Friends of Misery Bay park gearing up for busy summer

From left, board members Dave Clark, Megan Bonenfant (trails coordinator) and Peg Balkind stand beside the first new trailmaker post installed. The posts were built by Roundtree Co. of Ice Lake, of all local cedar.

MISERY BAY—Along with the opening of the visitors’ centre at Misery Bay Provincial Park (MBPP) last weekend (on a limited basis at this point due to the pandemic), Friends of Misery Bay (FOMB) is gearing up for a busy summer, with several projects coming up, including FOMB being part of a bio-blitz of the Vidal Bay property, through Ontario Parks and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

“We are honoured to be invited by the NCC, along with the Manitoulin Nature Club to be invited to take part in a bio-blitz of the Vidal Bay property,” stated FOMB chair John Diebolt at the group’s annual general meeting held recently. “It’s going to be fun, Vidal Bay is a really interesting property.”

Megan Bonenfant of the NCC, who is also a member of both FOMB and the Manitoulin Nature Club (MNC) told The Expositor after the meeting, “This bio-blitz event is not a public event, it is really an invitation to the nature club and FOMB. We will be carrying out a preliminary inventory of some of the property, cataloguing plants and animals that are seen. We are still working on fleshing out the details. Ideally, we will hold a public event eventually (post COVID-19).” 

Marcel Beneteau of the MNC said in a release that the (non-public) bio-blitz will be taking place July 9-11. “Plans are coming together for our big bio-blitz event at the Vidal Bay property recently acquired by the NCC. This extensive property (18,000 acres) at the western end of Manitoulin stretches from the north shore down beyond Highway 540 to join up with the Queen Mum Provincial Park, forming a swath of environmentally significant habitat that extends from the North Channel to the Lake Huron shore.”

“As an organization that contributed to the purchase of the Vidal Bay property, the (MNC) is proud to be organizing along with NCC and the Friends of Misery Bay—this first survey of the fauna and flora of this important natural area,” explained Mr. Beneteau. “Not only will this help establish a data base of significant species and habitats that will guide the NCC in developing a plan for future use of the property, but it provides a great opportunity for our members to explore the area and to familiarize themselves with some of the existing trails.”

Ms. Bonenfant informed the FOMB board that all the trail signposts at Misery Bay will be updated, upgraded and installed (beginning this past weekend). “We have 16 trail signs ready to go.” At this time only the signs on the east side of the park will be installed, as the west side trails are not accessible right now to high water levels. They are 4×4 timber posts made of cedar that indicate to trail visitors where they are in the park and what trail they are on.

“The signs are designed to have a map, and help people navigate through the trails,” said Ms. Bonenfant. “We have also put out a call for sponsorship for the posts and sponsors names for the signs.”

Mr. Diebolt told the board the previous wooden trail signposts had been installed by FOMB 10 years ago, organized by Linda Olsen and Michael Ewert. They new posts will cost FOMB about $4,500. The signs were made by Roundtree Company of Ice Lake.

“Our ‘Friends of’ shelter has had to be moved twice,” stated Mr. Diebolt. “It’s now located further inland, in a good safe place. The steps were installed and it is now fully useable. We all want to see what is going to happen with water levels in the future.”

Mr. Diebolt had opened up the annual general meeting. “Thanks for being here another great day on Manitoulin Island. If you have been following our emails and updates we lost a lot of members, many founding members of FOMB members since last year’s annual meeting and others are still having health issues. Our thoughts go out to all who have left us and those facing serious illness as we take a moment of silence.” A moment of silence followed.

Dave Clarke told the Zoom meeting participants, “in the spring, Ontario Parks made several visits to the visitors interpretive centre, and made improvements to the solar power system. All of this will make the power source at the centre more reliable.” 

“Ontario Parks has put a fair amount of money into this,” said Mr. Diebolt.

A discussion was also held concerning staffing at the park’s visitor centre. The centre will be open Monday to Friday in July and August from 10 am to 5 pm, and staffed by summer students. On weekends the centre is staffed by volunteers from 11 am to 4 pm. With Ontario Parks COVID-19 rules in place, MBPP will not be selling items from the centre at this time, but water will be available. Anyone interested in volunteering at the centre can contact Ken Mackenzie via the email that is listed on the FOMB website. 

“We are hoping to be able to provide guided hikes of the trails later this summer,” said Mr. Diebolt. He told The Expositor that from Thursday through Saturday there were 100 visitors each day. “It’s extremely busy.”

FOMB approved the minutes of the 2020 annual general meeting, and took nominations for the board. The board will include Dagmar Werkmeister, John Diebolt, Dave Clark, Peg Balkind, Megan Bonenfant, Jane Hohenadel, Ken Mackenzie and Jan McQuay.

“Regrettably, Colin Frame, our secretary-treasurer for the last five years, is leaving, as is Marcel Beneteau after six years. Marcel will stay in his role of putting together the FOMB newsletter,” said Mr. Diebolt.

As for the Sifferd cottage project Mr. Diebolt explained, “we are still waiting for a final date on completion and renovation upgrades. The interior is done, with pine shelving. They are doing tremendous work. It will be a great addition to Misery Bay Provincial Park and Ontario Parks when the project is complete.”