Here in my city, Oshawa, Ontario, we have a hidden gem, a wonderful place to get away for a few hours. I wonder if very many people, aside from the local population, know about Oshawa’s Second Marsh, a beautiful urban wetland. It’s bordered to the north by highway 401, to the south by Lake Ontario, to the east by industry and to the west by the McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve. There is sandy beach separating it from the lake, a lovely spot for turtles to nest. Three hundred four acres of marsh, swamp, meadow and thicket, it is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals and reptiles. It is a provincially significant wetland protected under law, home to four species at risk, owned by the city and helped out by groups such as Friends of the Second Marsh and Ducks Unlimited.
There are a series of hiking trails and viewing platforms that offer an opportunity to explore this unique environment without harming the fragile ecosystem or disturbing the wildlife. It is one of the largest coastal marshes on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Along the trails are interpretive and direction signs that have been installed to guide visitors through the habitat areas. The primary trail is asphalt so it is wheelchair accessible. The adjacent area, McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve, is not paved, has lovely paths with woodchip coverings, is also well marked, and has interpretive signage. Originally the trails surrounding the marsh were used as portage areas by the First Nations people to connect the interior of the province to Lake Ontario, later by European settlers to open up the area to trade and exploration, and now for our enjoyment of all things nature.
A former premier of Ontario, Davis Crombie, called Second Marsh an “environmental gem in an urban setting”. Right now I call it an emerald. The greenery is stunning with spots of colourful wildflowers and birds winging through the trees and across the marshes and ponds. In winter it would be a diamond, with a beautiful, bright snow cover; spring is an opal with its soft colours coming to life and autumn is a combination as the fall colours are spectacular. I spent time on the viewing decks overlooking various ponds and the marshes just soaking in the quiet and peace before I roused myself to take some photos. Most of the waterways bear the names of families important to the development of the city; Wilkinson’s Pond, Scott’s Pond, and Scattergood’s Pond to name a few. The creeks running through the marsh are important to breeding fish species, birds, and even some flowers that are spread via the water. The creeks are occupied by rainbow and brown trout, white suckers and even Chinook and Coho salmon. All these can be spotted, if you’re lucky, travelling upstream to breed at specific times of the season. There are muskrats, minks, at one time river otters populated the area and hopefully will again, along with the usual fauna, racoons, rabbits and deer. Of course there are busy insects as well and the always hungry mosquito so don’t forget to use an insect repellant before you venture into the area.
It is a great spot to “cure your nature deficit disorder” say the members of Friends of the Second Marsh. There is always a need to protect this area against pressure for future industrialization of the area east of the marsh and citizens are ever vigilant to prevent this happening. the peacefulness is broken by the sound of machinery at work. Many hundreds of Oshawa citizens remain alert, hoping their efforts will prevent attempts at future industrialization. Anyone can visit Oshawa’s Second Marsh. It’s free! There is a bus service and some on street parking on Colonel Sam Drive. It’s a lovely bike ride from anywhere in the city or like we do, carry your bike down in the car and ride along from the General Motors Headquarters.
Does your city have a unique preserve like Oshawa’s, a hidden gem?