The camping season of 2017 will certainly be one of the more memorable ones for staff and visitors alike. As is always the case Lake Ontario started going up in early spring, but instead of slowing at its normal height it just kept coming and coming. We started being concerned in mid-April when the beach was damp everywhere and the newly returned male Piping Plover was finding it hard to find a dry spot to start his breeding displays. By May most of the beach was under water and by May 10th it was gone, and still the water kept rising! The Piping Plover was not the only one disappointed by a lack of beach. He and many of our usual visitors went elsewhere this spring and early summer.
Conditions got so wet that the park took the unprecedented step of closing completely from May 23rd until June 22nd. Many of the campsites had become waterlogged and some of the Trail’s End sites were actually below lake level.
Even after reopening, many of the facilities remained closed. It wasn’t until July 29th that water had dropped enough to allow reasonable beach use and we opened up the beach parking lot gates. The Marsh Boardwalk was closed from May 5th until mid-August, though the first tower was accessible. Calf Pasture was closed for the same period. Owen Point Trail was never closed but it required wading through 2-3 feet of water and not many people did. Owen Point itself lost about 100 metres.
The Lighthouse Centre stayed above water but the parking lot didn’t, and we lost some shoreline in the Picnic Area as the waves ate away at the bluffs.
Through all this most visitors understood the uniqueness of the year and the Friends continued their good work here at the park. The closing of the park allowed us to do a picnic table building blitz. Dozens of tables where built by staff and Friends’ volunteers alike to replace the many lost to the lake. Picnic table building has resumed again this fall with a crew from the Friends adding 15 more in early October.
By the time July 1st rolled around we were operating more or less as normal though with fewer facilities as mentioned above. The wet spring shifted into quite a dry summer and fall, which meant great weather for camping and many people came into the park to enjoy the weather, though it didn’t quite make up for lost revenue from four weeks of closure.
Work continues in the fall, even with camping closed, and two upcoming initiative supported by the Friends will be a tree planting blitz and buckthorn removal. Condition were too wet to plant in the spring a number of trees in our nursery need to be moved out. Buckthorn is just one of many invasive species that impact Presqu’ile biodiversity and any reduction we can do will be a positive step. Tree planting commences Oct 24th and both projects can use volunteer help. Contact Phil McRae if you are interested.