Teaching pavilion completed at Ignatius Old-Growth Forest

GUELPH-ERAMOSA – Completion of a large outdoor teaching pavilion is the latest step in a long-term project to establish an old-growth forest on land owned by the Ignatius Jesuit Centre just north of Guelph.

The pavilion – built with 10×12-inch beams and no nails – will provide shelter and a base of operations for environmental programming for local schools, and workshops in community-based ecosystem restoration.

It will support the Care for the Common Home school program, a hands-on learning experience that helps students become environmental stewards.

Construction was made possible by a $300,900 grant received last year from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF).

Mike Walker and Wayne White, volunteers with the grant review team, represented OTF at an Aug. 15 ceremony, presenting a plaque to recognize the work that has been done.

“Our decisions are made locally,” said Walker.

“It gives me great joy to hear about the work you you’ve been doing in the last couple of years. By harnessing the knowledge and experience of communities, we can make significant advances in restoring and protecting our biodiversity.

“When it comes to maintaining healthy ecosystems, people are both part of the problem and key to the solution. Your organization is definitely part of the solution.”

OTF distributes funds from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to non-profit groups across the province. In the past year, OTF has invested more than $100 million in 629 projects.

The OTF grant funded not only the pavilion but also the recruitment and training of volunteer conservation stewards.

It also enabled the purchase of an all-terrain vehicle and tools, development of a boardwalk trail and funding for student busing.

The Jesuit Centre has lands on both the east and west sides of Highway 6 just north of Woodlawn Road, with an extensive network of publicly-accessible trails.

The pavilion is on the east side, on a trail off of Cross Creek Blvd. near Marden Creek and the Speed River. There are 94 acres, owned by the Jesuit order since 1913, dedicated to creating an old-growth forest as a protected sanctuary for wildlife and people over the next 500 years.

Such a forest would have trees of varying ages, with layers of shrubs, ferns, flowers and mosses under the canopy. The use of the land is legally protected by a conservation easement.

The project started in 2006 and was aided in 2010 with the removal of an old dam, allowing Marden Creek to flow freely into the Speed River.

Two retired farm fields have been planted with a variety of young trees to help establish continuous forest cover.

Lisa Calzonetti, director of operations at the Jesuit Centre gave thanks for the hard work and donations that have supported the project over the years.

She mentioned in particular the late Jim Profit, SJ, former executive director of the centre, board member Nadia Martin, the Sisters of Notre Dame, Peter and Barb Peloso and Sue Richards.