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Blazing New Trails at Otonabee Conservation’s Heber Rogers Wildlife Area

Three Kawartha Land Trust volunteers clearing a hiking trail at Heber Rogers Wildlife Area, ORCA

On April 27, 2022, Kawartha Land Trust (KLT) staff and volunteers took to the land with pruners and rakes to conduct the first of several trail-clearing days at Heber Rogers Wildlife Area (HRWA), an Otonabee Region Conservation Authority (ORCA) property south of Burleigh Falls.

The goal of the day was to establish a low-impact trail across the property that worked to show off the natural landscape with minimal disruption. Prior to the trail path being planned by ORCA and KLT staff, a number of unofficial footpaths crisscrossed the property, many of which led to dead ends or travelled through sensitive habitats.

The newly established trail now travels through upland forests atop thin soil, creating an open understory that is dotted with wildflowers. Along the trails, you will see views of vernal pools and streams while you walk across limestone ridges. There is also a section of cedar forest where water from perched wetlands drains through fissures in the bedrock and travels underground to seep out of the hillside 20 metres away.

“Events like this really highlight the passion people have for connecting with nature and playing an active role in conservation,” said KLT’s Land Stewardship Coordinator, Hayden Wilson. “Our volunteers dedicated their free time and a significant amount of effort to improve the trails for both human enjoyment and for the benefit of the sensitive ecosystems in the area.”

Next steps include installing formal trail signage, clean-up and maintenance, as well as developing relationships with neighbours to help monitor the trail and ensure human impacts on the ecosystem are managed.

Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the community, the campaign to purchase and protect the Christie Bentham Wetland (adjacent to HRWA) in 2020 was a huge success and resulted in this important landscape being protected and the community trail network remaining open to all.

Throughout the campaign, we heard from numerous community members about the need and desire for a longer trail system in the area — a series of trails that would connect Burleigh Falls to Lakefield and protect natural habitat in a key conservation corridor.

The local community has enjoyed the Heber Rogers Wildlife Area for years; enhancing this part of the trail was the first logical step in making the dream of a broader trail network a reality. KLT partnered with ORCA to include their trails in the larger network and to allow KLT to manage the trails on the property in the same way that we manage trails on Christie Bentham Wetland. This results in a more positive culture of use and an enhanced asset for community recreation and nature appreciation.

It is thanks to our donors and their support of the broader Burleigh to Lakefield Trail Project that we can take on this commitment to manage the property for the community in partnership with ORCA.

Thank you to all of the volunteers who joined us for a beautiful and productive day creating new paths for all to enjoy!

KLT Land Stewardship Coordinator Hayden Wilson (second from left) and volunteers discuss the day ahead at Heber Rogers Wildlife Area.

Article published June 8, 2022. Photos: KLT volunteers blazing a trail at ORCA’s Heber Rogers Wildlife Area.

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