Talking Points - Brockville Yacht Club
by Gord Giffin, Park Superintendent, St. Lawrence Islands Park
April 24, 2002
Thank you for inviting me here this evening. St. Lawrence Islands National Park, as one of the first national parks in Canada, has a long standing tradition of service to the boating public and indeed all area residents. This is a tradition that is central to the creation of the park and will continue.
The idea of a park started with the citizens in Brockville. The September 6, 1877 edition of the Brockville Recorder, now the Recorder And Times, carried the text of a speech of Sir John A. Mc Donald about the need for a park. I am not going to read the speech, but I did bring along copies of the boater newsletter which has an excerpt from Sir John's remarks along with some additional information.
At that time, concern was that islands that had been accessible to the public were falling into private hands and people were denied access that had been taken for granted as their right. Our forefathers were very foresighted since what was seen as the start of a trend has indeed come to pass.
I have been given an estimate that there are 1980 islands in the Thousand Islands. St. Lawrence Islands National Park consists of a paltry 24 islands including five partially owned by the park. Services to the public are offered at 21 different locations. A few information tidbits: SLI was rated by the Canadian Nature Federation as the 5th most endangered national park in Canada. Two years ago the park was rated 3rd but I have been cautioned that this does not mean we have improved but rather two other parks are doing much worse than in previous years.
- the park is one of a family of 39 in the national system
- SLI has the highest bio diversity - # of plants and animal species
- 2nd in the # of vertebrate species at 405
- 623 plant species placing 11th of all nps
- 103 fish species - 1st in Canada
- the park is home to 19 species considered as endangered or threatened
- there are over two hundred known sites of archaeological significance mostly relating to aboriginal presence.
All this is sustained on the 9 sq kms of Canada's smallest national park.
National parks are set aside for the preservation and protection of the natural resources and opportunities for enjoyment and education are provided in a manner that leaves the park unimpaired for future generation. You could say this summarizes my job description: to ensure your kids and their children have a place to visit, enjoy or just have the satisfaction of knowing it is there.
As I mentioned earlier, the boating tradition is key to the park and the future of the park. There are a few things of interest I would like to raise.
The park is implementing a policy for the islands that where there is damage on priority natural resources and habitats, action will be taken to remove the causes of the damage. Where this means that docks or other facilities need to be closed, services will be relocated to other locations where possible. After four years of assessing the impact of visitor use on Endymion Island, the west side dock, toilet, and trail will be closed this year. The east side facilities will be retained. Although, I can't specify where we are locating the services now, next spring this will be in the boater's newsletter.
This year, we are instituting a pack-in and pack-out policy on Adelaide, East
Grenadier, West Grenadier, North Grenadier, Endymion, Mermaid, and Thwartway
Islands. All parks have been given a 25% solid waste reduction target and this
is one action towards that goal.
The wells on all islands will remain closed. Potable water will be available at Central Grenadier and Mallorytown Landing. When this became an issue two years ago, we looked at the water test records that had been collected pre- 1996. All wells had periodic bad readings. Some more than others but the obvious conclusion is that we have no means of assuring the safety of the water supply on our islands apart from Central Grenadier where a chlorination system is in place.
The priority for the park capital works program this year is visitor safety. Many of those small things you have all probably noticed will be fixed. The broken steps, the soft floor to the pit privy, uneven decking on the docks, the wobbly legs on the picnic tables as well as a hundred other things.
The biggest problem is the condition of the trees near our trails, campsites, and shelters. Last fall we had planned a major attack on the hazards from damaged trees. Unfortunately, the windstorm in the late winter has made a bad situation much worse. Starting last week staff have been going from island to island assessing damage and the potential public hazards. The preliminary estimate is that Constance, Gordon, Cedar and Milton have experienced serious damage by mid week next week we will have a clearer picture of the work ahead. At present it appears we will likely be able to open most island docks by mid May but some areas, trails, campgrounds and toilets may be temporarily closed until we can get to the problem. We will be publishing advisories in the area papers and putting warning signs in place.
I Know Many Of You Are Visitors To Main Duck Island. Over the past 6 weeks there have been a number of meetings held to seek the information and views of people who know the island much better that the park staff. A number of people have provided written comments. When the parks took over management of the islands in 1998, we started with little information or awareness of he significance of the place. We have a better idea now and we will be raising our activity out there. Those of you who met with me or sent me comments either have or will receive a letter on the results of these discussions including what actions the park will be taken given the financial and person power restraints we must cope with. I have brought along copies of the summary of the Main Duck consultations for you.
St. Lawrence Islands National Park will be having its 100th birthday in 2004. Over the past decade there has been a drifting away from the park from once having being a place where fond memories were born to an environment of largely indifference. At the park, it is our challenge to reverse this. As a start we are hosting an open house on May 31 and June 1. Where people can meet the staff and talk about what we do and why. We want to re establish good relations with our neighbors. As well we will be incrementally increasing services at the landing and building links with the area schools. Although this takes time, we are committed to a long term effort to once again make the park a place of enjoyment and a source of pride to the community.
I would be pleased to respond to any questions