According to Janine DeWit, the Natural Heritage Education Leader
for Ontario Parks, the first naturalists at Presqu'ile recognised the importance of
teaching others about the biodiversity found in the area.
A birdwatcher's paradise, a stop-over for Monarch butterflies on
their way to Mexico, a refuge for reptiles and a
long, sandy beach.
This may sound like a lush tropical island in South America, but this
naturalist's dream can be visited without having to buy a plane ticket; if you live in
Presqu'ile Provincial Park, situated just south of Brighton, on Lake Ontario, is located on a
tombolo (an island that is linked to the mainland by a sandbar).
Shaped like a boomerang, the park consists of beaches, marshes and
forest: the perfect environmental mix for a variety of wildlife to flourish.
Presqu'ile (a French word that means 'almost an island') was part of a
large piece of land the British acquired from the Mississauga Indians, in 1787.
Although the peninsula was to become the capital of the Northumberland
and Durham counties, those plans were abandoned following an unfortunate incident.
As a historical plaque at the park attests, a schooner called The
Speedy sank in rough weather, just off the peninsula, taking with it a prisoner and all
those who were to try him at the newly built courthouse on the island. Following the
sinking, it was decided that the area was too inconvenient and treacherous to develop into
a commercial area.
Although there were some attempts to farm the land after that, it was
left alone for the most part, to the delight of environmentalists. And, in 1922 the Presqu'ile Park Commission was
established to conserve the area's natural beauty and to open it to the public. It
officially became a provincial park in 1956, the same year that nature programs began at
According to Janine DeWit, the Natural Heritage Education Leader for Ontario Parks, the first naturalists at Presqu'ile
recognised the importance of teaching others about the biodiversity found in the area.
"The education program, which is really popular, has existed for a
very long time," she says. "It has never been about entertaining the public, but
rather, educating visitors about the diverse ecosystem at Presqu'ile and all of the
wildlife it supports here."
The fact that upwards of 60,000 people attend these interpretative
programs and other nature-themed events annually, clearly demonstrates their popularity.
And the two visitors buildings, the Nature Centre and the Lighthouse Interpretative
Centre, attract another 47,000 each year as well.
Programs specifically created for children and led by park
interpreters are offered between June 28 and August 31. The Presqu'ile For Kids book is
another initiative designed to educate young ones about the park. It contains 40 pages of
activities separated into three levels of difficulty that, once completed, allows
participants to earn a Nature Explorer certificate.
From Winterfest Bird workshops in January to Migrants Weekend at the end of summer, each
month has an event dedicated to these feathered creatures.
"Most of the programs revolve around them with the area being a
major stopover for birds migrating north in the spring and south in the fall,"
In fact, avid birders often find themselves in the fortunate
predicament of having too many birds and not enough time for all their spotting. That's
not surprising with over 300 different species that have been sighted at the park.<
Some of the birds stay longer than others. On Gull and High Bluff
Islands, just off the peninsula, a large gull colony as well as cormorants, terns and
herons nest and raise their young from March to September. During that time though, no
visitors are allowed on the islands.
The Mainly Mammals workshop takes a closer look at the deer, racoons,
skunks, shrews and other animals cohabiting in the area.
Taking a closer look at the deer - � Phil Raby
An evening program allows visitors to discover how alive the park
becomes after sundown with the presence of bats, owls and other nocturnal creatures.
A butterfly workshop, in late June, educates participants on the
habitats of these delicate flying jewels.
Later on in the summer, another program deals with bird banding and
Monarch tagging, as the fall migration kicks in.
The Lighthouse by Phil Raby
The Lighthouse, on the most eastern tip of Presqu'ile, is another
point of great interest. It is Ontario's second oldest lighthouse and the original
lighthouse keeper's cottage in still on the grounds.
The Interpretive Lighthouse Centre has rich programs and exhibits
aimed directly at teaching about the park's past, including the sinking of The Speedy.
Aside from learning about the early pioneers, little know facts about pirates and rum
runners from two centuries ago are also revealed.
A complete list of all the programs and nature workshops taking place
at the park during spring, summer and fall can be found on the Friends of Presqu'ile Park website
The Friends of Presqu'ile Park also compile a list of recent bird sightings that is
posted on the website weekly.
From Toronto, go east on Highway 401. Turn south at Highway 30 exit on
the 401. Once at the town of Brighton, watch for signs to the Park.
Information: (613) 475-4324
By AP Rodrigues.
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