World Wetlands Day is the perfect opportunity to introduce our newest provincial park: Brockville Long Swamp Fen!
How are new provincial parks created?
Designating a new park is a long and complicated process. Acquisition of the Brockville Long Swamp Fen properties began in 1994.
Ontario Parks (part of Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) collaborated with partners and donors, including the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ontario Heritage Trust, to add Brockville Long Swamp Fen to the provincial park system.
The park was formally regulated under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act on July 1, 2017, officially ensuring its ongoing protection.
Why did Brockville Long Swamp Fen get “parkified”?
In a word? Wetlands.
Wetlands play a vital role in supporting Ontario’s rich biodiversity and providing essential ecosystem services on which Ontarians depend for health and well-being.
The conservation of wetlands can play an important role in mitigating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations. Wetlands regulate temperature, reduce the heat-island effect (the added heat that builds up in urban areas compared to nearby rural areas), slow the impacts of droughts, and reduce flood/erosion risks and negative impacts on water quality. Forested wetlands are especially important because they can store significant amounts of carbon.
If the name didn’t give it away, our newest park contains three of the four types of wetland found in Ontario: swamp, marsh, and fen.
Fens are especially rare in southern Ontario. These groundwater-fed wetlands are somewhat like bogs, except they are alkaline instead of acidic, and their waters are rich in dissolved minerals. They are less acidic and more nutrient-rich than bogs.
This allows for a higher diversity of plant life, including a variety of sedges, grasses and reeds. Because of their special chemistry, they often contain unusual and/or rare plants.
This large wetland is an important headwater and recharge zone for both the Rideau River and South Nation River. That means it’s a source of some of the water for these rivers, and it’s also a place where water enters underground aquifers.
What species does the new park protect?
Brockville Long Swamp Fen Provincial Park is a provincially significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest, and this biologically diverse area provides habitat for several species at risk, including a variety of reptiles and amphibians.
The park also protects a variety of different forest types.
One of the trees you can see growing there is Tamarack, which is an unusual conifer tree that turns gold in fall and loses its needles.
In spring, its branches are covered with soft green patches of new needles.
While not rare in Ontario, it’s a tree you usually see more often in wild areas, or further north.
Because this park is new to us, we still don’t know all the different species that use it. We know it provides an important large area of undisturbed habitat for typical wetland species, like frogs and turtles.
Will Ontario Parks be putting in campsites or trails?
Brockville Long Swamp Fen Provincial Park is a nature reserve, focused on protection rather than recreation. We want to keep this stretch of wetland protected and pristine.
If you do pass through the area, please enjoy the fen from the roadside and don’t walk into the wetland. While the site is known for its diversity of unusual plants, the same plants that people have come to look at in the past are easily trampled.
If you do spend time observing the wetland from the roadside, please help us catalogue the inhabitants of our newest park. Report wildlife sightings through citizen science apps like Ontario Reptile & Amphibian Atlas and eBird.