Nature Conservancy of Canada and local volunteers are working to fix that
Portage du Fort August 25, 2023
When Robert Frost wrote the poem Mending Wall, in which we find his now famous quote regarding neighbours and fences, he spoke of a force that does not actually like fences. And that force, if he is to be understood, is likely nature.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) purchased land in Portage du Fort back in 2015 and, over the course of its newfound stewardship, has worked to protect the land and ecosystem found therein. There are ample signs running the perimeter of the property indicating that the area is protected and managed for conservation, as well as those indicating that hunting is prohibited and that turtles often cross the road nearby.
What one doesn’t see at first glance is what’s deep inside the 80-some acre ecosystem. Fences. Old page and barbed wire fences. All over the place. And that’s a problem.
The NCC began an effort in 2022 calling on volunteers to help dismantle the fences running through the property. Much progress was made and that effort continued in 2023 with Ottawa Valley Project Coordinator Francisco Retamal Diaz and his team of Sofia Pizzuto and Amelie Boutin.
Together, they and several volunteers headed back into the woods in search of the point where fence-dismantling left off in 2022, to take up the charge and push further into the forest removing the now offensive footprint of a previous stewardship.
Volunteers Barb & Peter Haughton, Mike Webster, Roger Reens, Barry Stemshorn and Deb Powell are all keen naturalists and have already lent their hands to various initiatives, both local and abroad, to help give nature a fighting chance against the clear and present danger of mankind. Barry and his partner, Charlotte Rigby, played host to the team, as their property sits across a private road from the NCC land.
There was laughter, sweat and lively chatter about everything from the stinkhorn mushroom, which was passed en route to the fence-line, through to how effective the bug spray was working. Wire snips and hacksaws accompanied safety glasses and gloves as metre after metre of wire was detached from the forest which had grown up around and, at times, through it. The wire was rolled and compressed into appropriately-sized packages for conveyance out of the forest.
After several hours, the team ferried the packages out of the forest leaving only footprints and blank fenceposts behind. There was a feeling of having made progress while not having completely eradicated the fence as a whole.
That will be left to next year and a new round of volunteers.
In the meantime, this team gathered to share goodwill and good food, and to share a fellowship upon which all successful volunteer efforts are built.
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