PEI National Park - Greenwich
Member - Island East Tourism Group
(The Late) Daryl Guignion had a strong connectivity with the natural world for a very good reason. He grew up in a wilderness area, in what is now Quebec’s Forillon National Park, in a home with no running water, no electricity and no indoor plumbing. His family was quite poor. So he spent most of his childhood in the forest, near rivers or beaches. With 40 years teaching at the University of PEI and involvement in countless organizations such as the Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Island Nature Trust (he is a founding member), Daryl had spent his entire adult life teaching youth about the environment and trying his best to protect what remains of ‘wilderness’ areas on PEI.
The Morell River in Daryl Guignion's own words – I have walked or paddled rivers from one end of the Island to the other. I continue to try and improve wildlife species diversity on our densely settled island with a particular interest in Atlantic salmon. Eastern PEI, and the Morell River in particular, is an especially wonderful place to spend time in nature because of the relatively undisturbed environment. The Morell is the most popular salmon fishing river in the province. It has a long history of salmon stocking, but it also retains a self-supporting population which is supplemented with fish from the Abegweit Biodiversity Enhancement Hatchery. Atlantic salmon (Plamu in Mik’maq) are an important part of our First Nations culture and history.
The Morell is also one of the Island’s most popular fishing destinations for brook trout, particularly sea trout. But it is also simply a gentle river, ideal for family canoeing excursions in a wilderness setting. I was a founding member of the Morell River Land Use Steering Committee that formed in the early 1970s. When a pristine section of river was slated for cottage development, a small group of concerned citizens decided to lobby government for a protected green belt. Because of the support of the majority of landowners along the river, and a strong provincial Environment Minister at the time (the late Gilbert Clements), the Conservation Zone was enacted and has served as a model for other watershed organizations on PEI. A band of 60 metres on either side of the river is protected from development of any kind – tree cutting, trail development, housing development, etc. It remains the only such protected greenbelt on the Island. In a densely populated province like PEI, finding wilderness can be difficult. But when you drift down the Morell River in a canoe, you feel like you are truly in a wilderness. I have watched a bald eagle fail in its attempt to pick up a large salmon on its fall spawning run in the Morell River. I have been fishing by myself in an isolated section of river and been serenaded by a pack of coyotes who seemed to be uncomfortably close. On another fishing excursion, I have been followed by a barred owl moving from tree to tree, curious about what I was doing. Every day is different on the Morell.
Greenwich – In the early 1970s, one of many projects I was involved with at U.P.E.I. was an assessment of significant natural areas on PEI, including forests, wetlands and sand dune ecosystems. It soon became evident that the Greenwich sand dune ecosystem - with its unusual mobile dunes, the evidence of failed attempts to control the inland sand movement, the high density of bird and mammal species using the dune ecosystem throughout the year and the diversity of forest, pond, wetland and beaches interspersed throughout – ranked at the top of the list. Sand dune ecosystems are known for the diversity of plants and animals which call them home, as well as their function of protecting the coastline from storms. As the thousands of tourists and residents who visit the site each year can attest, the beach at Greenwich is second to none. The efforts to protect the Greenwich sand dunes from development involved many individuals and organizations, and the outcome is something that I am deeply proud of. With the inclusion of this beautiful and unique ecosystem into the National Park system, Islanders and visitors are assured that they will continue to be able to enjoy this spectacular part of PEI.
Pisquid Pond – Early in my research days on PEI, I accepted the challenge of assessing waterfowl populations on a variety of wetlands. It didn’t take me long to see how special Pisquid Pond is. This 100 acre wetland located near the headwaters on the Morell River has an excellent mixture of woodland, marsh vegetation and water. Lady slippers and mayflowers can be found in the woodland areas each spring. The pond itself is covered with wild rice which is harvested by the owners of the pond. This makes the pond an extremely attractive site for a variety of wildlife, both resident and migratory species. Parking my canoe in the cattails well before dawn, I got to hear the sound of the pond come alive. The sound of so many birds calling from the woodland and marsh was truly amazing. Perched in a tree blind about one meter from a chickadee nest, I got a true appreciation of the diversity of wildlife around me. This was the first place I had seen floating pied-billed grebe nests. Another outstanding feature of Pisquid Pond is its large, extraordinarily deep springs. In our helicopter survey of the pond, I saw huge brook trout disappearing into the depth of large springs as we flew over. When the canoe leaves the shallow, rice covered water and drifts over these dark, seeming bottomless spring holes, you instinctively hold your paddle a little tighter.
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