Monday, April 2, 2018

Point Pelee's Conundrum + Hillman Northern Shrike

Pelee Tip - June 1952 ... there was sand on the west side!
I think one of my best blog postings out of the 400 or so that I've written was this one here:  (back in 2012!). This posting was about the history of Point Pelee which I had started to understand as I become a more serious birder.

One of the main points of that posting was that human development in Southwestern Ontario completely ravaged the natural spaces that covered Essex County, and that all that was left was some delicate fragments of habitat. Pelee's management had to make a decision as to whether the parks purpose or essence was as a place for leisure or a place for preservation. It seemed that back in the 1900's, the "preservation" side of things was taking hold as many of the private cottages and businesses were bought out the Point Pelee was turned into a National Park.

Even roads were removed and returned back to nature, which be dramatically seen if you walk along the west side of the Tilden's Woods Path.

But it seems that Point Pelee's management (who is continually changing) seems to be continually faced with the same challenge that earlier visionaries had: which is: "Should Point Pelee be used as a leisure destination or as a nature preserve?"

July 15th, 2015: (Pelee gets $11 Million for infrastructure)

March 26, 2018 (Pelee gets $5.5 Million)

One of my biggest problems with the recent developments was the fact that they built a little cottage village in the deepest part of the flooded forest habitat near Tilden's Trail. Interior forest habitat with distances of 100m from the edge to the center are very rare in southern ontario and of course, management decided to build a bunch of cottages in the middle of this ultra rare habitat. It seems the decision makers didn't really consider the ecological impact of that particular location.

A woman that I know named Ellen also ranted to me last year about the giant parking lot they built at Northwest Beach. It could easily be seen from space. It paved over loads of Cedar Scrub habitat that is another beautiful habitat that is so rare in Essex. I also recall walking with the late Alan Wormington along West Beach and he was infuriated with the development projects the park was implementing.

Last year, Parks Canada made admission into Point Pelee free - which of course has many positive benefits (getting more people to appreciate nature) but of course - the park got "beat up" with footprints from tens of thousands of tourists. I recall one day that some visitors were walking up to the tram with plastic bags filled with plants they had pulled out along east beach. Dog Walkers littered the trails with plastic dog-poop bags, motorcycle gangs, locals you name it... they visited.

Two years ago, I went to Ohio's version of Pelee Island called "Put-in Bay". They built a giant cement tower in the middle of the island to commemorate the battle of lake erie that took place near that island. I guess during migration, hundreds of birds crash into that tower and are found dead on the ground below. Will a tip tower near the tip parking lot have a similar effect to migrating birds?

Anyway, I guess I am stunned by a recent headline that states $5.5 million for Point Pelee. In a way, one might accuse me of being hypocritical since I will clearly benifit from some of the infrastructure improvements at the park.

It must be said though...  $16.5 MILLION over the last 3 years? The park is only 10 km long! The park is awash with cash. Management is clearly needing to do something with this windfall of cash!!!! So here in-lies the conundrum they face... Is Point Pelee a place that is meant for environmental preservation or a place for leisure activities? (My suggestion to put that money to good use would be for land buy back between Point Pelee and Wheatly Provincial Park.) Perhaps some of that money could buy land slotted for development at west Windsor's Ojibway Complex... But that would never happen.

On a lighter note, I had relatives visitign this weekend and we took the kids to Colasanties in Leamington. I insisted to my wife that we stop by Hillman for 15 minutes to see if I could see some shorebirds that have been reported as of late.

To my amazement I picked up the long staying Northern Shrike showing generously along the path as you exit the Fred Cada. Memorial Forest on your way to the shorebird cell. Amazingly, there was just a prescribed burn which one might assume would scare this northbound bird away!

Good birding!


  1. An excellent post, Dwayne. While getting the average person to have a better appreciation of the natural world is always a good thing, surely there must be ways to do so without including such an intrusive structure on the landscape. I suppose that since facilities will be handicapped-accessible, it will have either a very long ramp, or an elevator?

    I note in the media article that the park is 'adding sand dunes'. A curiosity to say the least, and I wonder how that is going to happen. Bringing in truckloads of sand from who knows where? Re-establishing the sand-sucking operations in the lake and depositing it along the PPNP shoreline? (Other water front landowners will be furious with that, I am sure.)

    Lots of other thoughts come to mind, but I will leave it at that, for now.

  2. Great post Dwayne

    1. Thanks Brandon. I neglected to add the main quote from the other article but it was from 1939 and is as follows:
      By 1939, government officials expressed strong concern about the deteriorating conditions of the park. Tanner stated best the decision park managers had to make about the park considering all the stresses people were putting on the park.

      “Point Pelee National park was set aside as a national park primarily because of its unique fauna and flora and not because of its suitability as a picnic and bathing ground for local inhabitants. The forces of conservation and recreation are diametrically opposed because of the small area involved and the large number of visitors to the park. The time has been reached where a decision must be made as the whether the purpose of the park shall be for recreation or for the preservation of fauna and flora”.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...