Appropriately enough, those following the path marked Pine Tree Trail inside the Kildare Forest Natural Area will be led to a massive pine tree.
It takes about three people to make a ring around the tree’s trunk as its branches extend high above.
“It’s actually gigantic... It’s huge. It’s worth seeing,” said Brendan Kelly, a member of the Island Nature Trust. “It’s at least a couple hundred years old. It’s a significant tree. Besides that tree, there’s other huge pines in there. It’s a really nice property here.”
The 103 acre Kildare Forest Natural Area on the Sou’West Road in Huntley was donated to the Island Nature Trust for protection by PEI resident Therese D’Amour upon her passing. The donation came with certain conditions, including the forest being left in its natural state, but maintained so people can enjoy the land.
Right now, West Prince residents John and Leona Lane have taken a conservation guardianship of the property. And with two watershed areas located within the forest, the Cascumpec Bay Watershed Association, which Mr Lane is the coordinator of, have taken on the property as one of the group’s projects and will help to maintain the land.
On May 17, the Lanes, along with Island Nature Trust members, were busy clearing out winter damage on the property. Chainsaws could be heard echoing throughout the forest as trees already partially toppled by heavy winds were cut down to the ground to help them rot properly. To avoid disturbing nesting forest birds, the work was done in early spring.
Work to widen, clear and mark an overgrown existing walking trail system created by Ms D’Amour has been underway for the past two years.
There has been an effort to try and keep the trails the way Ms D’Amour had them before she passed as much as possible, said Mr Lane.
The most recent work on the property was carried out last week, on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Tuesday and Thursday, students from Westisle Composite High School were out to the property to lend a hand in clearing away brush and more.
“We’ve been teaching them about the animals they were seeing and the birds and the history of the place and the woman who donated the property,” said Mr Kelly.
An artist and adventurer, Ms D’Amour passed in 2013 at the age of 92. A lover of people, animals and nature, when Ms D’Amour moved to PEI she turned her energies to the stewardship of her forested land in Kildare, building trails with her husband and nurturing the property as a wildlife reserve. In 1991, Ms D’Amour formally protected her land under the PEI Natural Areas Protection Act. Even with that legislative protection, Ms D’Amour left the Kildare Forest Natural Area to Island Nature Trust in her will as she worried with what might happen to the land upon her passing.
The forest has three loops, each of various lengths. The first half of the forest is an overgrown farmer’s field, making the land flatter than the rest of the property. The terrain becomes uneven the further one travels into the property as they enter a mixed forest of cinder, white pine, birch trees, wetlands and different plant species.
“We kind of try to stay with the same routes that she (Ms D’Amour) had and she had some of the trails named and we kept the same names,” said Mr Kelly.
Trail signage has been put up and future plans include installing a map at the entrance of the forest and possibly building boardwalks or bridges over some wetlands to make it easier for trail users.
Mr Kelly said Ms D’Amour donation to the Island Nature Trust is a huge deal to the group.
“It’s a big thing for Island Nature Trust to have people to leave their land for us after they pass... It allows their legacy to live on after them,” he said.