Windsorites will have rare opportunity to visit Peche Island Saturday

One of Windsor's hardest-to-reach parks is going to be a little easier to visit on Saturday. In celebration of Peche Island Day, a free boat and canoe service will be running from Lakeview Park Marina.

Free ferry service to the island will run from Lakeview Park Marina to mark Peche Island Day

Claire Sanders from the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup, and Karen Cedar from the City of Windsor are two of the organizers of Saturday's Peche Island Day. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

If you've ever wanted to visit Peche Island, one of the most unique and isolated parks in the city, now's your chance.

On Saturday — for the first time since 2013 — the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup, in partnership with the City of Windsor and other organizations, has organized a free boat and canoe service to the hidden gem, which is teeming with wildlife, including bald eagles, and historic ruins from decades past.

Peche Island is located in the Detroit River, near the mouth of Lake St. Clair. (CBC)

"Peche Island Day gives us an opportunity to really connect people not only with the island, but with the river itself," said Claire Sanders, remedial action plan coordinator with the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup. 

"It's an important place for marsh nesting birds, for fish that raise their young inside these quiet areas in the island. It's just a really a wonderful opportunity to bring people and show them what the river has to offer."

Peche Island is a city-owned park in the Detroit River, near the mouth of Lake St. Clair. Despite being a mere 330 metres from Lakeview Park Marina, there is no permanent bridge or ferry service to the 35-hectare island; it is only reachable by private boat, kayak or canoe.

A historic concrete bridge on Peche Island. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Island once owned by whisky baron

City of Windsor naturalist Karen Cedar said there are traces of First Nations and early farmers who lived on the Island, but the biggest mark was left by one particular inhabitant.

"Most of the information we have is about Hiram Walker, because he owned the island for quite some time" she said.

Walker was the world-renowned distiller who founded Walkerville and the ruins of his summer home remain on the island to this day.

Peche Island eventually came under public ownership as a provincial park. In 1999, the city obtained the island from the province.

The ruins of Hiram Walker's summer home as seen on September 21, 2017. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Maintenance a challenge

Taking care of an island park presents a logistical challenge, said Cedar, and garbage left by visitors is a major issue for city staff. 

"Getting materials to do trail stabilization, to repair picnic tables and machinery, that is very challenging," said Cedar. "It's very difficult for us to get around the whole island picking up the garbage and transporting it back."

The city has begun promoting Peche Island as a "pack-in, pack-out" place.

City workers use this boat to reach Peche Island. Staff work on the island multiple days a week. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Public invited to help build bald eagle nest

A boat and a large canoe will be used Saturday to shuttle people to Peche Island. Visitors will be encouraged to take a self-guided tour of the island's walking trails.

Participants can also help build a platform and nest for bald eagles, majestic birds who tend to sniff at such menial tasks. 

"They don't really like to build their own nests," said Cedar. "We found if we build the nest and platforms for them, they're likely to use it ... then they can spend more of their energy on actually raising healthy babies and then continue to increase the population of bald eagles."

The first ride to Peche Island departs Saturday 10 a.m. from Lakeview Park Marina, with the final ride leaving the mainland at 1 p.m.

Peche Island is home to two large butternut trees. Related to walnuts, butternut trees are a species-at-risk. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

About the Author

Jonathan Pinto

Jonathan Pinto is a reporter/editor at CBC Windsor, primarily assigned to Afternoon Drive, CBC Radio's regional afternoon show for southwestern Ontario. Email jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca.