Sarah.Rupert at pc.gc.ca Sarah.Rupert at pc.gc.ca
Tue Jul 25 12:31:15 EDT 2006

Hi All!

This message departs from the rules and guidelines for ONTBIRDS postings
and permission from the ONTBIRDS coordinator to post this message was

I am posting this message on behalf of Marian Stranak, Superintendent of
Point Pelee National Park

Good birding everyone.
Sarah Rupert
Point Pelee National Park,
Leamington, ON

                                                            July 20, 2006
Dear Ontbirders;

This letter is provided in response to the posting to ONTBIRDS on June 5,
2006 regarding Point Pelee National Park.  First, let me explain the reason
for the delay in responding.  Each year at the conclusion of spring
migration we hold a debrief to review services and programs. This year’s
session was held on June 30th. Our goal is to balance the needs for
protecting the natural resources, ensuring memorable visitor experiences
and providing opportunities for appreciation and understanding. Visitor
comments, concerns and observations are an integral part of our reviews.
Park management and staff welcome feedback and take it very seriously.

Point Pelee National Park is 15 square kilometres (6 square miles) in size
with the marsh covering two thirds of the park.  Annual visitation over the
last fifteen years has averaged around 364,500.  In the month of May alone,
visitation has ranged between 70,000 and 54,000.  Beginning with the 1982
Park Management Plan, the need for a trail system to minimize environmental
impacts while optimizing visitor experiences and educational opportunities
was identified.  From that direction, the Spring Migration Operational Plan
was developed specifically to guide management of birdwatching activities.
Revised in 1995, the Park Management Plan reiterated the need to manage
visitor access, use and flow through a system of trails and paths. The Park
Trail Plan  took its direction from these plans and laid out a network of
trails designed for a variety of visitor activities.  In 2003 in response
to environmental impact monitoring and visitor use information, we further
refined the trail system by defining three trail types -  formal year-round
trails (1.5 m wide crushed gravel or boardwalk), year-round footpaths (well
established, unsurfaced) and seasonal footpaths for spring birding
(temporary, marked with orange flagging tape, minimally cleared, rotated to
promote re-vegetation). Since then, some seasonal footpaths have been
re-designated as year-round footpaths.  These include Anders Footpath, West
Beach Footpath and Redbud Footpath.  Review of the trail system and trail
designations is ongoing.  The Birding brochure in our Explore the Point -
Fact Sheet Series was revised last year and provides the most up-to-date

Over the last 30 plus years, Parks Canada has acquired private properties
within the national park, including cottages, farms, orchards and
fisheries, as well as removed numerous park facilities and roads.  About
200 hectares (495 acres) have been restored.  Discussions concerning
vegetation management in these areas are currently underway as part of the
park management plan review. To get involved with the plan review contact
us at peleeinfo at pc.gc.ca. or call 1-866-PT-PELEE (1-866-787-3533).

For more than twenty years the park has provided a network of seasonal
footpaths identified by a circular blue sign with a Cardinal illustration.
Each year after the spring birding season, these signs were removed,
leaving seasonal footpaths unmarked to allow for re-vegetation.   Octagonal
stop sign shaped signs, with a boot illustration and the message ‘No Entry
- Protect Pelee’s Plants’, were posted in locations where vegetation was
impacted to discourage visitor use. Ongoing vegetation and visitor use
monitoring, as well as physical changes particularly in the Tip area due to
erosion factored into the determination of routes and which seasonal
footpaths were opened from year to year.  In 2005, as part of a pilot
project, signs within Point Pelee National Park were redesigned and
replaced to meet Canada’s Federal Identity Program requirements and
universal visitor information/safety standards.  As a result, the
‘Cardinal’and ‘No Entry - Protect Pelee’s Plants’ signs were retired. The
new signs, first installed Spring 2006,  use the hiker/walker symbol with
text and are intended to complement one another. The green rectangular
sign, with the hiker/walker symbol within a blue square and the message
‘Seasonal Footpath’, is posted the beginning of the spring birding season
to mark seasonal footpaths.  The other, the green rectangular sign with the
hiker/walker within the red circle symbol indicating no entry with the
message ‘Protect The Plants’, replaces it after the spring birding season
to discourage visitor use of the seasonal footpaths. The interpretation of
‘PERMANENTLY CLOSED’ provides valuable feedback as to the understood versus
intended message.

For more than a decade, the Festival of Birds has been celebrated the
entire month of May. Recent evaluations showed visitors and event
attendance are concentrated into the first three weeks of May with several
events exceeding capacity, while events held the last week are not well
attended.  To address this shift in visitor use, for 2006, we adjusted our
hours of operation and events to run the Festival from May 1st to May 22nd.
As always, staff signed the seasonal footpaths before the Festival and
removed the signs to coincide with the end of the Festival.  In addition,
this year, each seasonal footpath sign was replaced with a “Protect the
Plants” sign. This timing, as indicated by the comments received, was too
early.  Next spring, we will ensure the seasonal footpaths are signed and
flagged by mid-April and remain open until the end of May.  For the
remainder of the year, June through mid-April, we will continue to close
seasonal footpaths.  This is not a legal closure, which under the Canada
National Park Act, prohibits visitor access and would require the specific
posting of ‘Area Closed by Order of Superintendent’.  Rather, as a part our
ongoing efforts to balance visitor use and ecosystem protection, the
“Protect the Plants” signs are intended to create awareness and educate
visitors for the need to minimize use to allow for the vegetation to
regenerate. The decision, to walk the path or not, remains with each
individual visitor. Our experience indicates the vast majority of visitors
will opt to remain on the formal trails and year-round footpaths.

We are committed to reviewing and adjusting services and operations to meet
visitor needs and expectations while respecting our responsibility for
maintaining or enhancing ecological integrity, creating memorable visitor
experiences and increasing awareness and understanding of this special
place.  As part of our ongoing evaluation efforts we conduct regular
visitor satisfaction surveys and maintain an ongoing ‘Let’s Keep in Touch’
program.  We are currently working with several government, tourism and
conservation organizations in Essex County to conduct an analysis of
services and programs for birders in the park and the surrounding area.
Based on the results, we plan to develop a nature tourism strategy to
re-position and grow birdwatching activities and services in the region.

I appreciate the comments and observations concerning our services and
operations.  I trust that this response is helpful to birders. Please feel
free to contact me with any questions or concerns you might have.

Marian Stranak
Point Pelee National Park/Parc national de la Point-Pelée
Tel./Tél : 519 322 2365   Ext./poste : 212

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