, Ont. (Photo de CNC)

Des bénévoles plantent des fleurs sauvages indigènes à la réserve naturelle Hazel Bird, Ont. (Photo de CNC)

This CV event provided a new experience for Parkbus participants, as it was an opportunity to take part in hands-on conservation and caring for nature. NCC realizes that transportation can be a barrier for volunteers wishing to attend CV events that are held on remote properties. Working with Parkbus offered an innovative solution.

The Rice Lake Plains is characterized by tall grass prairies and oak savannahs, both of which are considered rare habitats in North America. Hazel Bird Nature Reserve used to be covered with two-metre-tall native grass species and black and white oak trees. Today, this reserve is filled with invasive Scotch pine and small populations of native grasses due to a legacy of agriculture.

Des bénévoles plantent des fleurs sauvages indigènes à la réserve naturelle Hazel Bird, Ont. (Photo de CNC)

Des bénévoles plantent des fleurs sauvages indigènes à la réserve naturelle Hazel Bird, Ont. (Photo de CNC)

Ali Giroux, Val Deziel and Elizabeth Latimer, staff from NCC’s Ontario region, led the volunteers through a successful event. Close to 1,500 plugs of native grass species, like sand dropseed, and nearly 300 native wildflowers were planted.

Volunteers also helped NCC get one step closer to their goal of removing invasive Scotch pine from the reserve, having successfully cleared a 2.5-acre (one-hectare) area by the afternoon. The day ended with a classic Parkbus activity: a group hike. Volunteers relaxed and soaked in the beauty of Hazel Bird — and the results of their hard work.

The CV event was extremely successful, with more volunteers showing up than NCC staff expected. NCC looks forward to continuing this success with Parkbus and providing more urban Canadians with a chance to connect with nature and a chance to get their hands dirty for conservation.

To learn more about the Hazel Bird Nature Reserve or to find out how you can visit this NCC property, check out NCC's Nature Destinations.

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