Dunnville Horticulture Society

Thompson Creek Eco Centre; Trillium Article

Article for Trillium Magazine

Submitted by Debbie Thomas, DHS Past-President


Thompson Creek Eco Centre  

The Dunnville Thompson Creek Project was started over 20 years ago by a group of organizations headed by the Dunnville Bioregion Association. It was one of many possible projects identified at a week long workshop organized to develop a sustainable development plan for the Town of Dunnville. The project involved the restoration of a 45 acre site that included Thompson Creek which was seriously degraded and in need of remediation.

It was identified as an ideal opportunity to rehabilitate the creek as well as plant a Carolinian Arboretum, establish a Wetland Complex and Tallgrass Prairie Plantation. Together these four ecosystems would be used as an outdoor education facility for local schools as well as providing a naturalized walking trail system for the community. Over 800 trees were planted by volunteer groups, all Carolinian species were represented in the Arboretum.  A riparian zone was restored along the creek banks, and Ducks Unlimited Canada restored a wetland in the 35 acre field, and planted that field with native Tallgrass species and native wildflowers.The local Ducks Unlimited committee built the existing pavilion on site, in hopes of it becoming an outdoor classroom. 

However the original plan stalled allowing Mother Nature to take over. The Carolinian trees grew, the Tallgrass flourished, the Wetland regenerated and the Creeks health improved. Fast forward to 2017, with the Dunnville Horticultural Society fresh off the success of the Dunnville Centennial Park and Fountain restoration. DHS was approached by Dan Mckay one of the original members of the Bioregion Association. Dan felt DHS was the perfect organization to  take on the challenge of completing the original project and to finish the trail system.

Dunnville Horticultural Society secured permission along with a partnership agreement from Haldimand County and Ducks Unlimited Canada. A Community Partnership Grant totalling one third of the proposed budget  from Haldimand County was secured, and fundraising efforts began spring 2017. DHS Past President Debbie Thomas co-chaired the ambitious 2 year project with Dan Mckay. 

DHS brought in many specialists to assist on this project as it is a sensitive area for threatened wildlife, migratory birds and plants. Also dealing with changing seasons and mother nature were all considered. 

The removal and eradication of invasive phragmites was undertaken fall of 2018 followed by a controlled burn spring 2019 of 23 acres in the Tallgrass Prairie. The goal was to halt the growth of invading non- native species and to rejuvenate the native Tallgrass ecosystem. This was followed by a mass planting of  native wildflowers.

Trails were thoughtfully planned and laid out throughout the four distinct ecological cells. Impressive educational signage was installed along the naturalized trail system, with large colour information panels describing each of the cells habitats, ecology and its wildlife residents.

The trail throughout the Tallgrass Prairie is 1.5 km, with views of the wetlands. Also  found along the trail is the newly designated heritage tree by Forests Ontario, a great White Oak that has stood sentinel for over 250 years. The other trail areas are shorter,  providing for all hiking levels and enjoyment. The Carolinan Arboretum was under-brushed to assist in removing invasive species, and  identification signage added for the tree species. The pavilion to be used for outdoor education is filled with plaques identifying the species located throughout the Centre’s 4 cells.

A large scale map ( 8’X16’ )  was erected at the entrance to Thompson Creek Eco Centre, directing the public to the  various eco cell locations, as well as the amenities within Centennial Park (including the iconic Muddy the Mudcat, the 1967 Centennial fountain and the link to Lions park trails.)

The Grand opening of Thompson Creek Eco Centre took place Wednesday, September 23rd 2019.  DHS chose a weekday, as their vision for this park is to be utilized by school children as an outdoor education centre, destination.  We wanted to draw attention to that.

All five of Dunnville’s schools were invited to attend, and as an added incentive DHS issued a challenge. The school that had the highest attendance would be given a Carolinan tree to be planted at their school. The turnout was amazing with in excess of 800 students and teachers walking the trails, along with hundreds of others.   A  highlight of the grand opening was DHS providing a people mover for residents of the neighbouring seniors facility Grandview Lodge, enabling them to view the Tallgrass Prairie and Wetlands all while interacting with students walking the trails. 

Since Grand Opening interest and usage of trails has been brisk.

DHS is proud to have been involved in this tremendous project, and even prouder to have received the OHA Community Improvement Award  for our efforts at the July 2019 Convention. If you are interested in touring this jewel in Dunnville, it is open to the public year round, with no admission cost.

MPP Toby Barrett celebrates the volunteer contributions.

DHS…The Secret Is Out!

Sandi Marr, DHS Recording Secretary

“Dunnville Horticulture Society is the best kept secret in town!” remarked one of our members at a recent gathering. The “secret” is getting out. Without a doubt, 215 horticultural members in small town of approximately 12,000 people is remarkable. The Dunnville Horticultural Society (DHS) was established in 1929. We have a rich and deeply valued presence in our community.

Recently, our growth and achievements were recognized at District 9 Annual General Meeting. We were honored and pleased to be awarded the “Doris Lightheart Award” for the largest increase in membership in our district for 2015. We actually had the largest increase for all of Ontario. We acheived almost a 60% increase in membership in 2015, and we are on track for an additional 15% growth in 2016. Clearly, we have an exceptionally strong society and our presence in Dunnville gets bigger every year.

To what do we attribute our strength and vitality? People and programs are the backbone of our society. We have devoted and faithful life members, new members, young and old members. Our committed board of directors and executive leads the way with vision, energy, and by example. Many other volunteers work hard “behind the scenes” to carry out the dreams of the board.

DHS is known for our creation and care of public flower beds and planters throughout the town of Dunnville. These beds and planters are outstanding in every season and welcome visitors and residents. Truly they speak of the great pride and hard work of society members. We nurture strong partnerships formed with the many other service groups in Dunnville, enabling us to complete many large scale projects.

Our monthly program nights are lively and well attended with 80-100 people. Everyone is friendly and hospitable as we come together to share gardening knowledge, questions, and even blunders. Our speakers are planned a year in advance and present relevant topics to educate and inform. Our evenings are full of laughter and fun, not to mention delicious refreshments and “Ways & Means” free recycled garden items. We endeavour to keep our business “short and sweet” while informing everyone of important discussion items.

The annual Lions Spring Home, Garden and Craft Show is one of our best forms of advertisement. We use this venue to promote who we are and what we do. Many visitors stop by our booth for conversation or to attend a “Mini Gardening Demonstration.” It has been just the last two years at this event that we have focused our efforts on a membership drive that resulted in the Doris Lightheart Award.

Our “town famous” plant sale is another opportunity for visibilty in our community. Donations are accepted from members and non-members and clearly labeled with the plant’s name, colour and sun/shade requirements. There is a plant for everyone—-even outdoor garden art for those without a green thumb!

Planting and maintaining Dunnville’s flowerbeds is what our society is all about. Each year the town looks better and better. A volunteer sign-up sheet is quickly filled and town planting is completed in 3-4 hours. Many hands make light work. Over 200 flats of annuals are donated by a local greenhouse. This is also a great opportunity for high school students to earn some volunteer hours.

Of course, there are other “perks” for members of the DHS. For example, this year we are hosting a bus trip to the beautiful Niagara region to tour some wineries and gardens. A sommelier will be joining us to make this experience more informative. We are also offering “Garden Tours” for members. 8 exceptional gardens of our members will be on display. This is a self-directed tour with beverages offered at each garden. Members are invited to bring their own “picnic lunch” and take time to sit and enjoy the gardens. Of course, member discounts at garden centres, seed exchanges, flower and vegetable shows, photo competitions, rose draws, and our annual potluck Christmas Celebration are just a few more reasons why everyone likes to belong to DHS.

Gardening is for young and old alike. We are grateful for our many senior members who faithfully support the activities of the DHS. Recently, three of our life members were honored with the Ontario Volunteer Service Award for over 30 years of service with the DHS. We value the collective wisdom and experience of those who have been with us for many years. Our Junior Gardeners Program encourages children to discover the joy of gardening and showcase their green thumbs. This year they will be creating scarecrows from the veggies they grow throughout the summer.

With gratitude, we celebrate both our rich history of over 87 years in the community and we look with vision into the future. Our goal is to continue to be a vibrant, growing and caring community of people who make our town of Dunnville a more beautiful place.