Volunteers help restore Conway Sandhills to the way nature made themPublished August 26, 2013
The Journal Pioneer
MILLIGAN’S WHARF -- Diane Griffin admits she’s been captivated by the Conway Sandhills since her days as a university student. Even then, she said, she made visits to the sandhills to help conserve the property.
She would later work for the Nature Conservancy of Canada in helping to obtain sections of the sandhills for conservation.
The NCC now has the ownership of nearly one-half of the shifting sand dunes that form a protective barrier for Prince Edward’s Island’s north shore from Cascumpec Bay to Malpeque Bay.
Although she is no longer an employee of the NCC, Griffin, like 27 other interested people, showed up Monday for an NCC-organized cleanup of a section of the protected sand dunes.
“This is special,” said Griffin. “Prince Edward Island doesn’t have wilderness anymore. This is wilderness.” She was helping fellow volunteers restore it to its wilderness state by removing what was left of an abandoned and fallen down shack.
The shack had likely been used as a temporary shelter for duck and goose hunters suggested fellow volunteer Kelvin Morrison. Among the debris were the rusted metal frames of a couple of single cots.
This particular shack was located in a low spot, likely for shelter.
The NCC was hoping for 20 volunteers and was pleased to have more, because they had four such shacks to remove. Asphalt shingles and other debris harmful to the environment were bagged up and hauled back to the Prince Edward Island mainland. The wood was piled on the beach and burned.
Among the volunteers who signed up for the cleanup were Diana and Peter Carver of Summerside. It was how they chose to celebrate their seventh wedding anniversary. Diana had been involved in a similar cleanup on Governor’s Island last year. Although she had seen that Island all her life, the 2012 cleanup was her first opportunity to visit the place.
She shared the same excitement about visiting the sandhills for the first time.
“It’s more like the history of it. And you get to see P.E.I. from a different perspective, because we are all inland now,” Carver commented.
“I think it’s just a new perspective,” Carver said, adding that she wanted to help the NCC turn the property into a sanctuary.
Roland Millar, who was at Milligan’s Wharf to see the volunteers off Monday morning, reminisced about having spent several springs over on the sandhills. He had hauled a house there in 1946 and lived in it each spring during lobster fishing. “I just hauled it over. I didn’t ask for permission or anything,” he said. A team of horses brought the house there over the ice. His wife also lived on the sandhills for one spring while working at a lobster cannery there.
After Milligan’s Wharf was built, around 1960, most of the houses and shacks that had been on the sandhills were hauled back home. Several of them are located at Milligan’s wharf. Millar has his old house at his home place and still uses it as an outbuilding.
Guy Lewis still has a shack on the sandhills. It is outside the protected area. He dropped by Monday morning just to make sure the working bee wasn’t going near his structure. It wasn’t.
Lewis said the structure has been in the Lewis family for about 40 years and is used for camping and shelter during hunting season. “They don’t realize, if someone gets stranded over there and there’s no shacks what’s going to happen,” he said, but was satisfied the ones being removed from the NCC property had deteriorated to the point that they wouldn’t provide shelter anyway.
Until recent years Millar used to visit the sandhills every summer. “It’s a nice peaceful place to spend an evening. I just enjoyed being over there,” he said.
Millar said the sandhills look very much the same as they did in the 1940s. “It’s shifting sand. It changes a little bit,” he stressed.
Indeed, the plotter on the boat used to ferry volunteers to the sandhills suggested the boat was right on the sand dunes when it was actually safely between the red and green channel markers.
The NCC still permits people to visit the property said Brittany Clifford, the coordinator of Monday’s cleanup. People are allowed to go there for picnics and walks on the beaches but she asked that they leave the property in the condition they find it and that they not disturb rare plants and animals.
Griffin added her own advice: “Make sure the area is as tidy as you found it, or maybe even pick up any garbage that washed in.”
Below images cf. article - by Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer
Barb Trainor, left, and Diane Griffin display some of the debris they helped gather up from an abandoned shack on the Conway Sandhills. Groups of volunteers cleared away the remnants of four shacks Monday from a portion of the sandhills now protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer