St Lawrence Islands National Park

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1 Case Studies Level 1 St Lawrence Islands National Park Area: Eastern Ontario Country: Canada Date of Completion: Pen Picture This Park incorporates a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and is composed of islands, shoreline, and cliffs. Numerous townships, towns, and cities are located along this coastline. The population of the largest regional city is 141,000. Tourism and sustainable tourism initiatives in the region are undertaken by private organisations. Parks Canada s involvement, as the managing Agency of this Park, is through the Thousand Islands International Council where it shares information concerning its visitors and their use of the Park with regional organisations. In general, Parks Canada s approach to sustainable tourism is to protect and maintain the ecosystem of the region, as this is the predominant attraction. Parks Canada thus becomes the region s steward. Key Lessons Compliance with national strategies for sustainable tourism / ecotourism The lack of tracking mechanisms available that would allow those responsible for tourism initiatives to better understand the demographics that are attracted to the area and why is considered a major weakness of the region s tourism efforts Emphasis placed on maintaining present and future ecological integrity of the area The Thousand Islands International Council, the organisation responsible for organising the combined efforts of the private organisations (such as local Chambers of Commerce) and the public Parks Canada Agency with regard to tourism initiatives. Location Located in the St Lawrence Seaway along Canada s national 401 motorway, the islands vary greatly in size, most being very small. Most lie in Ontario (Canada) and some in New York State (USA). The St Lawrence Islands National Park covers 80km of the St Lawrence Seaway. STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

2 Overview Canada's smallest National Park, St. Lawrence Islands, commonly known as Thousand Islands, is a tiny jewel with a rich and complex natural and cultural history. The Park is located in the heart of the Thousand Islands tourist area of Eastern Ontario. Primarily a water-based park, St. Lawrence Islands includes over 20 islands that are accessible only by boat and a hundred-acre mainland base at Mallorytown Landing. Since receiving a 10km 2 land transfer in December 2005 from the St Lawrence Park s Commission, an Agency of the Provincial Ministry of Culture and Tourism, its land mass equals just less than 20km 2. On offer to visitors at the main site at Mallorytown Landing is a playground, picnic area, visitor centre with theatre, historic gunboat exhibit, boat launch, camping, and 1.7 km walking trail, 800 m of which is barrier-free. Interpretive programs and special events are offered. The island sites host docks, privies, primitive campsites, and delineated walking trails, most of which have shelters. Two physiographic features dominate the park: the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Frontenac Axis (an isthmus), of which the islands are a part. The Frontenac Axis is a neck of rounded-off granite hilltops that links the Canadian Shield to the Adirondack Mountains to the south. Kingston (pop 141,000) is the main urban location in the Thousand Islands area, and is a place of historical significance being a former centre of shipbuilding and the fur trade. It was briefly ( ) the capital of the United Province of Canada (Upper and Lower Canada, or present day Ontario and Québec respectively), but is presently best known as home to more museums than any other town in Ontario. St. Lawrence Islands National Park was created primarily as a place for recreation. For over seventy years visitors have enjoyed the beauty of the islands, picnicking, camping and boating. Facilities were provided to encourage these activities: sheltered picnic pavilions (three of the original pavilions, built in 1904, survive), picnic tables, campsites and wells as well as a steadily growing number of docks on the islands. In addition, the park itself was enlarged with the acquisition of Cedar, Milton and Mulcaster Islands, and of more properties on Grenadier Island and Hill Island. The shift from recreation to protection came in the 1980s. In those years there arose an awareness that the Thousand Islands was a unique ecosystem that had to be managed in a new way to ensure the well-being of the habitat that the islands provided for the plants and animals native to the area. The challenge STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

3 became to preserve and protect the fragile resources of the park while, at the same time, providing an opportunity for people to enjoy and to learn about one of the most beautiful parts of Canada. Status of Conservation Designation Since November 2002, the Canadian portion of the Thousand Islands has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for the Canadian Thousand Islands / Frontenac Axis Region. The Canadian Thousand Islands Heritage Conservancy spearheaded the request for this designation. The reserve will sustain its future with shoreline and water quality conservation measures combined with tourism and recreational development. Since receiving this designation the Thousand Islands-Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve (TIFABR) has achieved notable success with a number of educational and stewardship initiatives. One such initiative is ongoing work to complete 900 healthy shoreline reviews in the Thousand Islands, Charleston Lake and other inland lakes in the area, and 10 healthy shoreline makeovers to demonstrate to the community what private property owners can accomplish to conserve wildlife habitat, and improve water quality. In November 2004 it was announced by Minister of the Environment Stéphane Dion that TIFABR received $25,000 from Parks Canada's ecological integrity funding for a pilot project to demonstrate how biosphere reserves can contribute to ecosystem protection in national parks and adjacent lands. If the project is successful, the anticipated long-term benefits include strengthened ecological integrity partnerships within the greater park ecosystem of St. Lawrence Islands National Park, as well as improved biodiversity and conservation of landscapes, enhanced public support for ecologically sustainable activities, and the development of a national model for the integration of conservation and sustainable development interests that would be available to federal, provincial and territorial parks organisations. The project will also offer useful information on how to support ecological integrity in the greater park ecosystems of other national parks. Background/History The St Lawrence Seaway, one of the world s great waterways, is a gateway for ocean-going vessels travelling through the Great Lakes. Few stretches of the Seaway compare in charm or beauty to the Thousand Islands, an area that contains a scattering of over a thousand tiny islands, stretching from just below Kingston downriver to the waterside towns and cities of Gananoque, Brockville, Ivy Lea, and Rockport, Ontario. Conceived in the 1870s, St. Lawrence Islands National Park was established in 1904 to become the first Canadian National Park east of the Rocky Mountains. It began with a small piece of waterfront property granted to the federal government by the Mallory family with the stipulation that it be used for "park purposes." Nine federally owned islands in the St. Lawrence Seaway were added, and recreational facilities were installed. Over the years, islands and land parcels were annexed. Today, the Park comprises more than 20 islands and about 90 islets scattered between Main Duck Island and Brockville, Ontario, and a hundred-acre mainland base at Mallorytown Landing. Fisheries officers patrolled the islands in early days; later caretakers were hired to maintain the islands. The first park warden took over the role of patrolling the islands in The position of Superintendent was established in STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

4 Aims/Objectives The Ecological Integrity Statement (EIS) for St. Lawrence Islands National Park was written in February It summarises the key ecological values of the park and sets forth management goals and objectives to achieve ecological health and representativeness in the park area. The following are some of the main points of the document. The purpose of the park is to protect its rich and significant natural heritage and to encourage public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in such a manner as to pass it on unspoiled to future generations. Since the park is small and fragmented, the maintenance of its ecological integrity can only be pursued on a regional scale. Staff must work with partners to link the park with other coreprotected areas, to promote sustainable development in the region and to build a constituency of support through a program of education and interpretation. Park Ecosystem Management Goals: To maintain or restore ecological connectivity to allow gene flow among populations. To maintain or restore natural physical and biological processes such as naturally occurring fires. To maintain or restore the park's indigenous vegetation communities. To maintain or restore the park's indigenous fauna. To restore to their natural state areas and communities damaged by human activities. To reduce the impacts on the park of visitors and of day-to-day park operations. To enlarge the communication program about the park's values and ecosystem management efforts. Key Resource Facts Habitats 1. Islands 2. Islets 3. Wetlands 4. Rocky, steep cliffs 5. Heavily forested interior Topography The rugged islands form a land bridge from northwest to southeast across the St. Lawrence Seaway, aiding movement of species through the area. This narrow isthmus, known as the Frontenac Axis or Arch, is the vital link joining two important North American landforms the Canadian Shield and the Adirondack Mountains to form one contiguous ecosystem. This waterway carries one-third of all the freshwater on earth to the sea, and manmade contributions to the landscape include canals, dams, and locks. Climate Climate in the Thousand Islands is moderated by the Great Lakes waters and the fact that the valley channels the moderating influences along the seaway. Mean temperatures for January through mid-february are around -8 o C, with the greatest amount of precipitation, much of it in the form of snow, falling during these STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

5 months. The seaway begins to ice in early December and freezes over, except where swift water prevents it, by the end of the month. Generally ice melts in late March / early April, and by May the daily mean air and water temperatures register 12 o or 13 o C. The island land masses warm more slowly due to the influence of the seaway and remain more moderate throughout the summer's heat, when average temperatures are 21 o C. Throughout July and August the mean maximum air temperatures recorded during the day in the Thousand Islands are cooler than the inland areas, while the mean minimum air temperatures recorded at night are warmer than those inland from the seaway. The average frost-free period on the islands is 160 days per year. Biodiversity Being located in a transition zone, the park, for its size, is rich in biodiversity, and provides habitat for rare species such as the pitch pine and deerberry, which are at the northern limits of their range. The park's botanical diversity provides a range of breeding habitats resulting in a rich bird population and since the Frontenac Axis acts as a funnel for wildlife movement numerous migrant species are found in the park. The region is also renowned for its high diversity of reptiles and amphibians including the black rat snake and five-lined skink. Notable examples of species which are common in the area, but rare in the rest of Canada, include: Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides); the Black Rat snake (Elaphe elaphe), Canada's largest reptile; Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida), a southern species whose range extends along the Frontenac Arch to just north of the Thousand Islands; and the Least Bittern, a wading bird whose wetland habitats are decreasing elsewhere within its northern range. A small population of Deerberry (Vaccineum stamineum) still remains on some islands in the area. Culture/Heritage Known all over the world for its beautiful islands located in the St. Lawrence Seaway (and for its salad dressing), Thousand Islands offers many interesting historic attractions as well as the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside. Seaway sites include Boldt s Castle, a folly built on Heart Island by millionaire hotelier George C. Boldt and abandoned when his wife died in Boldt Castle can be seen by tour boat and visited by going across the Thousand Islands Bridge at Ivy Lea. The scenery can be enjoyed from the Thousand Islands Parkway, which runs from the town of Gananoque to Mallorytown Landing. Cruise boats operate from Kingston, Gananoque and Rockport, with varying schedules and options. Main sites to be included on a cruise are the impressive spans of the International Bridge, Boldt Castle, and Zavikon Island which features the world's shortest international bridge. The following islands are highlighted for their cultural significance to the region: Adelaide Island is a tiny island close to Mallorytown Landing that is a significant native archaeological site and waterfowl habitat. Grenadier-West Island is home to a historic stone picnic pavilion that was constructed when the park was established in Gordon Island is home to archaeologically significant sites where native peoples spent summers. Cedar Island, located on the eastern edge of Lake Ontario, is home to Cathcart Tower, which is part of Kingston s historic fortifications and a national historic site. STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

6 Key Tourism Facts Product Services and Infrastructure The park is open daily from May 21 st to October 10 th. The Park Administration office is open Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm all year round. The visitor information and interpretation centre is located at Mallorytown Landing, where exhibits and displays convey the exciting natural and cultural story of the Thousand Islands. Services and facilities on the islands are maintained from Victoria Day weekend (May 22 nd ) to Thanksgiving (October 9 th ). Services and facilities on the mainland are maintained from Victoria Day weekend to Labour Day (September 4 th ). Facilities at Mallorytown Landing include a playground, picnic area, visitor centre with theatre, historic gunboat exhibit, telephone, parking for vehicles and trailers, boat launch, overnight docking, group camping and 1.7 km walking trail, 800 m barrier-free. Interpretive programs and special events are offered. Unless otherwise stated, national park islands have docks, privies, primitive campsites and delineated walking trails; most have shelters. The park does not provide transportation to the islands. The Park islands have seen some changes over the years to both facilities and services. New composting toilets have proven popular with visitors and more are being installed every year to replace existing pit privies. The Park encourages a pack-in-pack-out policy throughout the Park and several island locations do not have garbage facilities. St. Lawrence Islands National Park is primarily an island park, with water being the main recreational attraction. Both power and sailboaters use the Park islands as stopping off points for a day or overnight enroute down or up the St. Lawrence Seaway. Kayaking is becoming an increasingly popular tourist activity. In addition to water activities the park provides facilities and services to support a wide array of leisure pursuits related to camping, education, and typical day-use activities. These pursuits are explained in greater detail below. Camping Primitive campsites are located on 12 of the Park's islands. The number of campsites on an island is dictated by the sustainability of the resource. The number of sites varies from two to 17. There are no individual camping facilities at Mallorytown Landing. Grenadier Island has barrier-free camping facilities. Education Park Heritage Presentation staff offer entertaining and informative programs to the public in the Park and in surrounding communities. Heritage presentation messages focus on protecting ecological health of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve area and commemoration of local culture. Furthermore, the Park s school program content, consisting of in-classroom visits and field trips on location in the Park during the school semesters, is linked directly to the Ontario common curriculum for public schools. The Park also hosts travelling exhibits in the Visitor Centre. Previous exhibits include Northern Owls, an exhibit from the Royal Ontario Museum, and Cry of the Loon, an exhibit from The Canadian Museum of Nature. STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

7 Day-use The day-use area at Mallorytown Landing has a shaded picnic area, playground equipment and washrooms. A launch ramp is available adjacent to the parking area. Exhibits on natural and cultural history are open to the public during the operating season and by appointment during the rest of the year. Facilities at the Landing are accessible to disabled users. A walking trail transects the property, a Loyalist farm which was cultivated until The path travels through woodland and wetland habitats. An 800m loop of the lower trail is barrier free. Also present is Mallorytown Landing Theatre, which hosts a guest speaker series on interesting topics on the natural and cultural history of the area. Souvenirs can be purchased at the Thousand Islands Skydeck, a location that also offers a scenic elevator ride to an observation deck 400 feet above the St. Lawrence Seaway. It is also possible to attend a performance at the Thousand Islands Playhouse located in Gananoque. Festivals celebrated in the Park include: o Festival of the Islands (August 10 th 23 rd ) o Canada Day Celebrations (July 1 st ) o Parks Day (July 16 th ) The Thousand Islands Water Trail is a paddling destination along inland and river paddling routes throughout the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, which includes the St Lawrence Islands National Park. The Trail links with local towns and accommodation providers. The St Lawrence International Partnership has developed a passport scheme with coupons to market the various cultural and heritage attractions of the whole St Lawrence River Valley, (US and Canada), including the National Park. This scheme has been sponsored by a variety of local attractions and promotes some 18 organisations (National and State Parks) and attractions. Volume Approximately 81,000 visitors per year, two thirds of whom arrive by boat. Economic Information (pricing, value, impact) Fees are payable for docking, camping, beaching and mooring buoys. Entry and service fees are charged and revenues are kept to support visitor services and facilities. Fees are as follows: Activity / Service Description Cost (CAD) Cost (GBP) Group Camping (1 night) Boat Launching Mallorytown Landing, no showers (per person, min. 10 people) Central Grenadier, no showers (per person) Primitive island camping with pit privies Per day Per season Heritage Extension Program (per hour) STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

8 Presentation Special Programs Education Program Group tour (per person) Special Group Program For community based groups and clubs (per person) Per person Evening Guest Speaker Program (per person) Mooring Overnight (includes day mooring) (price per foot) Season Key Issues associated with tourism development/management One of the major issues associated with sustainable tourism development in the region is the lack of tracking mechanisms available that would allow those responsible for tourism initiatives to better understand the demographics that are attracted to the area and why. If this information were available then accurate forecasts and marketing efforts could be made directly geared towards those demographics. The Park has no real method to identify its visitors, with the exception of its boating season pass-holders who are required to complete a registration form prior to being issued their season pass. With regard to maintaining the Park s ecosystem, the overriding issue of concern is the effect of human activities or natural changes on the ecosystem and in particular the wildlife. To this end, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) lists as at risk, seventeen species that are found in the ecosystem of St Lawrence Islands National Park. St. Lawrence Islands National Park is working with provincial parks, conservation authorities, field naturalist groups, land trusts and several other non-profit groups to protect these habitats. A newly-formed organisation, called "The Watershed" (www.thewatershed.ca), plays a coordinating role for this network of environmental organisations, spearheading environmental projects and providing information to members of the public concerned about environmental protection. Ecosystem monitoring is an essential tool used at Canada's 39 national parks, including St. Lawrence Islands, to gauge their ecological integrity. In the 1997 State of the Parks Report, the highest levels of impairment to ecological integrity were reported at four parks, of which St Lawrence Islands National Park is one. An important step in dealing with the high level of impairment at St. Lawrence Islands has been the identification of unfavourable environmental conditions and the selection of management actions to mitigate them. In 1998, a questionnaire was developed to determine man-made threats to the Thousand Islands ecosystem. Thirty were identified and nine were found to be of particular significance: Direct human disturbance from sewage, solid waste, trailside compaction and erosion, etc. Exotic invertebrates out-competing or filling niches vacated by native species (e.g. Zebra Mussels) Urbanisation increasing pressures from development including shoreline intrusions, strip building along roadways Exotic vegetation e.g. Purple Loosestrife Sport fishing too much pressure on game fish species Climate change global warming from greenhouse gases Heavy metals a by-product of pollution STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

9 Transportation and utility corridors affecting habitat connectivity Forestry forest habitat loss due to extraction It is worth noting that at St. Lawrence Islands the significant threats were found to be mainly from external sources and not from visitation to the park. Management/Organisation/Funding/Finance St Lawrence Islands National Park is owned and managed by Parks Canada, which is an Agency of the Ministry of the Environment. Regional organisations and Chambers of Commerce work in conjunction with Parks Canada to promote tourism in the region. This is done through the Thousand Islands International Council, an organisation designed to share information between Park authorities and regional organisations, and to organise their tourism initiatives. With an annual budget of approximately $500M and 4,000 full-time employees, Parks Canada protects and presents Canada s natural and cultural heritage in every region of the country through its 39 National Parks. The main tourism initiatives are by regional organisations in the surrounding cities, towns, and townships. The Thousand Islands International Council, a Public- Private Partnership initiative, is the organisation responsible for organising the combined efforts of the private organisations (such as local Chambers of Commerce) and the public Parks Canada Agency with regard to tourism initiatives. The American park authorities are also involved. Most recently sustainable tourism efforts are undertaken not so much with regard to the St Lawrence Islands National Park, but rather with the general Thousand Islands region. To this end, information is shared between Park authorities and regional organisations concerning activity trends amongst Park visitors. Examples include the rise in adventure activities such as kayaking that has led to the creation of companies in the area, such as Thousand Islands Kayaking, to cater to the needs of this identified market. Achievements/Innovation Contacts Interpretive programs on a variety of natural and cultural heritage topics are offered throughout the summer at various island and mainland locations. Education program content is linked directly to the Ontario common curriculum for public schools. Hosting travelling exhibits in the Visitor Centre from external museums and other sources. The Thousand Islands International Council as the body responsible for tourism initiatives related to the Park Rob Carnegie, Director of Tourism at the Kingston Area Economic Development Commission Ken Robinson, Interpretation Specialist at St Lawrence Islands National Park Bibliography Parks Canada, St Lawrence Islands National Park STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

10 Boldt Castle Minister Dion Announces Federal Contribution to the Thousand Islands - Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

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