Birders know all about Skunk’s Misery forest. They come from around the world to quietly see some of the rarest birds in the Country. Many of the rare warblers depend on large (200 acres) undisturbed forests. Cerulean, Prothonotary and Hooded Warblers can be seen mating in the forests surrounding Skunks Misery. Many more rare species of plants and animals are also found in these forests. And the birders are not the only ones to recognize this.
The NCC (Nature Conservancy Canada) has identified Skunk’s Misery as one of the crucial areas of concern as so little of it is protected. In the heart of farmland country, the area has been a rich source of cropland. The land was cleared for crops and produces corn, wheat, beans and onions to this day. It has been the private land owners and farmers who have been protecting these tracts of forests with little or no compensation from the provincial or federal governments. With a conservation incentive plan (not a property tax reduction) for marginal farm lands, forest, wetlands and key corridors to the Thames River, conservation agreements with groups like the NCC or the Thames Talbot Land Trust (www.ttlt.ca) the lands could be protected in perpetuity.
With some marketing support from these organizations and the county of Middlesex, Wardsville could capitalize on the birder revenue and attract more nature lovers to the area. The town needs to move away from the automotive based income which once fueled its growth and move towards its natural assets like the private and County owned forests.
Businesses offering food and accomodation would be a natural fit as more people recognize the site. Last year, for the first time, birders spent more money in travel and gear than hunters. A trend which is expected to grow. Bed and breakfast accomodation would be the first to benefit with restaurants to follow. A new economy awaits Wardsville with babyboomers retiring to beautiful, quiet, and cost effective communites like Wardsville.
The shift is slowly happening, with the new water system installed, the town can focus on these new opportunities. But to get it started some investment from the county, the province and most importantly from volunteers needs to be coordinated into a strategic plan. With a plan in place, it would demonstrate to potential investors, small businesses and government bodies that the town is serious. Conservation groups have already begun this process, recognizing the value of the natural assets the community has. In time these assets can be leveraged by the County and funds could be accessible for more promotion of the area. But at the same time, the commercial side of the town needs to be supported and new ways of promoting the town’s assets to the huge demographic of retiring baby boomers need to be developed.
Volunteers need to form a group and canvas the county levels of government to form a partnership which can build an economic plan. This will take time and commitment. Time we have, but commitment has been hard to come by except for a few good natured souls who seem to be the usual faces when a call for help goes out to the community for their involvement. We need people who love this community to spare a little of their busy lives. As someone who has only lived here for four years, my family and I have made this community home. I hope others will join us in making a significant and positive change to Wardsville and its citizens.