Carden Alvar now a provincial park
Carden Nature Festival participants are pictured at the Carden Alvar in this file photo. The province has announced the creation of Carden Alvar Provincial Park. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
After nearly decade on the wait list, a rare grassland ecosystem in Ramara Township has been formally protected as a provincial park.
The Ministry of Natural Resources announced Wednesday five nature areas would be added to the Ontario Parks docket — including Carden Alvar, near Lake Dalrymple.
For about the same amount of time Carden Alvar has been on the provincial parks wait list, the Couchiching Conservancy has been acting as its steward.
Mark Bisset, executive director of the conservancy, said the ministry’s announcement is “an indication of just how important the area is.”
Carden Alvar gets its name from the shallow soil and exposed patches of limestone along the plain.
It’s a phenomenon that only occurs in North America around the Great Lakes and in the Baltics in Europe, Bisset said.
“It has this really unique ecosystem,” Bisset said, noting there is rare vegetation as a result of the geological composition. “It only exists in a very few places on the entire planet.”
Carden Alvar is made up mainly of two properties: the Cameron and Windmill ranches.
The province purchased the properties — which, combined, are about 7,500 acres — following a charge by the Nature Conservancy of Canada to conserve them.
As the steward of Carden Alvar, the Couchiching Conservancy has not only maintained it, but has overseen the addition of hiking trails and birdwatching lookouts so people can enjoy it.
Carden Alvar is a hidden gem, Bisset said. There are still many area residents unaware of its existence.
Bisset hopes the recognition as a provincial park draws more attention to it.
“Hopefully, it will raise its profile in the community,” he said.
Other than new provincial signage, not much will change at Carden Alvar for visitors, Bisset said: “The prime function of the park is to protect the habitat.”
Camping still won’t be permitted and there won’t be additional visitor facilities on the grounds, such as washrooms.
The four other new nature parks announced by the ministry are Cedar Creek, near Essex, Clear Creek Forest, near Chatham, Strawberry Island, near Manitoulin Island, and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother Mnidoo Mnising on Manitoulin Island. Three existing parks — Misery Bay, Stoco Fen and Charleston Lake — are being expanded.