T here is a trail at the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Lincoln Wetland Natural Area, near Fredericton, New Brunswick, that passes through an open woodland that features some of the province’s finest native trees and shrubs. From white pine and rare butternut trees to raspberry and highbush cranberry, this forested trail winds through a haven for birds and wildlife.
Open your mind to a world of possibilities at the Lincoln Wetland Natural Area
“These numerous fruiting species attract many birds, as well as squirrels, deer and at least one bear!” says Nadine Ives, coordinator at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. “Cardinals, chickadees and American goldfinches are among the birds commonly seen – and heard – here.”
The woodland trail, located along the majestic Saint John River, consists of a loop with a side trail that leads to a magnificent wetland with cattails interspersed with open water.
Four small metal bridges installed by NCC allow visitors to cross the wetland over an old berm.
“Looking over the wetland from the bridges, you often see several pairs of ducks and Canada geese, along with red-winged blackbirds, who fill the air with their song,” says Nadine. “After crossing the wetland, you enter another world. More butternut and other trees, head-high goldenrod and purple aster bloom in late summer. Masses of wild clematis blanket the shrubs with, first, their white flowers in late summer and then their poufy seed heads in fall.”
As the coordinator of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick’s Learning Outside project, Nadine offers encouragement, support and resources for teachers to take their classes outdoors and to incorporate learning in nature into their teaching. For the past few years, she has visited Lincoln Elementary, located across the road from the Lincoln Wetland Natural Area, for outdoor curriculum-linked activities throughout the school year.
Learning in nature opens up a world of curiosity. Nadine experiences this time and time again when she takes students outdoors.
“I like to suggest to students that they always have their detective hat on when out in nature,” says Nadine. “One time, while out on the property, a class noticed a number of apples caught in the crotches of tree branches. How did the apples get there? Someone suggested maybe birds stashed them there, but we realized that the birds wouldn’t have been able to carry the heavy apples. We finally figured out that squirrels must have been responsible.”
According to Nadine, there are many hidden features in this natural area, if you look hard enough.
“There are many signs of past activity on the property, from animal activity (lots of signs of beavers at work) to past human activity, as seen by the presence of non-native apple trees. This shows that there was once an orchard or homestead nearby.”
The key species in the Lincoln Wetland Natural Area is the butternut, the only known native walnut species in New Brunswick and a tree increasingly at risk.
“They are impressive trees, with their large, compound leaves spreading overhead like large, green umbrellas,” says Nadine. “Unfortunately, a lethal fungal disease (canker) is threatening butternut. And in addition to habitat loss, this is leading to it being classified as an endangered species here. There are efforts to collect and save butternut seeds in hopes that canker-resistance in some individuals may be found that may help the species.”
This sort of resilience is one that Nadine believes is important for future generations of conservationists to see.
“It’s important to provide children with ample opportunities to explore the natural world. Many don’t have as much access to nature and the freedom to explore independently,” says Nadine. “It’s critical that today’s children and youth develop a close connection to the natural world.”
Just a short drive from Fredericton, this 8.5-hectare (21-acre) property was donated in memory of Gwen Ferris.
The Lincoln Wetland trail is a collaboration between NCC, the neighbouring Lincoln Elementary Community School and other conservation partners to provide a safe, enjoyable and educational outdoor learning experience for students and the local community.
Photo Credits (Top to bottom): NCC; NCC; Andreas Trepte; NCC; NCC.