With the opening of an additional 4.3 kilometres of trails this week, there’s much more to explore in Durham East Cross Forest Conservation Area. Kawartha Conservation held an official opening for the new trail system on June 26 with Durham MPP Granville Anderson, Scugog Mayor Chuck Mercier, and Brock Mayor Terry Clayton, along with partner organization representatives from the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust, Ontario Heritage Trust, Durham Field Naturalists, Oak Ridges Trail Association, and others.
The new trails are in the south end of the conservation area, accessible from a new parking lot at 4531 Boundary Rd. They include the new South Forest Loop which is 2.3 km long and takes you beneath a forest canopy of large Red Oak, Red Pine, White Pine, and Sugar Maple. The Main Access Trail from the north end, at 4560 Devitts Rd., has been expanded all the way to the south end parking lot, allowing visitors to hike the whole span of the conservation area.
Kawartha Conservation CAO Rob Messervey highlighted 5 properties that were acquired over the past 3 years in East Cross Forest through $350,000 in support from the Ontario Heritage Trust, the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust, Durham Region, and the Township of Scugog.
“Land Trust involvement in the securement of properties here in East Cross Forest is another big step in protecting the Oak Ridges Moraine,” said Susan Walmer, Executive Director of the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust. “Everyone benefits from protected natural areas. Working together in partnerships like this on common goals is a responsible way to spend public and private funds in support of a healthy environment.”
Jeremy Collins, a representative of Ontario Heritage Trust, also noted that securing properties in provincially significant areas such as the Oak Ridges Moraine is a key priority.
The largest property recently acquired is 200 acres, and designated as Natural Core Area on the Oak Ridges Moraine. This type of area is recognized as the most ecologically sensitive on the moraine. A smaller part of the property is designated as Protected Countryside within the Greenbelt. Across the property there are more than 40 unique plant communities; and this spring, the Port Perry Beavers and Cubs replanted a section with native tree seedlings.
The four other properties are each 5 acres, and all are completely within Natural Core Area. They contain both deciduous forest and Red Pine plantations that are being restored to native forest. The addition of these properties brings the total size of the conservation area to 1,334 acres.
“We are pleased to see more lands brought into the protection of the conservation area, and for people to have an opportunity to enjoy the area in ways that support natural regeneration and the long term sustainability of the forest,” said Alex Georgieff, Commissioner of Planning and Economic Development, Region of Durham.
East Cross Forest contains the headwaters for East Cross Creek, which flows down into the Scugog River. It also contains meadows, wetlands, sand dunes, and plantations that support a diversity of wildlife. Before Kawartha Conservation began acquiring properties, the area had been overrun by trespassing such as widespread off-roading, illegal dumping, and other activities that were potentially harmful to the fragile natural ecosystem. Illegal activity has been significantly curtailed by working closely with Durham Police and deploying private security which continues to patrol the conservation area.
Before Durham East Cross Forest Conservation Area was opened to the public in 2009, the community had provided a great amount of support to clean up the area. Several events involved clearing out tonnes of garbage, hazardous waste, abandoned vehicles, tires, and many tonnes of assorted scrap metal.
“We are very grateful to the support provided by our partners and the community to help us secure and protect these properties,” said Township of Scugog Mayor Chuck Mercier, who is also a Kawartha Conservation Director. “We want to continue working with the community to protect these important headwaters, while also providing beautiful green space for everyone to enjoy.”
Toward the end of the event, Mark Majchrowski, Kawartha Conservation Director, Watershed Management, provided a guided hike through the new trail system to point out some of the ecologically significant features that can be spotted from the trails.
For more about Durham East Cross Forest Conservation Area, go to KawarthaConservation.com/eastcross