In 2005, upon learning of the sale of the Puskas Family Farm, the Sydenham Field Naturalists acted quickly to contact the new landowner about the ten acres of woodland on that farm. Working with an agreeable landowner, an Agreement of Sale was reached. Having viewed the woods (now named Wallaceburg Sycamore Woods) and met with the Puskas family in previous years, the SFN recognized both the Natural Heritage values and the value to the community in saving WSW from being clearcut for agricultural development. Admittedly, at ten acres, this is a small woodland, but in Chatham-Kent, where forest cover is below 3%, it is in fact a significant woodland parcel as indicated by both MNR and the Ontario Provincial Policy Statement.
Wallaceburg Sycamore Woods (WSW) is an excellent example of the local historic woodlands growing on the sandy loam of the Wallaceburg area. Tree species include Shumard Oak, Chinquapin Oak, Swamp White Oak, Black Walnut, Shagbark Hickory and of course, American Sycamore to name just a few. Some of these trees are old growth specimens being 150 to 200 years old due to the fact that the Puskas family turned down logging offers for over a century and never cut any trees out. The floral understorey has been impacted by cattle grazing decades ago and by the neighbouring residents of VLA subdivision. Even so, there is a fine quality of understorey shrubs such as Spicebush and Nannyberry and herbaceous woodland wildflowers such as Trout Lily and Mayapple. Eastern Screech Owl and Coopers Hawk both nest in WSW together with numerous songbird species.
The SFN partnered with the municipality of Chatham-Kent to save WSW. The municipality offered surveys, severance and legal costs while the SFN conducted a fundraising campaign to raise the purchase price of $63,000 for the property. The partnership details include the municipality taking ownership of WSW with the SFN acting as stewards in managing WSW as a nature reserve.
Since acquiring WSW, the SFN have raised approximately $10,000 for ecological restoration on site. Volunteers and club members have planted native shrubs and wildflowers in the forested area and we have established tallgrass prairie in a buffer zone to the south of the woodland. Watch our outings schedule for an opportunity to tour this gem.
For more photos of our work in this project, see our photo gallery.
For photos taken by our club member, Herman Giethoorn, of the species found on this property follow this link to Wallaceburg Sycamore Woods.