Two Creeks Forest lies in wait of funding

When a tree falls in the forest – Not far into the journey along the walking trails at Two Creeks Forest it is evident that the trails are not being maintained. (The Leader/Comfort photo)

MORRISBURG – Two Creeks Forest is one of South Nation Conservation’s largest conservation areas, but with that stature comes a large price tag when restoration work is needed.

Erin Thorne, SNC communications specialist explained that many SNC properties suffered significant Emerald Ash Borer damage and recent storm damage including the May 2022 Derecho.

“SNC has been working to reopen and restore properties throughout the region in 2023,” said Thorne. However, Two Creeks Forest has not been among those restoration projects.

“As a result of falling ash trees, ice storm damage, renewed drainage challenges and increased seasonal flooding at the Two Creeks Forest Conservation Area, SNC paused trail maintenance activities in 2022 while funding is being secured to help complete restoration work,” explained Thorne.

Restoration projects in other conservation areas similar in size to Two Creeks Forest Conservation areas, according to Thorne, have cost about $500,000 to complete tree management work alone. And, Two Creeks has the additional need to improve drainage throughout the 457 acre property.

“With limited resources and a large land inventory, SNC also needs to prioritize its efforts to projects with municipal agreements in place,” said Thorne.

At this point, SNC’s agreement with the Municipality of South Dundas has not yet been updated.

“While SNC has updated most of its municipal agreements in 2023, based on the requirements of the new Conservation Authorities Act, a new agreement with the Municipality of South Dundas will be established later in 2023 to determine future Conservation Area maintenance levels and activities,” said Thorne.

Thorne reported that SNC has submitted several funding applications to help restore the Two Creeks Forest Conservation Area. However, the application status remains pending.

“As a non-profit organization, over half of SNC’s operating budget comes from self-generated revenue, grants and fundraising efforts,” explained Thorne. “Secured funding often requires matching funds from SNC or partner municipalities and is targeted towards specific projects.”

“While additional resources will be required to restore the property, and SNC remains hopeful that funding can be secured, SNC has scheduled tree maintenance work for Winter 2024,” said Thorne. “Should funding not be secured, SNC will work towards re-opening as much of the trail system as possible for the winter when this trail received most of its visitation.”

Two Creeks Forest has about 5,300 visitors annually, mostly between January and March.

“While property maintenance has unfortunately been on hold in 2023 at several parks, SNC is committed to reopening all public trails in 2024 and thanks everyone for their support, patience and understanding,” said Thorne.

In the meantime, extensive tree and trail management work has been occurring at other Conservation Areas where funding or municipal partnerships have been secured to restore damaged properties. Other projects started or completed in 2023 took place at the Findlay Creek Conservation Area in Ottawa, the J. Henry Tweed Conservation Area in Russell, the Oschmann Forest and Cass Bridge Conservation Areas in North Dundas, the High Falls Conservation Area in Casselman and the Jessup’s Falls Conservation Area in Alfred-Plantagenet.

While Two Creeks receives about 5,300 of SNC’s 200,000 annual visits, the J. Henry Tweed receives about 31,000 and Jessup’s Falls 21,000.

Most recently, SNC secured nearly $200,000 from all levels of government and industry partners to support a shoreline restoration project in the Oak Valley Pioneer Park Conservation Area in North Dundas. The project, beginning in fall 2023, will be completed in Spring 2024. SNC’s contribution to that project is staff time and $30,000.

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