We had a great turn out on November 18, 2017 for the grand opening of the wetlands in John E. Pearce Provincial Park. Even though it rained, 84 people turned out to walk the trail, enjoy activities and free food. Below are some pictures from the day and Angela Bobier's speech. Videos will be posted to YouTube in the coming weeks as well.
Good afternoon everyone. I want to thank all of you for attending the Grand Opening of the Wetlands Restoration and the 60th Anniversary of John E. Pearce Provincial Park. I’m Angela Bobier, Cultural Manager here at Backus-Page House Museum. Before I introduce our special guests who will each have a few words for you, I want to extend a thank you to the board of directors and volunteers of Tyrconnell Heritage Society for their contributions all year long, but especially with this Wetlands Project. I also want to mention our summer staff Benjamin Buchanan and Sabrina Merks, Delany Leitch for her work this summer, fall and today, plus special recognition to our Education Coordinator who planned this opening, Kaitlin Crow. Please give them all a round of applause for their dedication and work.
There is more recognition for me to give but I’m going to do that when I introduce each of our dignitaries. First I’d like to welcome and introduce our Member of Parliament for Elgin -Middlesex-London, Karen Vecchio
Karen, thank you for being here. We had big plans for Canada150 and were thrown a curve ball when we found out that historic projects weren’t eligible for funding. When the idea of turning the farm fields into a wetlands was mentioned, I immediately applied to the Canada 150 fund under the environment, youth and education components. I did haggle and was allowed 4 trail signs that were historic in nature. Last November I got the call that we had been approved for $50000. So we have to thank Canadian Heritage for their contribution.
Since we are in a provincial park I’d like to have our Member of Provincial Parliament, Jeff Yurek say a few words.
Jeff thank you for being here. Many groups and organizations came forward to assist with funding and in kind services. I’d like to recognize Forests Ontario, Rural Lambton Stewardship Network; Littlejohn Farms who up until last year were still farming part of what is now the wetlands; Kettle Creek Conservation Authority and the Boy Scouts for planting all those trees, Elgin Clean Water Program and the Elgin Stewardship Council. Our most important partner not only with the Wetlands Restoration, but also because we are located inside the park, is Ontario Parks. I want to mention Rhonda Card who is our Park Superintendent who couldn’t be here today. She did so much coordinating of schedules and people. She’s asked her Assistant Park Superintendent Trevor to be here today to say a few words.
Thank you for being here Trevor and for all the work I know you did as well. Another exciting phone call was from TD Friends of The Environment Foundation. They had a special Canada 150 fund and we were lucky enough to be chosen to receive $30000 towards the Trail Development, Viewing Platform, Tall Grass Prairie seed and Habitats. This afternoon you can build bird nesting boxes that will go in the ponds thank you to their funding. They have sent a representative today as well.
Thank you so much Tim for attending today. Kaitlin was great at getting some sponsors for todays event so I want to make sure you know that some of the food was donated by Schinkels Gourmet Meets in Chatham and Food4Less. We have got to work with some fantastic contractors too including Fontasy Signs; MacLaughlin Excavating & Contracting; Hermes Translation Services; Darrel Dick Excavating; DJW Mini Backhoe Service and more.
Last but not least for partners was the Municipality of Dutton Dunwich and we have our Mayor Cameron McWilliam here with us.
There are still a few upcoming items to put in place before this project is complete. The viewing platform is still to be finished and one last trail sign will be posted on that. Teacher and parent educational resources will be made available on our website and field trips for children of all ages will be happening in the wetlands. We will watch the growth of the trees, tall grass prairie, pollinator habitats, and add snake hibernariums and nesting boxes. It’ll be wonderful to see the changes with every season so please continue to visit frequently. Lastly, an English and French audio guide will be recorded and uploaded to the museum website so you can download it and listen to a tour while you walk the new trail.
Speaking of the trail, there are interpretive signs throughout discussing the environment and wetlands, but you know I couldn’t leave out the history of the land. I really did negotiate with Canadian Heritage to let me have 4 history related signs. There is a sign for the Neutral Nation, the indigenous people who lived here about the same time as the Southwold Earthworks. One sign is about Colonel Thomas Talbot because of course this is the heart of the Talbot Settlement. One is on 20th Century Farming and gives a nod to Andrew & Mary Jane Backus, their son Storey Backus, the Kennedy’s, Morley and Grace Page who all lived in this house and John E. Pearce gets a mention.
I was asked a few months ago if there was a name we should give the trail. I immediately said the most deserving person is Mary Patterson Storey. Mary arrived with the other members of the founding families in 1809 and got this 200 acre land grant from Colonel Talbot. She donated part of her land for St. Peter’s Anglican Church and the cemetery. She left the rest to her grandson Andrew Backus who built what you now know as the Backus-Page House Museum. Back in 1809, as a 51 year old widow born in Ireland, how could Mary have known that over 200 years later her land would include not only the church and cemetery, but the community’s museum, a Provincial Park, 2 private homes, and a trail named in her honour. She is the matriarch of this settlement and I have always felt she has rarely received the credit she is due. So today we dedicate this trail through the new wetlands to Mary Storey. I hope she approves.
So let’s get this party started! In the house you can tour through (we have a brand new artefact in the parlour that arrived yesterday), there are activities for the children and children at heart inside too. The second floor of the barn is open for tours and you can build a nesting box for the ponds under the tent. The hot dogs and cold drinks plus the bathrooms are just outside the door. We are going to head outside for a ribbon cutting and photos which you are welcome to come out if you brought an umbrella. After that we will come back and cut the cake. Again thank you all for being here. Congratulations to everyone who participated in this Wetlands Restoration Project we did an amazing job. Happy 150th to both Ontario and Canada and Happy 60th Anniversary to John E. Pearce Provincial Park.