A new lease on life for an old growth forest

  
Step inside the Hampton Park Woods and you'll see what makes this place so special. Enormous sugar maples and American beeches, some more than 200 years old, tower over you. One of those beeches, plus a red maple and a twin black cherry, were also stately enough to be included in the National Capital Commission's 150 most Remarkable Trees of Canada's Capital

The Woods has an array of native plant species, some of which are unusual to find in the middle of a city, and is home to dozens of migratory and non-migratory bird species.

But it also has its fair share of challenges. 

The park and the Woods have more than 20 species classified as invasive; pests and disease take their toll; extreme storms, like the 2022 derecho and 2023 ice storm have felled giants; and our city's growing population puts additional pressure on it every day. There is also a lack of resources and political will at the federal and municipal level to sustainably manage our urban forests and greenspaces.

But despite all the abuse it's taken, this old place continues to - quite literally - breathe life into the neighbourhood. 

Beginning in 2021, the Friends of Hampton Park have augmented existing plant populations or reintroduced more than 30 species of native plants.

We began in shade, along the old creek bed. We battle invasive knotweed on one side and re-green compacted and eroded areas on the other with species like Ostrich and Sensitive Ferns, Bloodroot, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Wintergreen, False Solomon's seal, and Red Trilliums. 

Then we shifted our attention to the sunny Meadow. 

One area was being taken over by dog strangling vine and needed to be stopped! Once we cleared that, we planted a small plot with mostly donated plants, primarily New England Asters and Black-eyed Susans. Thanks to a partnership with Tree Fest Ottawa, we added more species in 2022. Today, it's lush and green and the native species are happily reproducing. We still weed twice a year, but it's far less work than when we started.

  

With Ecology Ottawa as our partner this year, we were able to open two more plots in the Meadow. In May and June, volunteers planted about 50 plants representing 16 native wildflower species.  Many are blooming now so don't just admire the pictures, come see it for yourself! 

Stay updated on all the happenings in the Hampton Park Woods and its nearby sister forest, the Carlington Woods. Email us at [email protected] to get on our mailing list. 

Sharon Boddy is a director with the Friends of Hampton Park and the Friends of Carlington Woods.

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