HERITAGE LIVES: Island’s Emerald Trails Help Erase Noise, Urban Distractions

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Merritt Island’s trails are eye candy for walkers of all ages. (File photos/Joe Barkovich)

BY TERRY HUGHES

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Hughes

In spite of the political and critical concerns that  plagued the canal lands development over the past 35 years, the nature  trails on Merritt Island have stood the test of time.

When the Liberal  government initiated funding for a major water- themed tourist attraction in the early 1980’s, the potential for developing Merritt Island was two fold. The south end would be for historical displays and a permanently docked laker while the balance of this area was to be maintained as a natural ecosystem for the animal and natural  plant life of the area.
DSC_2840 (3)A team of college, university and our local school board personnel looked at developing three trails based on the Niagara South Board of Education’s environmental studies program. The three trails known as the Willow Walk, Wild Flower Trail and Forest Track would emphasize paths that would go from a well-used trail in the south to a totally natural area with little sign of human intervention at the north end.
 Each area was identified for specific  natural features and listed in a booklet as a source of reference. To highlight where these features could be found, posts were located along the trail  featuring numbers colour coded for each trail. The trails were an instant
success. What a wonderful way to immerse yourself into an area that is so quiet and green erasing the urban distractions and noise found elsewhere!
By the 1990’s, the trails were allowed to fall into disrepair and needed immediate attention. As part of a project that would celebrate the start of a new century, the city and the Welland Business and Community Development Corporation sponsored a program involving students from the secondary schools to come out and “Take Back Merritt Island”.
Over a five weekend timeline the island trails were scoured and bushes trimmed under the supervision of city staff while re-energizing the kids with pizza and pop.
Something like this should be introduced to our local school systems involving students from Gr.6 to 12  today and this effort would help our young people
accept ownership of the island and its natural wonders.
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(Heritage Lives is a recurring feature on the blog. Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading.)
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