Yvette Bree, natural heritage education co-ordinator at Sandbanks Provincial Park has received this year’s Ontario Parks Ecological Integrity Award honouring years of dedicated, passionate service.
The award honours an individual who preserves or restores physical elements or biodiversity within their park and inspires ecological integrity in others.
“I’m really pleased to have worked with so many dedicated and talented staff over the years, who deserve the credit for this award as much as I do,” said Bree.
Supported by park staff and management, Bree has helped instill the concept that Sandbanks Park is much more than “just a beach,” said John Brebner, Friends of the Sandbanks media relations spokesperson.
“So many people just think of Sandbanks as “the beach,” but there is so much more to the park,” said Bree. “Balancing environmental needs with recreational desires is an almost impossible task. The park’s rare, beautiful and fragile landscapes are the primary reason it is one of the busiest parks in Ontario, and exactly why Ecological Integrity is so important here.”
For 30 years Yvette has taught her team and visitors, through lectures, theatre and trail walks, the importance of resource management.
“Anyone who has taken a nature walk with Yvette has always come away with a better understanding of the unique ecology of this Park, and discovered something new about this unique area.”
Brebner called Sandbanks a challenging dune ecosystem with a high recreational use over a geographically diverse park area. Much of that land between the original Sandbanks Beach and the Outlet Beach had been cultivated continuously by pioneer settlers from the early 19th century until recently.
“Yvette is known throughout the park system as being deeply concerned about invasive plants, reinventing farmland through reforestation and educating visitors to ecological challenges within Sandbanks and the Ontario Park system,” said Brebner.
Many thousands of additional trees will be planted in Sandbanks Park this year, adding to a staggering total of 100,000 trees so far.
Brebner said the opening of the newest campground near West Lake this summer will encourage even more visitors to vacation at the park.
“And with over half-a-million visitors during the season, preserving ecologically sensitive areas within the Sandbanks Park is a challenge both to Yvette and park management. But the area’s unique geological character, which contributes to its popularity, its many visitors “loving the park”, as well as long-term climate change, are proving deleterious to some of its native species.”
He said visitors need to be encouraged to stay on the trails and to respect native vegetation, especially in the more fragile dune areas of the park.
“Observing fencing and Marram grass plantings, designed to reduce erosion, and restraining the shifting sands is essential to preserving this wonderful park for both residents’ and visitors’ children and grandchildren for the next century.”
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