Our latest Urban Natural Area (UNA) stewardship project is the Chapman Mills West Woodlot located on Clearbrook Drive near the intersection with Strandherd Drive in Barrhaven. This is a 7 hectare low coniferous upland forest with minor wetland and hardwood elements. The City performed an ecological survey in 2004. Since then major development has occurred and the site has been bisected into two roughly equal areas by the new Clearbrook Drive, creating north and south sections. A new park, Mancini Park, will be built in 2016 abutting the southern end of the forest.
The community partner for this project is École secondaire catholique Pierre-Savard, which is directly to the west of the north section of the forest. The school has over 900 students, who will use the forest for green studies, community service, and exercise. The school has an Eco-School Gold Certification and is working towards its Platinum Certification.
The project has the following objectives:
- maintain and improve the integrity of the natural area
- make the forest more inviting and integral to the community
- create a sense of ownership by the community
- support instruction for specialized skills majors in environment/forestry
- provide access to nature for the students; connect them to nature
- provide an outdoor “green lab”
- provide a cross-country running area
The project began in the fall of 2015 with garbage cleanup and the removal of tons of invasive Common Buckthorn by the students. Over a period of weeks various classes dug out, pulled out, and sawed the buckthorn, creating huge piles to rot down into the forest. Students also mapped existing, informal trails and provided their GPS data to the City to help determine where formal trails should be created.
We have a grant from the Community Foundation of Ottawa to fund the following activities for the students:
- planting of native trees and shrubs in areas cleared of buckthorn,
- developing interpretive signs,
- marking the formal trail system, which will connect to the new Mancini Park to the south and to local streets,
- building bat boxes,
- conducting environmental studies.
Spring 2016 – Bio-Inventory. We conducted a bio-inventory of the forest on 29 May 2016 with help from the Grade 11 biology students and volunteer field naturalists. Experts will continue to rove the forest over the next year and record their findings. Information will be captured in a project on iNaturalist: Chapman Mills West Woodland Project.
Spring 2017 – The students planted 120 trees at five sites in the north and south forests. This included 10 Butternuts from the Butternut Recovery Program run by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority.
The OSC now has 24 bat boxes, which will be distributed to suitable areas throughout the city needing mosquito control.
The students provided content to two interpretive signs that were installed in July at the entrances to trails in the north and south forests. The signs inform the community about the biodiversity of plants and animals that make this woodland, surrounded by suburbs, an oasis of nature to be enjoyed and respected.
We unveiled the signs on 18 September 2017 with the staff and students of École secondaire catholique Pierre-Savard. Also on hand were Councillor Michael Qaqish, City of Ottawa project lead Martha Copestake, and some board members from Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est. Three of the students told the gathering about what working in the forest meant to them.
In 2018 and 2019, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority installed bat boxes made by the students at the Perth Wildlife Reserve, Rideau Ferry Beach Conservation Area, and Chapman Mills Conservation Area.