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Starting in 2016, through funding from the Town of Cornwall and Environment Canada’s EcoAction Community Funding Program and support from the Cornwall Area Watershed Group and the Terry Fox Trail Enhancement Group, Macphail Woods began a three and half year project helping every student at Eliot River School to naturalize their schoolgrounds and the surrounding Terry Fox Sporting Complex through planting a wide variety of native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and ferns.
The project site consists of the school grounds, playgrounds, existing hedgerows, sports fields, unused grass fields and a marsh. This diversity of habitats and uses made for an interest mix of approaches to creating outdoor educational spaces, improving biodiversity and creating shelter for sporting events, as well as beautifying existing walking trails and creating new habitat for wildlife.
All plantings were enacted by Eliot River students, the Cornwall Area Watershed Group, many volunteers from the surrounding community planned and guided by the staff of Macphail Woods and the Terry Fox trail enhancement group.
Several new hedgerows were created surrounding the exposed sports fields which will provide habitat corridors for local wildlife and windbreaks to athletes, spectators and students using the area.
Three native pollinator gardens were created throughout the site to facilitate outdoor education, create food sources for bees, butterflies and other insects and provide native seed sources. These gardens also use beautiful native shrubs, wildflowers and ferns while reducing the amount of mowing to be done by staff at the Terry Fox Sporting Complex.
With the mindset of creating habitat, outdoor learning spaces and reducing mowing, two new forests have been planted in previously unused fields showcasing many natives species of trees and shrubs.
One forest has been designated the Memorial Grove. It has been planted with native species of trees and shrubs from the Acadian Forest region. It also includes a gazebo situated in the middle of the grove. The forest will be a place for tree dedications to members of the community.
The Peace Garden is a small afforested area with a grove of larger trees surrounding benches. Large red oaks and sugar maples were used, the former, our provincial tree, representing PEI and the latter symbolizing Canada. Surrounding the sitting area a mixture of native trees and shrubs were planted creating habitat, seed and pollination sources and will provide a host of other benefits from cleaning air to reducing winds.
The Terry Fox trail enhancement group had a vision of every species of native tree from the maritimes being planted along the walking trail, enhancing the trail itself while also providing educational opportunities for students and the public to learn a bit about the natural history of our eco-region. Placards have been set up along the trail with information about each species of tree.
An existing wetland was situated on the southwestern corner of the property but lacked biodiversity. Native plantings were carried out using water-loving species of trees, shrubs, wildflowers and ferns such as white ash, eastern white cedar, blue-flag iris, cinnamon fern and jack-in-the-pulpit.
Like many Island schools, some of the playground areas at Eliot River lacked enough large trees in and around their outdoor equipment. A number of large sugar maples, red oaks and red maples were added creating shady places for kids to eat snacks, gather before gym class and generally enhance play areas.
Since there are a variety of habitats to restore throughout the site – from open fields to wetland – we have used a wide mix of native species in our efforts to improve habitat, create pollinator gardens, provide shade, create outdoor learning spaces and restore biological diversity. Some of the species we’ve used include: