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Happy trails ahead for the King’s Happy Valley Forest

October 29, 2014   ·   0 Comments

Ed Millar and Brian Millage of the Oak Ridges Trail Association hold the ribbon while Barb Davies, York Region Environmental Services, Todd Farrell, NCC, Nancy Dengler, Toronto Field Naturalists, Councillor Linda Pabst, and Wilma Millage, president of ORTA cut it.

By Jake Courtepatte
Calling all nature enthusiasts – as if you needed yet another reason to explore the beautiful outdoors of the Township of King!
The Nature Conservancy of Canada has opened the official trail of the Goldie Feldman Nature Reserve at Happy Valley Forest, well on its way to becoming one of the GTA’s few old-growth forests.
The 40 or so community members and local hikers who took part in last Wednesday’s trail opening hike and reception were given the grand tour, as Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Thomas Unrau pointed out the unique characteristics of the area.
The forest is home to more than 110 breeding bird species, mature sugar maple and beech trees, and many other plant and animal species.
Located in the upper area of the Humber River Watershed just south of Pottageville, the Happy Valley Forest is one of the largest remaining upland deciduous forests on the Oak Ridges Moraine.
The headwaters of the streams in the forest flow from the hilly topography of King.
“It’s really amazing that you can see crystal clear drinking water here … it’s so important,” said Unrau, who says he plans on getting a tattoo of a pulaski, a tool used to cut trails.
To allow for proper water runoff from the trails, much of the path is shaped into a “bench cut,” where the full width of tread is cut into a slope to create a level walking path. This form of a trail needs little maintenance, and should last indefinitely.
The entire Happy Valley Forest covers 1,560 acres of land, almost 280 of which the Nature Conservancy of Canada has helped protect from demolition.
“That’s why Nature Conservancy is focusing so strongly on this area,” said Unrau. “The forest is just continuous.”
According to the NCC’s website, “the core of the Happy Valley Forest will become a model for old-growth ecology and forest stewardship in eastern North America.”
For more information and upcoming hikes, visit www.oakridgestrail.org.
The Happy Valley Forest is one of the largest remaining intact upland deciduous forest on Canada’s Oak Ridges Moraine.
This 1,560-acre (631-hectare) area supports more than 110 breeding bird species, and is an outstanding example of the mature sugar maple and beech upland forests that are characteristic of the Moraine. Ecologically and aesthetically significant, the area’s wetlands and upland forest are critical to the survival of nationally significant species such as Acadian flycatcher and cerulean warbler, and provide an ideal home for many other plant and animal species, including a wide range of wildflowers and several salamander species. The area also holds special cultural significance, given its association with the Toronto Carrying-place, a historic portage and travel route.
The Happy Valley Forest is a special area that features all the elements necessary to achieve old-growth structure in the next 50 years, at a scale large enough to allow for natural disturbances such as wildfires, insect outbreaks, disease and severe storms. These events can significantly impact the structure and composition of any landscape, however because larger landscapes can accommodate the impact of natural disturbances, it is important to protect the Happy Valley Forest at this scale. Nowhere else on the western Moraine or within the GTA is old-growth forest of this extent achievable. Old-growth forests provide important functions in the ecosystem, from fostering complex relationships and dependencies with wildlife, to carbon sequestration and stream protection. Essentially, old-growth forests act as a reservoir for biodiversity.
Over the past 30 years, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has helped protect more than 2,500 acres (1,011 hectares) of the Oak Ridges Moraine, of which almost 280 acres (113 hectares) are in Happy Valley. NCC’s long-term goal for the area is to mobilize enough funds and create partnerships to protect and manage a 500-acre (202-hectare) heritage forest. Under NCC’s careful management, the core of the Happy Valley Forest will become a model for old-growth ecology and forest stewardship in eastern North America.

         

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