Conservation Area

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On September 15th 1993, the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority received a generous donation of 61 hectares (150 acres)by Basil and Juanita (Shields) McLaren whose ancestors were original settlers in the Bonfield area. This property is situated on the south-west shore of Lake Talon, Bonfield Township. The property is legally described as the Remainder of Parcel 13556 Nipissing, Part of Broken Lot 34, Concession 11 as well as the Remainder of Parcel 1109 Nipissing, Part of Broken lot 35, Concessions 10 & 11. Once the ownership was legally that of the NBMCA, the property was dubbed a conservation area.

The conservation area was named after the donators as gratitude for the donation; hence the name Shields-McLaren Conservation Area. Andrew Shields settled on Shields Point in the 1860′s. In 1861, Andrew managed the first trading post in Bonfield Township. The first post office was also situated in this area. It opened on October 1, 1876 at which time Andrew Shields was listed as the postmaster. In addition to these activities, J. R. Booth Logging Company was active in Bonfield Township. Logging practices were a main source of employment for many men during the early settlement of Bonfield Township. Therefore this conservation area offers the opportunity for local residents to learn more about early settlement activities in a small community such as Bonfield Township. In addition, the presence of logging history as well as trading activities provide an interesting local heritage feature.

The conservation area’s present use is mainly for recreational purposes. The 57.8 hectares of forest offers a wonderful setting for hiking and cross-country skiing. Three different forest stands are found on the property as well as an individual wetland. The forest stands consist of mature White Pine, second growth deciduous species and a mixture of hardwood and softwood species. The wetland consists of three wetland communities, a marsh, a swamp and an open-water marsh. There is also a small sand pit on the property. The undisturbed nature and topography of the property affords the possibility of further developing the present passive recreational day-use of this conservation area.

The Shields-McLaren Conservation Area is situated on Shields Point in Bonfield Township. This conservation area is accessible by Highway 17 East at Pine Lake Road. This road is followed north, then a right hand turn is taken onto Shields Point Road. This township road eventually becomes a private road maintained by the Shields Point Road Association. Although trail entrances are found along Shields Point Road, vehicles should park in the designated parking area. The North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority has ownership of all roads within the Shields-McLaren Conservation Area.

The conservation area consists of 95% upland forests and 5% wetland. Inventory research conducted in 1995 classified the upland into three distinct upland forest stands; a White Pine stand, a second growth deciduous stand and a mixed hardwood and softwood stand. A single wetland is found in the northern end of the property. The influence of recent glacial activity, namely the Sobie-Guillmette outlet, Rutherglen Moraine phase, is evident in the terrain geology. The ground relief is described as moderate, with rugged topography and mixed wet and dry surface drainage. Elevations within the conservation area are between 650′ a.s.l. and 900′ a.s.l.. These various characteristics allow for an aesthetically pleasing environment.

The resource inventory of the conservation area and subsequent document Shields-McLaren Conservation Area- Inventory and Background Information were conducted and prepared during the summer and winter of 1994 and 1995, respectively. This section summarizes the information contained in this inventory document.

Shields-McLaren Conservation Area is designated as a residential limited service zone in schedule A2 of the Township of Bonfield Zoning By-Law 2000-08. Within this zone allowable uses include public parks, playgrounds, residential uses and professional offices.

As of this moment, there is no concern from the OMNR in regards to the proposed land use of the conservation area. Although access to these trails on the Conservation Area is obtained via township and NBMCA-owned roads, certain trails may be accessed off of private roads maintained by cottagers. As per an agreement between the NBMCA and the Shields Point Road Association, the NBMCA will contribute to the maintenance of these sections of private road.

HISTORY

The history of the Shields-McLaren Conservation Area would be an interesting subject for an interpretive program. The most important historical aspects are related to the logging, agricultural and fur trading industries of the late 1800′s and mid-1900′s. Although many settlers were involved in these activities, two men were seen as the pioneers of these logging and fur trading practices.

Andrew Simon Shields operated the first trading post in Bonfield in the 1860′s. In the 1850′s Andrew Shields was one of the earliest residents of the Lake Talon region. A Nipissing Band, Ojibwa Tribe of the Algonquian Nation settled along the shore of Lake Talon across from Shields Point some time prior to Andrew Shields arrival. It was believed that trading was initiated with this band. Andrew was also listed as the postmaster for the first post office in the Hamlet of Bonfield Township. The post office was officially established on October 1, 1876 and was situated 35 km (22 miles) east of North Bay and 30 km (20 miles) from Mattawa. When settlers migrated to Rutherglen, the post office was moved and eventually re-established in Rutherglen on February 1, 1909.

J.R. Booth was a significant figure since he brought the pine logging industry to Shields Point. The J. R. Booth Lumber Company employed most of the residents in winter. During the summer these residents cleared farm bands to grow vegetables and grain to sustain themselves and their livestock. Grain, food supplies and land for horse storage were supplied to the Company by the settlers as well. As the stands of pine became depleted, the lumber companies moved further north and west. Consequently, the residents became increasingly dependent upon their farms; thus the township developed into a very active farming community.

Excavation at Shields Point, on Lake Talon showed no evidence of aboriginal occupation. Although there is no doubt that aboriginal peoples once camped on the point, years of ploughing and the sparse nature of cultural deposits diminish the probability of any significant finds from this aboriginal occupation.

More recently, however, as previously stated, Shields Point is the site of an independent trading post established in the 1860′s. The cement foundations are still evident today. This historic feature is found on private land, south-east of the conservation area. Historical documentation is available and can provide a relatively complete understanding of the area’s past. In A History of the Township of Bonfield 1886-1986 insights are given into the agricultural practices, land use and family histories of Shields Point for this period. Other documents that relay similar information include The History of Bonfield (Savage et al., 1977), Historical Information Research (NBMCA, 1994) and Early Settlement Patterns in Selected Townships in the North Bay Area (Topps et al., 1981). The history of Shields Point is therefore best explored using these documents.

Monthly climatic data is collected and recorded at the Bonfield Environment Canada Weather Office. This is the closest weather office to the McLaren-Shields Conservation Area. This is a registered and operative office located just outside the Town of Bonfield. Temperatures and precipitation records for the Bonfield area are provided at this weather office.

Average annual temperature for this area is 4.0 Celsius which results in a frost free season of 160 – 180 days plus long periods of snow cover. Average yearly precipitation is 1114.4 mm, 30% of which is snow and 70% rain. Higher precipitation levels occur during the growing season from June to September. Snowfall occurs mostly in December, January and February (NBMCA, 1981).

According to the Geological Survey of Canada (Harrison, 1972), the North Bay District is divided into two distinct watersheds; the Mattawa-Ottawa system and the Sturgeon River-Lake Nipissing-French River system. These were created due to ice melt and surface movement caused by glacial retreat during the Sobie-Guillemette outlet, Rutherglen Moraine phase. The Shields-McLaren property is found in the Mattawa-Ottawa watershed which drains into the St. Lawrence River.

The terrain geology of the Shields-McLaren Conservation Area consists of ground moraine till (78% sand, 19% silt & 3% clay) and glacial till (homogenous mix of material from silt to boulders) (Harrison, 1972). Usually a thin layer of clay, sand and boulders is deposited during geological formations but thicker layers are apparent in some areas such as drumlins, moraines and lee of rock knobs. A looser till with low percentage of silt and clay is found in these moraines. This is evidence that the material was deposited at or near an ice margin fronting a preglacial lake.

The Shields-McLaren property is situated within the Nipissing-Mattawa Lowland Canadian Shield physiographic region. In accordance with the general characteristics of this region the property has elevations under 1000 feet (304.8 metres), elevations within the Conservation Area are between 650 feet (198.12 metres) and 900 feet (274.32 metres). Further characteristics are extensive lake sediments around and between bedrock outcrops, and sediment between outcrops of varve clay with some rhythmically banded sands. The area also possesses elements of i) minor ridges and several large end moraine segments which traverse the ice flow direction ii) crag-and-tail, drumlins, and eskers that parallel the ice flow. The Nipissing-Mattawa Lowland is a part of the Ottawa Bonnechere Graben.

The Shields-McLaren Conservation Area provides several natural heritage features relating to Great Lake outlet channels and modification of landscape by glacial retreat. This, as well as all the information described in this section, will contribute to the development of interpretive trails.

Soil Survey Report #54 from the Ontario Institute of Pedology (1981) classifies the Shields-McLaren Conservation Area’s soil as Orthic Humo-Ferric Podzol. Consequently, non-calcareous sand, coarse sand and gravelly sand outwash materials of precambrian origin are present. Surficial deposits are a mixture of materials ranging from silts to boulders. The agricultural capability of the conservation area’s soil is limited due to a lack of available nutrients. The pH range is described as within 6.5 to 6.9 in the Environmental Atlas (1992).

A field investigation of the vegetation was completed in December 1994. The vegetation of North Bay is made up of both the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest Region and the Boreal Forest Region, thus it can be interpreted as a transitional forest region. Adding to the variety of the forest, local variations in terrain, moisture and human uses have altered the distribution of species throughout North Bay and district.

The vegetation of the Shields-McLaren property was classified as upland forest and wetland. These were sub-classified into four vegetation communities; White Pine stand, second growth deciduous stand, mixed hardwood and softwood stand and an individual wetland.

A strip type survey was conducted in June of 1994 at the Shields-McLaren Conservation Area by the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority. This was conducted in order to determine shrub and understorey species on the property. Survey lines were established every 100 metres. Inventory was taken in 10 metre circular plots at every 50 metres on these lines. A total of 81 individual plants were identified; 17 tree, 22 shrub and 42 lower understorey species. The following describe the upland vegetation communities identified on the Shields-McLaren property:

A White Pine stand is located on the south easterly portion of the property. This area consists of a dense, mature White Pine (Pinus strobus) plantation. These mature trees grow so closely that very little sunlight reaches the forest floor. As a result, there is limited wildlife, understorey and saplings. Some ground cover species include Bunchberry (Chamaepericlymenum canadense), Clover (Trifolium sp.), grass (Poaceae), Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) and Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis). An occasional shrub such as Pin Cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) and Wild Raisin (Viburnum lentago) are also found in this stand. Several other shrub and understorey species were identified during the 1994 inventory, however, as mentioned above, these plants were scarce.

A second growth deciduous stand is located in the southerly part of the property, directly west and northwest of the White Pine (Pinus strobus) stand. This stand has been directly affected by logging. There is an emergence of pioneer tree species such as Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides) followed by secondary species such as White Birch (Betula papyrifera). Within this area Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides), Largetooth Aspen (Populus grandidentata), White Birch (Betula papyrifera), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Red Pine (Pinus resinosa) and White Pine (Pinus strobus) are all found as young trees or saplings. There are also a few very large pine trees left in the area, probably for the use as seed trees to start a new generation. This community possesses the most diverse shrub and understorey growth of the three forest communities present.

A stand of mixed hardwood and softwood species is found north of the second growth stand. The plant species identified in this area suggest a typical Boreal forest. Certain tree species present are Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), White Spruce (Picea glauca), Aspen (Populus sp.), White Pine (Pinus strobus), White Birch (Betula papyrifera), Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis), Red Pine (Pinus resinosa), and Hemlock (Tsuga sp.) with a few Oak (Quercus sp.) and Ash (Fraxinus sp.).

The wetland found at the north end of the property is approximately 30% treed. The species found here are Black Ash (Fraxinus negra), Eastern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis), Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus), Mountain Maple (Acer spicatum), Tamarack (Larix laricina), White Birch (Betula papyrifera) and Willow (Salix sp.). They are spread scarcely through the wetland site with a large grouping found on the northeast side of the stand.

Commercial fishing in the area of Talon Lake is declining, while sport fishing is increasing. The area is an ideal spot for recreational fishing as long as some precautions are taken to ensure the fish population remains healthy. Native fish to Lake Talon include, Walleye, Pike, Smallmouth Bass, Yellow Perch and Lake Trout. The North Bay Fisheries Management Plan, 1987-2000 (MNR, 1989), classified Lake Talon as a B2 lake. This classification represents lakes that have some private shoreline and some environmental constraints to lake trout production. These lakes may be stocked.

Since a wildlife inventory was conducted during the winter months of 1994, there was only limited evidence of the presence of birds and mammals in the conservation area. The methods used to identify several species included tracks, scats, sightings and feeding habits. Much evidence was found for the following animals; Red Squirrel, Porcupine, Red Fox and Ruffed Grouse. Many other species of mammals and birds were also identified. A complete list of these animals is contained in the 1996 Shields-McLaren Conservation Area – Inventory and Background Information report.

The lakes and streams of this area, as with the rest of Canada, follow the drainage course carved out by glacial melt waters some 5,000-10,000 years ago. The drainage pattern in our area of study follows Lake Nosbonsing north to the Kaibuskong River, Blueseal Creek and Sharpes Creek north to Lake Talon. Water also flows east from Trout Lake and into Lake Talon. From Lake Talon water flows east into the Mattawa and Ottawa Rivers.

On June 3, 1994 a wetland evaluation was conducted of the wetlands on the Shields-McLaren Conservation Area. The objective of this study was to assess the type of wetland present and its importance to the area. Field evaluations established that the wetland is palustrine with swamp and marsh characteristics. The evaluation was conducted using the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System, Northern Manual.

The wetland makes up 5% of the total area of the Shields-McLaren property. This individual wetland complex is confined to the inner boundaries of the conservation area, at it’s northern end. The Lake Talon Shields Point Wetland Complex (East) received maximum scores for aesthetics due to absence of human disturbance as well as it’s distinct appeal. The hydrological component of the evaluation also received a relatively high score for a wetland of its small size (3.2 ha). The sub-components flood attenuation, ground water recharge and downstream water quality improvement were responsible for the high score of the hydrological component.

The scores determined for flood attenuation, ground water recharge and downstream water quality improvement demonstrates that this wetland plays an important role in the ecological function of the wetland itself as well as in the downstream ecosystems. Flood attenuation was achieved since the wetland shows the ability to provide a reduction in flood peaks. This wetland’s permeable soils and palustrine conditions allow much ground water recharge (ie aquifers). Considering that there is inflow and outflow from the Lake Talon Shields Point Wetland Complex (East) downstream ecosystems will also be affected by inputs to the above mentioned wetland complex. Nevertheless, wetlands possess filtering abilities that remove chemical elements (eg ammonia) or transform them into less damaging compounds (eg. sediment-bound phosphate to plant-available ortho-phosphate (OMNR, 1993)). As a result less harmful chemical elements are transferred to downstream ecosystems. Consequently, this is advantageous to downstream water quality improvement.

At present the local community uses the conservation area for hiking and cross-country skiing. The existing trails are maintained in such a way as to promote the natural beauty. Trails are marked with flag tape and junctions with wooden arrow signs. Due to the minimum maintenance conducted on the trails, several portions of the trails are overgrown and blocked by fallen trees. As a result certain entrances to the trail network were difficult to find. Nevertheless, it seems that these trails will require very little maintenance once brushed.

This is an interesting hiking area due to the many different vegetation and wildlife species, topographical and geological interests, magnificent views and challenging trails. Overall the Shields-McLaren Conservation Area is an easily accessible, quiet and enjoyable area to visit.

The Shields-McLaren Conservation Area offers a pleasant environment for outdoor recreation activities by the local residents. The primary objective of the NBMCA is not to attract tourists but to provide recreational trails and promote the settlement history of the area for local enjoyment and education. Development of this conservation area will consist of low intensity endeavours such as a picnic area with garbage cans, a parking area and perhaps an interpretive trail. The provision of privies will not be necessary due to the target market. In order to illustrate the magnitude of the available market of people who would be interested in using this conservation area, two marketing projection approaches were used and are presented in the following sections.

Considering the distance of this conservation area from main roads, the accessible market is relatively limited. Visitors to the Shields-McLaren Conservation Area would mainly consist of the local community. This community encompasses the homes and cottages on Shields Point along the Talon Lake and Kaibuskong Bay waterfronts as well as those residences situated along Pine Lake Road, Shields Point Road and McLaren Road. A study conducted in 1981 by the NBMCA demonstrates a favourable local participation in outdoor related activities.

Although nearby provincial parks and cities provide other possible market areas there will be no effort to advertise the Shields-McLaren Conservation Area to tourists or residents of these places. A sign on Highway 17 East would broaden the markets available, however, it has been decided that in order to maintain the NBMCA’s primary objective no such sign will be posted.

Nevertheless, should the NBMCA decide to open the Shields-McLaren Conservation Area to trail tourism, a sign on Highway 17 East and advertising at nearby tourist attractions would permit such an endeavour. Furthermore, several studies show that increasing numbers of Ontarians are participating in trail related activities, thus demonstrating a need for trail systems.

The Shields-McLaren Conservation Area is zoned as Residential Limited Service Zone in Schedule A2 of the Township of Bonfield Zoning By-Law 2000-08. Use of the property is aimed at passive recreational day use activities such as hiking, walking, bird watching and cross-country skiing. Development of facilities for these activities would be within the stipulations specified in the zoning designation for this property, since public parks are permitted under this classification.

Development of this trail network will be minimal since a trail system is already established. Planning will therefore concentrate on the development of parking and picnic areas as well as trail maintenance procedures. A feeder trail linking the picnic area to the trail network via the hydro line is also proposed. This will require some planning since a new trail must be cut and private property off of the hydro line avoided. Thinning of the White Pine (Pinus strobus) plantation is also intended. Local interests will be considered in the final conception of the conservation area. For instance, a meeting with the Shields Point Road Association is expected in order to discuss the recommendations of this report in regards to use of the privately maintained road.

Public safety must always be of prime concern when creating trail systems for recreation. The trails should be well brushed and kept free of fallen logs and potential windfalls. Seasonal maintenance should be considered since the vegetation overgrows rapidly and many old trees are at a danger of falling onto the trails.

The parking area must also be free of hazards. Some undercutting has occurred at the top of the gravel slopes around the proposed parking lot area. This makes windfall of the nearby trees a potential threat. Several of these trees should be cut to eliminate this risk.

The diverse ecology of this conservation area and it’s proximity to historic features offer the opportunity to establish interpretive trails. These trails will consist of the existing trail network and one possible new trail to run from the picnic area to the trail system via the hydro line. No further disturbance will occur within the existing trail network and the new trail will be planned in such a way as to cause the least possible disturbance to the natural setting. The various ecosystems present throughout the property are lovely observation and study pieces for interpretive nature trails. However, the tolerance of wildlife to human activity must be considered.

The slopes of the gravel pit should be taken into consideration in order to rehabilitate the effects that erosion has had on these grades and to prevent against injury and further degradation. Erosion control measures are recommended. The planting of fast-rooting species such as Alternate-leaved Dogwood, Staghorn Sumac and/or Bush Honeysuckle would be an effective and inexpensive method to implement since these species are found within the conservation area. Grading of the slope is also recommended.

Aesthetic analysis is crucial to determining trail location and layout. Parks Canada (1978) has identified certain key factors which describe the aesthetic quality of a park. These factors are:

1) Interpretive Opportunities

2) Scenic Interest

3) Design Detail

The following sections describe the existing aesthetic quality of the Shields-McLaren Conservation Area according to the above factors.

The Shields-McLaren Conservation Area has a diverse landscape which will provide visitors with an enjoyable trail experience. An interpretive program will be established for certain trails. These interpretive trails will enable the public to understand and appreciate the different ecosystems and the history of Shields Point. The program will entail a self-guided tour aided by an interpretive brochure. Guided tours are not expected for this conservation area.

The interpretive trails will mainly highlight natural forms and processes since limited evidence of historic features are present along the trails. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that the first trading post and post office were situated nearby. Furthermore, visitors should be informed of the presence of logging activities in the late 1800′s and 1960′s. Evidence of this is seen on the NBMCA’s property in the form of old, large tree stumps and the White Pine (Pinus strobus) plantation. An interpretive centre could be established within the plantation which would explain the history of logging activities and how it has affected the area.

Natural aspects to focus on will include the various ecosystems, formation of topographical attributes (ie erratics) and cycling of natural processes. Various stages of the cycles of forest fire (ie charred stumps and pioneer species) and soil formation due to moss and lichen invasion of rocks are evident along several trails. The effect of glacial retreat on this area would also be an interesting component.

The density of foliage restricts the possibility of developing a view-scape. Nevertheless, one may overlook the gravel pit to see in the distance the thickly forested mountains across Lake Talon. Moreover, a lovely view of the Lake Talon Shields Point wetland is possible from Boody Road. The wetland’s flowering species are a beautiful sight in the Spring.

This property boasts a variety of ecosystems, thus contributing to the scenic value of the conservation area. Visitors will enjoy hiking in fern-strewn second growth and moss-covered, rocky hardwood and softwood forest trails.

The Shields-McLaren Conservation Area provides a sense of isolation and solitude due to it’s undisturbed natural surroundings and the height of the forest canopy. Visitors will enjoy a truly natural experience exploring the diversity of this landscape.

Prior to determining which existing trails become interpretive or recreational trails, consideration must be given to the physical, aesthetic, environmental and cultural attributes of each trail type. The proper balance of these requirements ensures that the trail system is safe and comfortable for users.
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The intention of the NBMCA is to develop and manage the Shields-McLaren Conservation Area in a manner that causes very little disruption to natural habitats and historical features. The trail floors will consist of the property’s natural terrain of rock, ground cover and underlying organic material. Certain portions of the trail system will require corduroy trails over wet areas. All materials will originate from the surrounding natural environment of the conservation area (i.e. fallen trees).

Visitors will be greeted into the conservation area by a plaque mounted on a large rock at the edge of the White Pine stand. A small picnic area is proposed behind this rock, within the pine stand. Efforts will be made to keep this area in it’s natural state, although thinning should be conducted in order to assure a comfortable setting and allow trees to grow.

The preferred location of the parking area was determined on the basis of ease of access, minimum environmental disturbance and aesthetics. The chosen zone(P1) occupies a portion of the overgrown gravel pit which will cause minimal environmental disturbance. The existing vehicle-wide path off of McLaren Road leads to the gravel parking area.

NATURAL ZONE

The natural zone offers low intensity recreation. Since nature appreciation is the objective of this zone, not much development will be required. Visitors will be able to enjoy this zone by hiking on the trail system developed in this sector of the conservation area. They will encounter several forest communities such as second growth deciduous, mixed hardwood and softwood species and a White Pine stand.

HISTORICAL ZONE

This zone will require similar development as the natural zone. As a matter of fact these zones will occupy the same space. The only difference will be the occasional interpretation of historically significant features unique to this property and surrounding area. Focus will be on the nearby presence of the first trading post as well as on evidence of past logging and agricultural activity within the area.
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The Shields-McLaren Conservation Area has enabled local residents, cottagers and visitors to enjoy hiking and skiing throughout the year. The NBMCA hopes to provide information on the Shields Point area regarding it’s cultural and natural history through a self-guided, interpretive program. The NBMCA’s intentions are to keep the property in it’s natural state with the exception of the existing trails, a parking lot and a picnic area. This is evident by the minimal recommendations outlined in this document. Residents and cottagers have made a similar effort to disturb the natural setting as little as possible by restricting use of the conservation area to the trails. The property seems untouched with the exception of trails and a few remains from past logging activities.

This report is a guideline for management and development considerations in order to ensure preservation of the natural resources and history unique to this site. By planning for the Shields-McLaren Conservation Area with preservation of it’s natural features and history, it will ensure that present and future generations will understand the significance of this area in the area’s economic and natural development.