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Green Gables Heritage Place

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Balsam Hollow Trail – Forest Ecosystem Restoration

Improving ecological integrity is a priority for Parks Canada. Under a special project, Parks Canada received funding to improve the ecological health in Prince Edward Island National Park and national historic sites in Prince Edward Island. Part of that funding was used to address ecological issues at Balsam Hollow Brook, which flows along the Balsam Hollow Trail at Green Gables Heritage Place. This work began at the end of the 2013 season and is now completed.

Background

Prior to completing this project, the Balsam Hollow Trail crossed the stream over ten times. Portions of the trail were too close to the stream banks and frequently flooded, which caused trail surface material to move into the stream bed. Trail maintenance crews removed logs from the stream, and streamside plants were trampled. The combination of these issues posed problems to the health of the stream, including its fish population.

By modifying the design of Balsam Hollow Trail to lessen its impact on the stream, the health of the stream and surrounding forest ecosystem was improved. While redesigning the Balsam Hollow Trail, Parks Canada received advice from the International Mountain Biking Association to ensure that best practices in sustainable trail development were employed.

© Parks Canada
© Parks Canada

Project Description

© Parks Canada

The project required changes to the design of the Balsam Hollow Trail and work began in the fall of 2013. The trail was re-routed to create a buffer between the trail and the freshwater stream. Six bridges were removed lowering the environmental risks to the stream and associated ecosystems that were caused by bridge footings and support structures. The newly-created buffer helps to protect the stream by reducing the amount of walking and subsequent compaction and loss of streamside vegetation along the sides of the brook. Trees will now be able to grow beside the stream and help stabilize the channel and banks while contributing nourishment and structure by dropping leaf litter and wood into the stream’s channel. The rerouting of the trail also guided it away from the adjacent golf course thereby restoring the historical feel of the walk.

In addition, three bridges were upgraded and a new stairway was built near the trail’s end. Interpretive signage was adjusted so as to better suit the trail’s new composition.

With the trail moved to higher ground and away from the stream banks, the stream can function naturally with less impact from the trail. Silt levels can return to a more normal range, which is good news for the brook trout, and plant life native to the brook-edge can regenerate. The final stages of the project will see the original footprint of the Balsam Hollow Trail restored through the planting of native Acadian forest tree species and riparian shrubs near both the brook and the trail.

On July 8, 2014, Parks Canada was very pleased to announce that Balsam Hollow Trail at Green Gables Heritage Place was re-opened. With the construction work on the trail complete, visitors were once again welcome to explore this beautiful pathway. The redeveloped trail has retained all of its beauty and mystery while at the same time reducing threats to the plants and animals that call it home. There are bridges to cross and woodland vistas to discover in a truly enjoyable experience for visitors.

Other ecological restoration projects in Prince Edward Island National Park