Fall programming and access uncertain for Bird Sanctuary

Animal handler Shawna Sevigny from Falcon Environmental Services is pictured abovewith Phoenix, a Harris Hawk. Both were part of the Friends of the Sanctuary’s annual Nature and Wildlife Day at the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary in September 2018. The UCMBS has been closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic due to damage to trails and a boardwalk according to the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, which owns the 9,000 hectare preserve. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

MORRISBURG – Area residents may have one less outdoor recreation space this fall as it is uncertain if the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary will open.

Access to the bird sanctuary has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The St. Lawrence Parks Commission, which owns the 9,000 hectare preserve, did not open the bird sanctuary this spring or summer citing safety issues on some of the boardwalk areas of the trails.

At that time, the SLPC said that there was damage caused by spring flooding.

“The Parks of the St. Lawrence team is currently assessing the trails at the UCMBS to determine if they are in safe condition to open to the public this fall,” said SLPC spokesperson Krista Doyle. “At this time, the boardwalk remains unusable.”

In addition to the boardwalk issues, Doyle explained that a partial reopening of the trails so far has not occurred due to the spring and summer closure, which has resulted in trails being overgrown or made impassable due to fallen trees. “Our staff have been working diligently to assess, prepare and reopen the trails,” she said adding that if the bird sanctuary is in a position to open this fall, washroom facilities would remain closed.

In past years, the Friends of the Sanctuary have offered winter recreation programming including cross-country ski rentals at the preserve.

Doyle said that the SLPC is working with the Friends of the Sanctuary as they plan for the winter. “Our team is working closely with them as they are diligently planning for winter programming that takes place between January and March,” she said.

The SLPC received an injection of $7.1 million from the provincial government in early July to help with costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the pandemic, access to the preserve was unrestricted, even during off-season times of the year. Vehicular access to the preserve has been closed since March, however cyclists can still access the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail through the preserve.

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