Our “Forever Protected” series shares why each and every one of us belongs in Ontario’s parks. Our large system of protected areas is based on a representation model. In today’s post, biologist Lauren Trute tells us the story of Petawawa Terrace.
For many families in the area, Petawawa Terrace Provincial Park is literally a park in their backyard.
Unlike many Ontario provincial parks, Petawawa Terrace is not pristine wilderness. Known locally as the “fish hatchery park,” the 215-hectare park is located in the heart of the city of Petawawa.
This small parcel of protected land belongs to the Ontario park system because it gives us a glimpse into Ontario’s history and represents ecosystems and species of provincial importance.
The representative heritage of Petawawa Terrace
With such rich natural landscapes, we sometimes forget that Ontario Parks is also committed to protecting our shared heritage.
Petawawa Terrace has been important to Ontario’s conservation history. It was initially established as the Pembroke Crown Game Preserve in 1928. The Pembroke Trout Breeding Station operated from 1929 to 1994, one of the smallest and oldest in Ontario.
In 1971 and 1978 the wooden troughs that collected water from the springs that originated on the terrace were replaced by steel ones.
Moose transferred from Manitoba were raised in pens on the property for reintroduction to Ontario and Quebec from 1929 to 1945. The Petawawa Goose Sanctuary was established in 1951.
Aerial view of Petawawa Terrace taken in 1989 from the northeast side of the property. Note the goose management ponds and fish growing station buildings (white)
This is what the park looks like from above today
During its 70 years of operation, the Pembroke Fish Farm supplied lake and brook trout to stock more than 100 lakes in the districts of Pembroke, Bancroft, Carleton Place, Tweed and Napanee, as well as Algonquin Provincial Park . The station closed in 1995 as part of the provincial restructuring of fish farming.
In 1981, the adjacent Gutzman (Guntzman) farm property was acquired to ensure water supply.
The buildings were removed, but there has been some restoration on the site since then.
Remnants of human habitat can also be found in the flora: planted apple trees, lilies and lilac bushes appear in the landscape.
Left: Corner of Old Guntzman Farmstead Foundation
Right: Remains of a possible tobacco processing construction.
As part of the treaty negotiations currently underway, the Algonquins of Ontario have identified Petawawa Terrace Provincial Park as an area of historical and cultural significance within their territory.
Ontario and the Algonquins have agreed to work collaboratively to establish a management planning direction for this and other protected areas located within the treaty agreement area. The negotiating parties have agreed that ecological integrity will be the first priority in the management of parks and protected areas.
Representative Ecosystems of Petawawa Terrace
Did you forget what the “representative” ecosystem is? Refresh your memory here!
In 1983, the park was designated an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) for its geological features of provincial significance (the terrace) and 14 plants of provincial significance.
It is difficult to get a picture of the terrace itself as it is obscured by leaf cover. Here’s a look from the top of the terrace, facing the Ottawa River.
More than 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, a huge body of water called the Champlain Sea flooded parts of Ontario and Quebec. As the water receded over several thousand years, the terraces were worn into the landscape like geological footprints, giving us clues about the history of our landscape.
Not sure exactly how the terraces were formed?
Imagine a flooded basement.
The terraces along the Ottawa River are like stairs to a flooded basement. The tread of the staircase is the horizontal flat part of the terrace (also called the tread), and the riser of the staircase is called the escarpment.
Hypothetical cross section of the valley. Source: Wikipedia
Little by little, the water level drops, step by step. But remember: flooding is complicated. When water drains from the basement, it leaves behind all kinds of dirt and debris.
That’s exactly what happened in the Ottawa Valley.
As the water receded, the flowing water cut new steps (escarpments) into the landscape, leaving behind new footprints. And on each terrace (step), the waters left behind all kinds of glacial remains.
One of the many springs in Petawawa Terrace.
At Petawawa Terrace we can find marine clay, remains of the ancient Champlain Sea. We also found sandy soils (a rare landscape in Ontario) and cold water springs.
The terraces show us the history of post-glacial erosion, giving an idea of what happened before while also providing a diverse habitat for wildlife.
Well-drained sandy soils on the upper terrace support an ancient red pine plantation, with occasional interspersing of jack pine, red oak, bur oak, and white pine.
The lowland area of the park has a diversity of habitats, including wetlands, field communities, deciduous lowlands and mixed forests.
The former fields and open areas around the fish ponds are now filled with milkweed and wild red raspberries, making them havens for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.
Representative species of Petawawa Terrace
Just as we want to protect each type of ecosystem, we want to protect each species represented in an ecosystem, from towering pine trees to tiny beetles.
Petawawa Terrace is home to 14 plants of provincial significance, including Spiny Quillwort, Small Purple Fringed Orchid, Tubercle Rochis, Coastal Jointweed, Goosefoot, Dropseed and Manna Grass.
Prickly Quillwort, Small Purple Fringed Orchid, Dropseed
White-tailed deer and black bear are the two largest mammals in the park, and beavers, muskrats, mink, otters, and raccoons can also be seen.
More than 70 species of birds have been recorded, many of which breed at the site, including the Baltimore oriole, American bittern, and black-capped titmouse.
Waterfowl are abundant in spring and fall. Duck banding was carried out periodically when the Fish Farming Station was in operation.
The park also protects species such as northern leopard frogs, American toads, snapping turtles, painted turtles, various salamanders, and monarch butterflies.
In an increasingly urbanized landscape, it is easy to lose contact with the natural environment.
How wonderful is it that we have parks like Petawawa Terrace right in our own backyard?