St. Lawrence Parks Commission’s ‘Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary’ and ‘Friends of the Sanctuary’ (FOS) joined hands to restore the boardwalk on the Blue-Heron Trail, an area of the Sanctuary that hasn’t seen nature enthusiasts for nearly two decades. This collaborative project sought to revitalize the old Blue Heron trail and boardwalk, making more of the Sanctuary accessible to the community and allowing more access for the community to enjoy and connect with nature.

The boardwalk restoration project is part of a larger effort to enjoy and conserve the natural habitats of the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary and promote an appreciation of nature in the community. The Friends of the Sanctuary (FOS) is a volunteer, not-for-profit, charitable organization that works towards this mission. Members of the group are diverse in their experiences, education, employment, and interests, but they all share a passion for conservation and environmentalism. FOS Members Rick Blanchard and Sam Schuler have been champions of the Blue Heron Trail Restoration project.

The restoration project involved rebuilding roughly 200 metres of boardwalk on the Blue-Heron Trail. Friends of the Sanctuary raised $17,000 via a well-received “Buy a Board” Fundraising initiative – and St. Lawrence Parks Commission has contributed over $30,000 in value of materials and labour. Both groups had their hands on the tools to complete the work, with more than 2,000 hours invested toward completing the project, without injury.

A local wood mill showed generosity toward the project and the Raisin River Conservation Authority also supported the project, offering guidance through the necessary permit process and providing the permit at no cost.

The identified section for the boardwalk restoration project allows access to an area with old-growth trees that has not been accessible for many years The old cedar cribbing was repurposed as much as possible, and woodchips (recycled in-house from SLPC’s forestry team) were used to connect the boardwalk to the existing trail network, creating a path that is accessible to everyone, including those using strollers and bicycles. The Blue Heron Trail will also include accessible viewing areas that will allow visitors to observe and appreciate the natural beauty of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary. It will also enhance the winter program network by adding more access for walking and snowshoeing.

Work on this initiative began in the fall of 2022, continuing through the spring and fall of 2023, concluding late in October 2023. The restored boardwalk was revealed to the community at an unveiling event on November 4, 2023.

Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary is open year-round. The Blue Heron trail is expected to see many users this winter, particularly popular with snowshoers. The sanctuary grooms cross-country ski-trails throughout the winter months, and snowshoers typically packing down the snow on the walking trails as they go.