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    Posted July 9, 2015 by

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    Kylan Schilling, “here’s why Oshawa’s McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve is special”


    In discussing the vitality of any city or urban area, there are certain qualities that are typically considered - building architecture, intelligent urban planning, the ability for citizens to easily travel from one area of the city to another.  All of these are of course important.  But, there’s one quality that gets overlooked more often than others - the ability of incorporating green, nature areas nearby or even within city settings.


    Tides are turning and many city planners and citizens now understand just how important a respite in nature can be to one’s physical and mental health.  Spend a half hour on a hike through the woods and one will quickly realize how invigorating and regenerating it is.  In fact, a recent study completed by Stanford University quantifiably demonstrated that walking 90 minutes in a nature setting can lead to lower risk for depression.


    The good news is that there are plenty examples of city planners and governments that prioritize nature areas and value their inclusion in urban development.  Even more uplifting, oftentimes prioritizing the development of nature areas comes from private sector initiatives.  One example of this is in Oshawa, Canada, a mid-size city off the coast of Lake Ontario.


    Most people are aware of the importance of wetlands and marshes to natural wildlife.  Lake Ontario, as well as other Great Lakes, is known for its extensive and ecologically significant wetland territory.  In fact, the Durham-Oshawa region has the greatest concentration of coastal wetlands in the Greater Toronto Area.


    In 1988, General Motors began planning a brand-new corporate office facility in Oshawa, Canada near Lake Ontario.  A portion of the land where the new facility would be located was environmentally sensitive, as it was close to the Oshawa Second Marsh and Darlington Provincial Park.  As a result, General Motors chose to dedicate some of the land to building a new environmental reserve - this would eventually become Oshawa’s McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve.


    As mentioned on their website, the McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve was built to “... provide a place for wildlife in an urban setting and to establish a continuous corridor for wildlife and people along the Lake Ontario shoreline.”  Since its creation, the Reserve has not only been successful in its purpose, it’s provided a perfect place for visitors to enjoy cycling, walking, hiking, birdwatching and photography, and in the winter months, skiing and skating.  What’s more, McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve trails take hikers through varying habitats that include open fields, sedge meadows, forested areas, shrub thickets and lakeshore.


    “It [McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve] really is a tremendous gift we have here.”  This is a comment coming from Oshawa resident, Kylan Schilling, who is a regular visitor to the Reserve.  “The Bay offers a home to a tremendous amount of wetland wildlife, and for me personally, I’ve always been impressed with the layout of the trails.  Walking the trails allows you to really experience several different ecological environments all in one visit,” Kylan Schilling points out.

    Like many ecologically sensitive wetland areas in North America, the marshes and wetlands of Lake Ontario have faced threats from pollution, invasive species and urban growth.  The creation of the McLaughlin Bay Reserve has certainly helped in protecting Oshawa’s wetlands, but more needs to be done.


    In 2013, the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority published a detailed report outlining strategies for how the McLaughlin Bay wetlands can be further restored.  Part of the strategy involves educating the public on the importance of marsh and wetland areas and allowing the public to experience these areas first-hand -- both things which the McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve accomplishes.


    Providing a final comment on the topic, Oshawa’s Kylan Schilling adds, “Reserves like this one are absolutely crucial for advancing environmental causes like wetland protection.  People are far more willing to support wetland protection and restoration programs if they are given the opportunity to experience these nature areas first-hand.  That’s exactly what McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve and other reserves do.”

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