Reforestation project gives 'different feel' to P.E.I. National Park

It could take decades for the full effect, but Parks Canada says its forest restoration project is already having a positive impact on P.E.I. National Park.

About 38,000 trees have been planted in the park since May, 2017

Hikers will already notice a difference at Robinsons Island, says Matt Angus. (Shane Ross/CBC)

It could take decades for the full effect, but Parks Canada says its forest restoration project is already having a positive impact on P.E.I. National Park.

Since May of 2017, about 38,000 trees have been planted at the Cavendish, Robinsons Island and Brackley areas of the park, including 5,600 this summer in and around Dalvay.

"In general, everything's been surviving really well," said Matt Angus, a forest restoration specialist with P.E.I. National Park.

"It's a pretty exposed site close to the coast so that's offered a little bit of issues on some trees that are kind of whipped by the wind. But overall, 80 per cent have survived there which is really good on a planting program on that scale."

It's beautiful there now and it's only getting nicer and nicer as the trees mature.— Matt Angus

Angus said there are plans to plant more trees, especially in the Cavendish and Greenwich areas of the park, pending more funding from the federal government.

Newly planted saplings rise up among the dead trees in P.E.I. National Park. (Shane Ross/CBC)

"We've touched on about 80 different forest stands with our restoration work out of approximately 400 different stands so some of them are in good shape, some of those are in OK shape and some are in bad shape," he said.

"As the forest continues to degrade we'll need to step in to intervene as soon as possible."

Robinsons Island is a popular destination for hikers, mountain bikers and bird watchers. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Angus said the main issue is dead white spruce, which are about 80 years old and reaching the end of their lifespan. He said there will be some thinning out, but for the most part they'll leave the dead trees in the forest to decompose and rot naturally.

The majority of the newly planted trees are sugar maple and yellow birch, along with some coniferous trees such as white pine and red spruce. The dappled light shining through the hardwood trees give the trails a "different feel," Angus said.

"It just feels so positive. You see the trees that you planted a year or two ago, you see how they're progressing." 

The newly planted trees include sugar maples, yellow birch, ash, white pine and red spruce. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Angus said it's "definitely a long-term project," but hikers and mountain bikers can already see the difference along the trails at Robinsons Island. About 4,000 trees have been planted there since 2014, including about 3,000 in 2017. Many of the young trees have plastic guards around them to protect them from snowshoe hares and mice.

"It's beautiful there now and it's only getting nicer and nicer as the trees mature," Angus said. "Some of them are reaching over 10 feet high now so, again you can walk through any of those forests and it has a completely different feel than it would have even five years ago."

The young trees are protected with plastic guards so they won't be eaten by snowshoe hares and mice. (Shane Ross/CBC)

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Shane Ross

Shane Ross is a former newspaper and TV journalist in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. He joined CBC P.E.I.'s web team in 2016.