Algoma District School Board students play key role in protecting local wetlands

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Joannie and Jim
Left: Joannie McGuffin, well known Algoma District photographer and environmentalist. Right: Jim Fitton, White Pines Teacher.

Earlier this year, students from White Pines’ House Building Program were key players in the construction and installation of a boardwalk which lays across part of the Francis Hilb Preserve, a 9-acre fen that stretches from the shoreline of Lake Superior’s Goulais Bay and winds its way into the boreal forest.  Teacher Jim Fitton and five students built and assembled the boardwalk at the end of June, working alongside staff from Superior Treeworks who provided hands on support. The second phase of the project will include the construction of a viewing platform at the center of the wetland and an extension of the boardwalk to the Goulais shore.

Joannie McGuffin, well-known Algoma District photographer and environmentalist, attended Algoma District School Board’s (ADSB’s) first regular board meeting on Tuesday, September 19th.  Joannie shared information about the Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy (LSWC) Project and the important part that White Pines students are playing to help preserve significant wetlands.

Fens are a fairly shallow wetland and are considered the rarest of wetlands in the North, home to a diverse variety of plant and animal life.  The water table remains close to the surface and remains very wet with minimal water movement.  The mineral soil is also close to the surface so it is easy to disturb and damage plant and animal life by walking through it. The student-built boardwalk will be a key piece in maintaining the health of the France Hilb Preserve, by keeping visitors on a set path and off the vulnerable wetlands.

Pat Egan, Chair of the Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy, expressed his appreciation to the White Pines’ students and the Algoma District School Board in a letter.

“During the 2016/2017 school year, our Conservancy was able to work along with these fine students and their teacher who did a superb job in the construction of our new boardwalk at the LSWC’s Francis Hilb Preserve on Goulais Mission Road.  It is through continued community partnerships, such as this one with White Pines C&VS and the ADSB that our conservancy can fulfill its mission of ensuring the long-term sustainable health of the Lake Superior watershed through basin-wide communication, education, scientific study, preservation and conservation of the lake and its ecosystem.”

The Francis Hilb Preservation can be found about 1 km west along Goulais Mission Road and the entry point is marked with a large Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy sign.  A winding bush trail, accessible by foot only, leads to the boardwalk and wetlands.