Oshawa Second Marsh is a Provincially Significant Wetland Area of Natural and Scientific Interest located on the North Shore of Lake Ontario, in the south-east end of Oshawa. Friends of Second Marsh is a non-profit environmental organization responsible for implementing the Second Marsh Rehabilitation Project.
This community-based project contributes to the overall clean-up of the Great Lakes, demonstrates technologies to rehabilitate fish and wildlife habitat, addresses environmental issues common to most coastal Great Lakes Wetlands and their connecting watersheds and serves as a model, promoting the value of co-operation, partnership and environmental citizenship. The 123ha wetland ecosystem has been integrated into the community through Friends of Second Marsh, with their commitment and stewardship activities developed to protect, rehabilitate and showcase the native bio-diversity of Second Marsh and its watershed.
The watershed of Second Marsh drains an area of just over 100 square kilometres. Harmony Creek and its tributaries form the west half of the drainage basin and are located almost entirely within City limits.
The Second Marsh Project is a wetland restoration and watershed stewardship initiative that represents a multi-stakeholder partnership. It involves community groups, private corporations, public and separate school boards and local, provincial and federal government and conservation agencies. Along with the private citizens of Oshawa, Friends of Second Marsh has, over the past four years, been very successful in the following endeavours:
- Community based fund-raising effort; over $1.3 million dollars raised to contribute to the Marsh
- Rehabilitation; over $150,000 raised for watershed stewardship activities
- Construction by local community groups, corporations and service clubs of trails, boardwalks and viewing towers throughout the Marsh.
- Development and implementation of "Kids in the Marsh" summer program and community services work program for members of the Eastview Boys and Girls Club.
- Classroom Propagation Program; over 100 local schools growing aquatic plants from seed for restoration planting at the Marsh.
- Extensive volunteer network established to monitor biotic marsh components and implement the restoration planting program.
- Development of a Stewardship Strategy to involve the watershed residents in monitoring, preserving, maintaining and restoring their land.
- Establishment of a Watershed Stewardship Committee represented by community stakeholders to address issues of concern and direct activities.
Second Marsh has been impacted and degraded by a variety of sources over the years. The development and implementation of a two-phase ecological restoration plan is an attempt to restore the deteriorated Marsh functions. The problems addressed in the plan include controlling high sedimentation rates and a nuisance carp population, opening the original outlet to restore the natural hydrology, and improve habitat for invertebrates, aquatic organisms, fish, vegetation, and birds. The philosophical interpretation is, "Build it and they will come."
The Friends of Second Marsh have implemented an effective monitoring program to determine the success and failure of the restoration plan. To date, Second Marsh has seen the establishment of a Common Tern Colony, the first in Durham, the only breeding pair of Marsh Sedge Wrens in Durham, the first ever recording of a Spring Peeper Frog at Second Marsh and a significant increase in the Green and Wood Frog populations.
The Second Marsh Watershed is greatly influenced by its surrounding land uses. Human activity in the Watershed can have significant impacts on water quality and quantity as a result of increased nutrient and storm water inputs and reduced vegetation along stream banks.
The Second Marsh Watershed Stewardship Project, launched last fall, aims to raise resident awareness of the connections between their activities in the Watershed and the health of Second Marsh, and to encourage voluntary participation in efforts to reduce their impacts. Friends of Second Marsh will achieve these goals through a landowner contact and recognition program, combined with direct restoration, environmental monitoring and community awareness projects. To date a watershed health assessment project has been initiated, several stream bank improvement projects have been completed and contact has been initiated with several landowners in local areas of significance.
Natural and Cultural Heritage Conservation
The Second Marsh Project is in itself an example of natural and cultural heritage. A recent study on the history of the Second Marsh through a series of interviews with long term land owner Wilf Scattergood, has provided us with some excellent insight into the changes that have occurred over the years, creating a framework for future management. As well, this information will become part of the interpretive signage and trail guides to be developed for the Marsh in the near future. Here are some elements that will be highlighted:
- Gifford Hill, on the west side of the Marsh, was a trading post in the late 1700's, home to Oshawa's first settler Benjamin Wilson and a historically significant pioneer cemetery.
- The Marsh was an incredible source of wealth for adjacent land owners, providing them with a bountiful harvest of pike and muskrat and a place to grow and harvest celery, wild rice, water lilies (waxed and sold to Eaton's during the Depression). These people represent the ultimate stewards as they only took what they needed.
- The natural heritage of Second Marsh as an important migratory stopover for birds has provided an impressive rating of the Marsh as a Class II Wetland and Area of Natural Scientific Interest.
At present, a historical review of the Watershed is being conducted, in the hopes of identifying additional areas of historical and cultural importance. In fact, artifacts from an aboriginal settlement were recently uncovered along Harmony Creek at the top of the post-glacial Lake Iroquois Shoreline, a very prominent landscape feature that transects the mid-reaches of the Watershed. It is planned that eventually such historical and culturally important sites will be identified through signage, recommended walking, bicycling or driving "tour routes" and in relevant publications about the Watershed.
Horticultural and Landscape Initiatives
- Planting of native trees, shrubs, perennials and vines along the trails and in isolated areas to improve the overall bio-diversity and habitat opportunities for the marsh inhabitants.
- Removal of invasive species such as Garlic Mustard and Purple Loosestrife, and the continual monitoring of these and other species to control their spread.
- Pilot projects for the release of the Gurcelvella Beetle, a biological control for Purple Loosestrife, conducted by the University of Guelph.
- Pilot project to monitor herbivory, the undesirable consumption of plants by animals, overseen by staff and students from York University.
- Planting of over 10,000 aquatic plants in the marsh to compliment the restoration initiative.
- Protection and monitoring of rare and significant plants found at Second Marsh.
- Extensive vegetation update program, conducted by botanist, to determine how the vegetation community is changing in response to the restoration work and other natural impacts.
- Stabilization of eroding stream bank and creation of fish habitat using natural materials such as willow cuttings and cedar brush along 16m of stream bank in partnership with a local golf course.
- Planting of over 700 native trees and shrubs to create a naturalized buffer strip along both banks of a 150m stretch of Harmony Creek that passes through municipal parkland.
- Launch of a community process to design an Environmental Concept Plan for a City Park which will include various environmental enhancements aimed at protecting and improving Watershed and habitat health.
Points of Interest
- The two-level Beaver Pond Tower and Boardwalk through an actual beaver pond, dam and den.
- Viewing tower to Harmony Pond, a bird watchers haven.
- Scattergood Pond, with its Yellow water Lilies, Painted Turtles, Leopard and Green Frogs
- Interpretive Trail through Ghost Road Bush along boardwalks (under construction)
- Section of the Waterfront Trail that connects you to the North Shore of Lake Ontario and its rich cultural and natural heritage.
- General Motors Viewing Tower, McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve and its extensive trail system, a unique trail for the visually impaired and diverse flora and fauna.
- View from Lake Iroquois Shoreline at Grandview Ave. N.
- Deeply incised valley along Farewell Creek, east of Grandview Ave. S.
To continue to:
- Monitor and craft an effective management plan for the Marsh.
- Increase vegetative cover along priority watershed valley lands to over 50%.
- Meet with landowners and other stakeholders throughout the watershed to encourage participation in individual and community stewardship initiatives.
- Offer public education and interpretive information through programming and possibly an Interpretive Centre at Second Marsh.
- Fundraise, develop partnerships and provide information on wetland and watershed related issues.
- Train and develop an effective volunteer corps to meet the demands of the restoration and management of this exceptional resource, second to none.