Trail Swag Reports: Jane's Walk 2013 Peterborough Creek Mystique

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Peterborough had five Jane's Walks this year and we attended the Creek Mystique walk which was guided by: Kim Zippel and Gina Varrin. This walk was to introduce us to the importance and historic past of Jackson Creek, which runs through the heart of Peterborough, Ontario. While everyone gathered to set off on the hike, there was a funny moment where our walk guides had to stop mid-story until a noisy car had finished driving by, and yet nearby bicycles proved to be quite unobtrusive. Perhaps a nod to Jane's thoughts on urban lifestyle.

We learned that the Oak Ridges Moraine to the West supplies the headwaters for Jackson Creek and the creek itself is 155 km long. It even supplied water to local mills who processed Red Fife Wheat back in the 1840s, which is a living artifact that is part of Canada's living history (and can still be found in a locally brewed beer).

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The walk had numerous stops along the way to point out changes over the years, to both the creek itself and the surrounding area. As we build up the city (i.e. more pavement, less trees) there is an impact on Jackson Creek and its biodiversity. Man-made objects such as Gabion Baskets have been placed along a high ridge to keep the hill at bay, but as we learned later in the walk, while they are effective, they might not be the best choice for a diverse ecosystem. With the natural riparian area displaced, we loose things such as filtration, and a root system that prevents erosion.

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One of the interesting projects that happened after the 2004 Peterborough flood, was that of a downtown Peterborough business that was almost swept away due to erosion.The Otonabee Region Conservation Authority oversaw the restoration of the Jackson Creek banks next to this business. Cedars were harvested alive to keep the roots with the hopes that they would grow back into the bank and help stabilize it. Stone, rock and rebar was used to help fortify it, and so far it has been successful (and a fairly new idea).

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If you live downtown Peterborough, you might forget that the creek is even there, but you can see it disappear under the city at Brock Street and Alymer.

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In 1955, there was a plan put forth to "daylight" the creek, which meant to expose sections of it to daylight. Again, this would help the riparian area, but as our walk leaders opened the idea to conversation we all agreed that it would also help the natural wellbeing of the public. The flowing water helps lift the moods of those within earshot, is visually appealing and could be made into a public attraction.

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Kudos to the very knowledgable Kim and Gina and the Peterborough Field Naturalists for organizing this walk. Not only did they have plenty of historic tidbits, but in a Jane's Walk fashion, they opened every thought for group conversation. There were no 'wrong answers' and it made for very light and interesting discussion.

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urbanist and activist who envisioned cities as ecosystems that changed over time to facilitate the need. She felt that it was better for both community and your own personal health for less auto infrastructure, and a diverse, greener, more interactive community. You can read her book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" and take part in the Jane's Walks which run every year in her memory.