A Backyard Forest Sanctuary
The Rotary Eco Trail, in the O’Neill Nature Preserve, is a pathway in an urban forest. The largest forest within the city of Chatham, it is a natural space that feels kilometers away from the city. Members of the community long hoped the forest would be saved from development, and it is now in public hands, preserved for future generations.
Meet and Greet your Natural Neighbours
Some of your natural neighbours living in the Nature Preserve are shy and secretive. These include foxes and their kits, warblers, snakes and a variety of rodents. Others, like a pair of Great Horned Owls, are local celebrities. These birds, which mate for life, set up house in late winter and raise their chicks in hollow trees. Listen for their distinctive h-who-who-hoo call, especially in the January and February nesting season.
Have you been lucky enough to spot an Eastern Garter Snake or rare Eastern Fox Snake basking on a rock? If you see one of these reptiles, don’t be alarmed. They are non-venomous and like to be left alone. As good neighbours, they offer a free rodent control service. Their continued presence here is critical for keeping populations in check.
Walk Amongst Royalty
Tulip Tree, Sycamore, and Basswood are indicators of Carolinian Forest. They are descendants of the majestic trees that once covered much of the area. They are constantly working overtime to produce oxygen, remove carbon and filter water. During your hike, keep a look out for distinctive leaves and bark patterns for the following trees.
Learn more about how you can help this nature preserve by choosing the “Act” tab.
Photo credits: Bronwen Buck, Katheryn Kielstra, Municipality of Chatham Kent
More about the site:
Location: Use Willowdale and Thornhill Park in Chatham for Personal Mobility Device access.
Accessibility: The entire trail is personal mobility device accessible. Note Closest public washroom is Kingston Park (approx. 1 km from the EcoTrail).
Special Features: Carolinian Forest tract, Family Friendly Loop (playground features in nearby Thornhill Park, Species at Risk
Map Credit: Kathryn Kielstra
- The O’Neill Nature Preserve is a treasured place, and many members of the community feel a sense of ownership of the forest, prompting them to become involved. To prevent development of the land, a petition was organized and signed by community members, who then presented to Chatham-Kent Council in favour of preservation of the forest.
- Through the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Area’s revitalization project, the community planted trees and maintained the forest. Over 150 shade-tolerant shrub and tree varieties were planted, and substantial improvements were made to the trail. Local businesses donated funds and volunteers to make this happen.
- The Rotary Club of Chatham, Downtown, has been recognized as the “stewards” of the O’Neill Nature Preserve, home to the Rotary Eco Trail. They raise funds, and act as a liaison between the community, the municipality, and other interests.
Explore Chatham-Kent through WalkCK.ca
Explore more of Chathan-Kent’s nature through WalkCK.ca. This new non-profit organization promotes walking through an annual series of hikes.
Proud partners of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent
Be a Good Neighbour . . . to the Forest Next Door
“It’s a neighbourly day in this beauty wood . . . I’ve always wanted to have a neighbour just like you”
- Fred M. Rogers
TV Personality Fred Rogers could not have said it better. It is a beautiful day for a neighbour, so let us make the most of it!
With a typical neighbour, it is easy to show support: shovel a driveway, mow a lawn, drop off an apple pie. But what if your neighbour is a woodlot or natural area? How do you act then? In fact, the answer is easy. Research shows that people who live the closest to natural areas can do the most to improve forest health. Follow these links to find out how you can be a better neighbour. Let us know how you are making a lasting, natural connection.