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A Green Haven for Kids with Physical Disabilities

Easter Seals Ontario’s Woodeden Camp is a 106-acre property located on the south shore of the Thames River on the outskirts of London. Every year the camp welcomes children with physical disabilities to experience a variety of summer camp activities in a natural setting. The Camp provides a safe haven for children to be physically active through the use of adaptive equipment and specialized programming, as well as opportunities for them to learn about their environment and experience native ecosystems. Approximately 90% of the property is under tree cover.

In 2017, Site Manager Howard Botten contacted CCC regarding his interest in rehabilitating the 40-acre White Pine plantation, established 45 years ago under previous ownership in the north-east area of the property, into a Carolinian woodland.

Due to the plantation's over-crowded canopy, the pine trees are in poor health, there is a lack of mid-canopy, shrub and herbaceous layers, and there is little native woody regeneration. The plantation provides minimal wildlife habitat in its current state.

Mr. Botten arranged for a tree marking prescription to be developed by Lands and Forests Consulting in July 2017, and timber removal was scheduled for September 2017. Every fourth row of timber was removed, a standard prescription for pine plantations that are no longer actively managed for its timber.

CCC ecologist Karolyne Pickett then developed a Carolinian Habitat Action Plan for Woodeden Camp to continue with the restoration process. The plan's main initiative is to transform the plantation into a healthy mixed forest ecosystem that is connected to the property's 25-acre forested ravine bordering the Thames River. Once the plantation is rehabilitated into a mixed upland forest connected to the ravine, the project will result in a large forest patch over 62 acres in size; enough area to hopefully provide habitat for the endangered Acadian Flycatcher.

Following the timber removal, the priority has been to remove the significant amount of introduced Buckthorn shrubs growing along the plantation's periphery in order to prevent its inward spread which would jeopardize natural regeneration of native plant species as thinning of the pine progresses. St. Williams Nursery and Giles Restoration were retained to remove Buckthorn plants larger than 1” in diameter in the spring of 2018. A bird survey was conducted in late June by to gather baseline data.

Next steps include foliar treatment of Buckthorn plants that are smaller than 1” diameter, a step that was scheduled for the fall of 2018 but was postponed due to weather. A subsequent site visit will be conducted to assess native woody species regeneration and help determine whether active in-planting of native tree and shrub species will be warranted. The gradual thinning of the plantation will continue according to a Managed Forest Plan, under which some White Pine will be retained.