Fundy National Park of Canada
A Road Back to Nature
Years ago, on a remote patch of land in the northern part of Fundy National Park, human hands turned a section of Acadian forest into a strip of gravel road. As time progressed, the Laverty Road was used less and less, providing the park with a natural restoration opportunity. Thanks to the current focus on returning our national parks to a more natural condition - a state of ecological balance - human hands have helped restore this road to the Acadian forest it once was. It is one step on a road back to nature.
Canada's national parks were established over a hundred years ago as “islands of civilization in a sea of wilderness.” Human intervention was high. Land was cleared for manicured lawns. Decorative flowerbeds were planted and maintained. Ski resorts, golf courses and other such unnatural attractions were constructed, primarily to provide places of leisure.
While our national parks are still intended for human enjoyment, they have taken on a decidedly more ecological bent. Today, their prime mandate is to maintain the balance of nature, or ecological integrity. They are becoming “islands of wilderness in a sea of civilization.” The restoration of the Laverty Road in Fundy Park is a good example.
“The Laverty Road split the northern half of the park down the middle,” explains Jane Watts, a park warden at Fundy and coordinator of the restoration project. “It acted as a barrier to the natural movement of animals. Under Parks Canada's ecological integrity mandate, we felt it was important to return this four-kilometre road to its natural state.”
Giving a road back to nature required big helping hands. Like an overgrown garden tiller, a scarifying machine turned the soil in the road, loosening it and allowing the restoration team, some of them summer students, to transplant small trees and other plants from the adjacent area. “Because they are growing right here, these plants are representative of the natural Acadian forest,” says Watts. “We don't want to disrupt the ecological integrity of the area by introducing new species.” Some are planted through biodegradable erosion-control blankets that cover steep grades, such as those at the banks of Caines Brook. “The blankets will disappear naturally in a couple of years, by which time these plants will have anchored the soil enough to prevent erosion,” says Watts. Erosion concerns also prompted the cutting of a number of trenches across the former road in places where water ran naturally.
In the section of the road restored one year ago, nearly 95 per cent of the transplants have survived, and other natural vegetation has seeded itself in successfully. It's a sight that makes Jane Watts happy. “In 20 years, it should look as though we were never here in the first place,” she beams. “That's a good thing.”
On what had been a gravel road, the tracks of moose and deer have replaced the tracks of tires. The songs of birds have replaced the rumble of cars and the trickling of Caines Brook is like the sound of nature smiling. Human hands built the road, and human hands have given it back to the forest. The restoration of Laverty Road is a big step in Fundy National Park's journey back to nature.