Carolinian forest expansion “natural” for Grimsby

By Tristan Marks

With some careful planning and an eye to detail, the Town of Grimsby has an opportunity to become an ecological hub and be recognized as the Carolinian Capital of Canada.

That is the hope of Coun. Lianne Vardy who, set a potential process in motion at the Jan. 18 town council meeting.

Vardy’s motion calls for a number of steps, including:

• embarking on an ambitious plan of Carolinian tree planting;
• ensuring all town replacement trees are of the Carolinian variety and;
• incorporating Carolinian species as part of site plan landscape requirements/approvals.

“We know the town already plants trees. This motion just means committing to planting Carolinian species,” Vardy said, pointing out that such species are “already natural to our environment.”

The term “Carolinian” refers to a forest region characterized primarily by the predominance of deciduous trees.
Such ecological territories of woods once stretched from eastern Canada all the way south to the Carolinas in the U.S.

Many old remnants of these ancient forests still exist in Grimsby with two prime examples being the Irish Woodlot on Hunter Road and the Niagara Escarpment.

Sixty-five per cent of Ontario’s rare plants are found in the life zone, and 40 per cent cannot be found anywhere else.

The most unique feature of the Carolinian life zones is the number of rare species found in them.

According to Carolinian Canada, an organization dedicated to spreading awareness on the life zone, the region boasts fully one-third of the rare, threatened and endangered species found in all of Canada.

Sixty-five per cent of Ontario’s rare plants are found in the life zone, and 40 per cent cannot be found anywhere else. Some examples of these include the pawpaw tree, tulip trees, flowering dogwood and- especially in Grimsby- several species of magnolia flower.

Additionally, the lifezone is home to several species of bird, butterfly, reptile, mammal and more that depend on the ecosystem Carolinian plants provide.

John Holbourne, a co-founder of the original Friends of the Forty, a group of citizens dedicated to maintaining and promoting Grimsby’s natural heritage, said the town could play an important role in helping rehabilitate and spread these species that once covered much more of the area.

“It’ll take a long time for Carolinian species to migrate because they don’t have connections,” he said after the meeting. “Important corridors tend to be waterways like our Forty Creek. That has the potential to be a North-South connection from the escarpment to the lake.”

Vardy said the end goal is a win-win for the entire community, giving credit to Holbourne for “planting the seed” for her motion.

“There’s no downside to this,” she said, adding that the Town could benefit becoming a centre for eco-tourism while preserving and repairing its natural heritage.

Mayor Jeff Jordan said this motion could represent an important path for Grimsby.

“I really, truly feel that native species are the future,” Jordan said.

“Getting stakeholders involved is an important starting point.”

As someone “very passionate about Carolinian forest,” Jordan said a lot of potential lies in the fact that Niagara is the “smallest, yet most diverse” part of the Carolinian life zone.

“Part of that reason is that there are a lot of species that grow naturally in Niagara,” he explained.

And because of the naturally appropriate soil and climate, Vardy said Grimsby is a natural for such a project.

“The beauty of this is that the whole town can participate,” Vardy said.

“There’s just so many things we can do with this.”

Vardy suggested local nurseries could choose to promote Carolinian species among their products, perhaps even sponsor beautification efforts. School and extracurricular groups could also provide outdoor lessons on Niagara’s natural heritage while exploring trails to identify varieties of Carolinian trees.

Jordan said education and outreach should be an important part of making Grimsby the Carolinian Capital.

“If there’s one thing the pandemic has shown us is that people want more outdoor activity,” –
Grimsby Mayor Jeff Jordan

Holbourne also sees a lot of potential for different directions the town can take.

Among his suggestions are appropriate highway signage and Carolinian plantings along the QEW leading into Grimsby, so Carolinian species “are the first thing motorists would see, hopefully getting some people to come take a look.”

Jordan also said he wants to see the Grimsby’s trail system improved making connections from the lake front to the Forty Creek trail up to the Bruce Trail to Elm Tree Road and beyond.

He said there is even a potential for the town to extend its escarpment trail westward to connect to the City of Hamilton’s newly renovated Dofasco 2000 trail, which would make for an inter-regional network of trails across the Niagara escarpment area of the Carolinian life zone.

Jordan said bringing people to Grimsby’s Carolinian heritage through improving its trail system is “something the Town is definitely interested in.”

“If there’s one thing the pandemic has shown us is that people want more outdoor activity.”

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