“Once again, I have ducks back. Hopefully some will nest here again,” says Susan Prior, who owns the land where the restoration took place. “We had mallards and hooded mergansers nesting last year. This spring I also have had a large otter feeding and the pair of beaver are here too.”
Running along both sides of the meandering Carp River, Prior knew that her property had the potential to be more. A few years ago, she set out on a journey to transform her property into a therapeutic sensory garden in honour of her late aunt.
With help from DUC and other partners, Prior has completed the first phase in the transformation – restoring four wetlands which were originally part of the river, but had been filled in decades ago in effort to straighten the meanders.
Prior first got involved with DUC when she attended lectures about wetland conservation. She was soon introduced to Mark Gloutney, DUC’s director of regional operations, Eastern Region. Prior had already met with several groups interested in restoring the river.
“I had my fingers in about eight pies, none of which I was eating yet,” says Prior. “When Mark said he could get this going, everyone just came together.”
Gloutney and Prior discussed including wetlands in her concept for the gardens. Sounds provided by diverse wetland wildlife, like frogs and songbirds, would be an exciting addition to the sensory experience.
Gloutney and his team prepared a project plan and worked with a variety of partners to assemble the funding. During the winter, contractors restored four wetlands where traces of the river’s original natural curves remained. The cold winter was ideal for restoration work, but the harsh weather tested construction staff. Last summer, they flattened out paths along the ponds and riverbank.
Prior and her grandchildren were thrilled with what they witnessed last spring, and they are excited to welcome back the returning wildlife. Prior is equally excited to welcome visitors to the new Oakleigh Wetlands Project. Several local teachers have inquired about bringing their classes there for field trips.
“My aunt would love that children will be coming. She never had any of her own, but she loved them,” says Prior.
Prior’s passion has people listening. As she gets closer to making her sensory garden a reality, she does so with her aunt Herma’s outdoor-loving spirit at heart.