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Prairie Day 2014: Celebrating the Rice Lake Plains / Alderville Black Oak Savannah

Prairie Day 2014

The day dawned grey and overcast on September 20th, 2014 for the 7th Annual Prairie Day at Alderville Black Oak Savanna Ecology Centre, a 30-minute drive north of Cobourg. Despite the ominous weather, the event started off well with a smudging ceremony from the Alderville First Nation, as well as speeches carrying messages of hope and regeneration.

The savanna landscape visible now is a testament to the incredible efforts and collaboration of many groups working as part of the Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative: Alderville First Nation, Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), Lone Pine Marsh Sanctuary, Lower Trent Conservation, and more.

In 2002, the tallgrass prairie ecosystem was a remnant of a formerly thriving, 100,000 hectare vegetation community throughout Southern Ontario. Today, just 3 percent of the original tallgrass prairie and black oak savanna remains, with Alderville a gem in this crucial network of endangered ecosystems. With diligence, care, and cooperative work, the tallgrass prairie here at Alderville Black Oak Savanna has grown by 150 hectares in the past decade, with an additional 536 hectares secured for future restoration.

This year the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation was proud to join the efforts of the Rice Lake Plains partners through a $52,000 grant to NCC and Alderville First Nation. This grant supports a year's worth of activities to connect hundreds of Northumberland residents with the Greenbelt in their backyards, including workshops, field trips, trail launches, and landowner stewardship.

Ruby Crowned Kinglet
Ruby Crowned Kinglet banded by Willow Beach Field Naturalist volunteers

By mid-morning, the celebrations had picked up and nearly 200 people were participating in events scattered throughout the beautiful Ecology Centre and black oak savanna landscape. The skies had cleared, and the sun shone down, setting the scene ablaze in a raucous display of late-summer colours-gold, crimson, purple, ochre. With vendors, food, music from local entertainers, kite-making, face-painting, bird banding demos, walking tours, and more; the event was not only a successful, fun-filled family event, but also a testament to the importance of community in supporting this precious natural feature.

Green Belt
The Greenbelt Foundation's Shelly Petrie receiving her "green belt" from the Nature Conservancy of Canada

To learn more, visit

To read about the important monitoring and restoration work undertaken by the Nature Conservancy of Canada visit the NCC Rice Lake Plains project page.

Kat Snukal
September 29, 2014