Submitted by Christine Whelan
July 8th, 2021 VOL. 2 ISSUE 23
Marcy’s Woods. This place piqued my interest as I began hearing about it while interviewing different people around my age about their parents in tribute. These parents who have passed were well-loved and their children had fond memories of their childhoods, a highlight being their day trips to Marcy’s Woods.
I heard it in their voices, the effect this place had on them, still to this day. It sounded like such a magical place, this Marcy’s Woods.
It eludes me why I’d not heard of it while growing up in Ridgeway. It was only minutes away!
I decided I had to experience it.
First, I found the website,www.marcyswoods.ca
Marcy’s Woods Nature Reserve, I found out, is one of Canada’s most unique biodiversities. Just on the other side of Point Abino, it is 285 acres of intact Carolinian forest with many plants, animals, birds and reptile species, several of which are endangered, along with sensitive wetlands, sand dunes.
For more than 100 years, the reserve was owned and managed by the Marcy family whose commitment to the protection of the sensitive land carried through the generations. In 2003, this continued under the care of the DiCienzo family.
There have been extensive restoration projects in place with the goal to alleviate any human impact from the area, such as previous vandalism, tire tracks, littering and bonfire damages, all while allowing human involvement and enjoyment. Achieving this balance is a continuous undertaking.
To prevent unauthorized access to Marcy’s Woods, a combination of police presence, private security contractors and local resident involvement has been established. The impact has already been reduced by 80% allowing for natural regeneration.
You can find the details on how this has been achieved on the website.
Members of the public can access the protected land with permission. Regulated access ensures the endangered ecosystem is enjoyed respectfully. There is a request form on the website. I sent in my request and within days, I received permission with instructions on where to pick up a map of the area.
With map in hand, my hiking buddy and I drove to the very end of Holloway Bay Road, parked and slipped around the closed, green gate, as instructed. If we were to run into anyone, we knew what to say to prove we had permission.
We passed a small group of cottages called the Kennels and entered the woods.
Each time of year, the experience is slightly different. We went May 21st, late spring, when the green, to me, is at its most greenest. It’s new. It’s fresh and wow, is it brilliant! We were surrounded by green. We could see it. We could smell it. We could touch it. A feast for the senses.
High on oxygen, which is like gold to me since I have chronic asthma, we spent the next few hours on a pedestrian roller coaster, following the trails that wound around, rose up and dropped, all gradually. A comfortable walk with a little extra workout.
Needing a place to sit to have our lunch, we decided to take off our shoes, sit in the shade, in the warm sand of the sand dunes, we could hear the lake just over the hill.
Hemlock Ridge was our next area to check out. I later discovered Marcy’s Woods is one of only three sites in the world with old-growth of eastern hemlock.
Here, we witnessed a couple of fawns, only days old, and mom meandering down a gentle green slope. No time for photos as mom was a little nervous. We carried on.
During our last moments in the woods, we came across a birdhouse, on our right. We walked up behind it, looking at it, waiting to see the front of it to make sure it was, in fact, for the birds. We did not expect to see the name on the front. Earl Plato. Earl helped to preserve the woods and spent a lot of time among the trees. He has passed now. With this birdhouse, he has left his mark, one of many marks, in the Greater Fort Erie area. I know this because his children have shared stories with me in interviews. The Plato family is one of the families that essentially brought me to that moment, among the grand trees, looking at the bird feeder. Full circle.
School groups, nature groups/clubs, conservation organizations, photography clubs and others that are interested in the preservation, beauty and uniqueness of Marcy’s Woods are encouraged to contact for available dates. Guided tours and access to Marcy’s Woods are available upon request.
Photos provided by Christine Whelan