(Owen Clarkin speaks to tour participants at the Stittsville Land Keepers Kemp Woodland celebration on October 30, 2021. Clarkin is an Ottawa tree expert and educator and the founder of the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club. Photos: Stittsville Central)
On Saturday, October 30, the Stittsville Land Keepers held their first successful event as a group. Founded by Jessie Lozansky, the group members are from Stittsville and surrounding area and are dedicated to conservation and community building. The inaugural event – Kemp Woodland Celebration – saw 40 people or more of all ages attend. The day was a damp one, so it was encouraging for members to see so many attend, including a good number of youth.
The old growth forest area, which is formally the west half of lot 25, concession ten of Goulbourn, was owned by John Kemp. The 97-plus acre parcel that stretches from the railway line (now the Trans Canada Trail) in the north to what is now Fernbank Road in the south. It is not yet known when John Kemp acquired the land or how long he owned it but John Kemp was both an entrepreneur and a local politician.
The first hour was spent cleaning the area in the Kemp Woodland. When the hour was completed, the group had gathered about 20 bags of garbage – from food wrappers to drink cups, discarded camp chairs, broken glass and other objects that are detrimental to the forest floor.
Owen Clarkin was invited to take participants through the woodland to share his knowledge of the trees growing in the forest and their health status. Owen, a chemistry research by profession, is the First vice-president of the Field Naturalists Club of Ottawa and has had a passion for tree conservation since being a young boy.
During the tour, Clarkin explained the importance of Kemp Woodland and “the fact that at one time the area was a swamp, saving the trees from being cut.” The majority of the old-growth Eastern White Cedar trees in Kemp Woodland date back to over 150 years old, with one being 255 years old and another seven are over 170 years old. Core samples taken from the trees told their age. Also, when the 1870 great fire demolished Old Stittsville, it is believed that this area being a swamp saved the trees.
Owen went on to tell us, “you can see the swamp evidence with the exposed tree roots and by the black spongy soil. The water levels dropping was probably due to the new developments surrounding the forest. You can see that many of the bare roots are well over a foot above the new soil line.”
Owen also told the tour participants of an important project that is currently being conducted on a tree called Red Spruce. He explained, “It can be found in Eastern Ontario from Ottawa to Voyageur Provincial Park. It was not documented, historically. So it’s a high-value, old-growth forest tree with some being 25 metres tall.” Owen has documented the tree in old-growth forests in the area for over five years. He also mentioned other old-growth forests in our area such as Gillies Grove in Arnprior and Shaw Woods located close to Eganville.
Also joining the event was Mélanie Ouellet, Founder of the Ottawa Wildflower Seed Library. They brought along over 800 varieties of seeds that are native to Ontario and Québec. Each seed packet contains approximately 50 seeds and comes with instructions as to when and where to plant, as well as your garden’s soil conditions for best growth. If you missed out on choosing seeds at the Kemp Woodland event, there is another local opportunity to receive seeds, the OWSL will be attending the Kanata Seed Exchange on November 27 from 9:00am until 12:00pm at 17 Kenins Crescent. Registration is mandatory to attend.
The scavenger hunt took place with participants identifying plants and animals that were seen in the forest. There was a category for youth and one for adults with each winner receiving a nature themed book. The winner of the youth category was Tristan Petit-Clerc, who is 10 years old and the adult winners were two sisters, Rachel and Megan Tooby, who will be sharing their prize.
Jessie expressed after the event, “the Kemp Woodland Celebration was an amazing success! The rain managed to hold off until the end and even then we were still able to have winners of the scavenger hunt. I am so happy the event went well and most of all happy to hear how much everyone enjoyed and learnt about the woodland, especially from the guided walks with Owen Clarkin. I am so glad we were able to help connect people to nature in Stittsville since that is a major goal for this group!”
The Stittsville Land Keepers work toward the maintenance of our natural spaces, educating the public and fighting for the protection of our most unique ecosystems. Some of the tasks that SLK will be taking on are: clean-ups, hosting events and working towards the protection of the Goulbourn wetland amongst other natural features of Stittsville.