In 2005, the old Boardwalk, which had been in use for 25 years, was declared unsafe and closed. Almost immediately, The Friends of Presqu'ile were actively involved with Park management, going through the necessary environmental procedures for a replacement. This was a lengthy, expensive and laborious process.
After A Year Of Fund-Raising, Work Begins In March 2008
In early 2007, a fund-raising committee was struck and work began raising the necessary funds for the project. By the end of 2007, almost $100,000 had been raised and it was decided to start building the new Boardwalk. A call went out for volunteers and, in the March of 2008, work began on Phase 1 of the project: Teaching Zone 1, now referred to as Audrey's Place, named after Audrey E Wilson.
Working through some miserable conditions in March, and then through a pleasant spring, our volunteers completed the teaching zone and some 300 feet of boardwalk by early May. The breeding season had begun, so our volunteers moved out of the marsh and carried on with some pre-assembly work for the combination Tower 1/Teaching Zone 2 in the Park maintenance shop.
One of the pleasures of working in the Marsh was the opportunity to watch our wildlife while they watched us. Great white egrets battled for a choice nesting site overlooking the teaching zone and while we were eating lunch, on a couple of occasions, a Blanding's Turtle would appear and keep a wary eye on us. As the water rose, fish were soon able to swim under the deck area.
At the beginning of August, our volunteers were allowed to return to the Marsh and continue with the construction. Twenty screw anchors were driven into the sandbar, near to the Boardwalk car park, and huge frames, which had been pre-assembled, were manhandled into place for the start of Tower 1/Teaching Zone 2. The volunteers formed into two teams: one on the tower; and, the other completing the boardwalk linking to Audrey's Place.
Opening Ceremony Of Phases 1 And 2, October 2008
Phases 1 and 2 were completed by the end of September 2008, and on October 16, 2008, a formal opening took place. Mayor Chris Herrington, Lyle VanClief of The John M Parrott Foundation and Audrey E Wilson, accompanied by a large crowd of well wishers, enjoyed chocolate cake and coffee following the opening ceremonies. This event received good publicity.
Work continued through November and into December, and a further 800 feet of boardwalk was built south from the Tower 1 out into the marsh. At the same time, a second team of volunteers worked on the construction of the bridge from Audrey's Place to the location of Tower 2. Conditions were 'interesting' and choice words were heard as icy water slopped into waders and tool belts.
Students From ENSS Join Our Volunteers
During December, 13 ENSS students, who are part of the Ontario Special High Skills Major Construction Program, joined our volunteers. This program allows students while in high school to select an area of interest, in this case Construction, and be involved not only in classes but also in apprenticeships and co-ops.
These ENSS students also attend Loyalist College on Fridays, in the Construction Methods and Materials program. As a result of this experience, they may join one of the construction trades or continue their education at college or university.
The students all enjoyed their program and appreciated the opportunity to contribute to Presqu'ile Park. They don't even mind the cold weather; many of them preferring it to hot days. The students take part in all aspects of the construction including the highly skilled elements. Their teacher, Mike Treacy, a 22 year veteran of the industry, is on hand at all times with the students.
"We were very pleased to have these ENSS students working with us" said Pete Alker of the Friends of Presqu'ile. Not only are they doing a fine job on the construction, but also they are able to learn more about this incredible park. We thank each of the students and their teachers."
Works Resumed In February 2009
It was decided that work would stop on December 19, 2008, allowing volunteers to take a well-earned break. Work resumed the last week in February 2009 with materials being hauled in over the ice to Teaching Zone 3, Bridge 2 and the end of the new boardwalk leading from Tower 1. Teaching Zone 3 was completed (apart from the handrails) and then work switched to the end of the boardwalk close to where Tower 2 will be built.
Work was difficult at first having to cut through up to one foot of ice before the volunteers could dig foundations and latterly because of rising water levels. Building of the bridges required working in freezing water at times chest deep with tool belts this time definitely under water.
Excellent progress was made through the spring and by the last few days of April there was approx 150' of boardwalk remaining to complete the outer loop. With the start of the breeding season approaching, the workers knew that they were would not be able to work past the 1st of May. The depth of the water in this part of the Marsh meant that they had to wear chest-waders. During the last week of April, students from Bayside Secondary School joined us to help clear out the old boardwalk. We were grateful for their enthusiasm and efforts.
On Friday, May 1, 2009 and the last board was screwed in place ensuring that visitors could once again walk the full 1.2 kilometre trail through the Presqu'ile Marsh. Park staff provided a BBQ for the volunteers and during a thank-you speech by Biodiversity Specialist, Don Tyerman, a pair of American Bitterns circled the gathering.
On the 14 June, 2009 at we held a formal opening of The Marsh Boardwalk Trail.
Our volunteer builders resumed work at the beginning of August 2009 once again manhandling heavy timbers into place and by the end of the month Tower 2 was in place. The construction phase of the new Boardwalk was complete. The inlet straddled by Audrey's Place and Tower 2 gives a teaching opportunity second to none for Marsh environments.
The Friends have funded the 16 panels of interpretive signage designed by Ontario Parks. These are now in place around the trail giving the visitor a tremendous insight into many aspects of The Marsh. The Donor Panel has been installed in the kiosk at the Boardwalk parking lot.
A total of $360,000 in donations and grants was collected which ensured we had enough to complete the building program, interpretive signage and educational material associated with the Boardwalk.