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Enjoying the wonders of the great outdoors

For preservation and for future generations it is really important that we instill in younger people the importance of natural resources, hunting, and fishing

The Laurier Woods Conservation Area was the setting for the 7th Annual Louise de Kiriline Lawrence Nature Festival Saturday.

President of the Friends of Laurier Woods, Fred Pinto, explained that some people may recognize the festival’s namesake due to her tie with the Dionne Quintuplets, but on this day, she is remembered for her love and appreciation of nature.

“She was a nurse that looked after them (Quintuplets) for the first year of their life. But she was also a well-known naturalist. She observed birds for example and wrote a number of papers on that, she wrote about five books on nature. So we thought we would help to still recognize her contributions to nature in the local area. So we named the festival after her. She passed away a number of years ago now,” explained Pinto.

The President of the Friends of Laurier Woods went on to say the intent of the festival is to get people to become better aware of local nature.

“We should know how nature functions so we can make better decisions in what we do,” Pinto stated.

With that in mind, the festival offered guided educational hikes where people learned about dragonflies, butterflies, birds, aquatic insects, and plants including wildflowers and berries.  

The North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority and the Nipissing Naturalists Club helped host the event.

Paula Loranger, Community Relations Coordinator with the Conservation Authority says the festival is a good way to introduce people to the Laurier Woods Conservation area.

“It is about getting people out on the different guided hikes and getting to know about different things such as wild edibles. And we’re doing a little pollinator bee hotel for people so they can bring it home and it teaches kids about solitary bees. Most people think of bees as living in hives and in big groups but there are some bees that like to live alone so they will live in little areas, in twigs. So they will bring in some mud and pack it all in and they’ll lay their eggs in there, and they live all alone so there’s no queen and there’s no workers it is just a solitary bee,” Loranger explained.

“They are found in Laurier Woods. We do have a bee hotel here. There has been a little bit of use in it, maybe not as much as we were hoping but they are here in Laurier Woods.”

Booths were set up to educate visitors, with activities and nature crafts for youth, and nature books and paintings available for the older crowd.

Two-year-old Livya and four-year-old Freya Bouchard enjoyed the activities.

Mom Kristin Bouchard says they are an outdoor-loving family, and finds it important that the girls learn more about nature.  

“Just being more in tune with nature and what kinds of things they can take from the land and learning more about conservation and what animals are around here and maybe what types of trees and plants there are in the area.”

The festival is also recognized for its guest speakers who in the past have focused on subjects such as insects, and birds.

This year, Canine Conservation Officer Megan Veniot, with the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, introduced her nine-year-old dog Colten to Festival goers.

Venoit described the work done by the Canine Unit and Conservation Officers, touching on their training and what they do on a daily basis, with a demonstration by Colten showing how he detects concealed items.

“He finds concealed fish and wildlife species and he is also used for investigation purposes. And with my job as a Conservation Officer, I do hunting and fishing enforcement,” explained Venoit.

The black lab will soon be retiring, but Colten will continue to actively work this fall.

“We also do search and rescue as well. We work with OPP for that, so he is trained to find lost people.”

The Ministry currently has six canine handlers in the province.

“We have one in Fort Francis, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins which is where I’m based out of, Guelph and Bancroft.”

Venoit says it is important to educate people, especially the youth about the work she does.

“I think just for preservation and for future generations, it is really important that we instill in younger people the importance of natural resources, hunting and fishing just so their grandkids and their great grandkids have the same opportunity for hunting and fishing that I had growing up. It is really good for that preservation.”     

The Friends of Laurier Woods is doing its part to preserve and maintain the 101-hectare conservation area located in the heart of North Bay.

Maintaining the 10+ kilometre trail network is a priority.

A Boardwalk Replacement Project fundraising campaign is currently underway.

The project received a significant financial boost at the festival.

“We did have a cheque that was given to us by the Caisse Populaire for $20-thousand today,” said Pinto.

“We have a number of activities to take place in Laurier Woods. We want to raise $30,000 for the boardwalk replacement. We didn’t think we could raise all that money but we seem to be getting a lot of support from the public. So it is going very well.  During COVID we applied for funding from a number of sources. We haven’t had any success yet, but we have one more still in play. This is funded by ordinary people, the labour as well as the funds.”

At the tender age of six, one North Bay boy has already developed an appreciation of nature and is doing what he can to help raise money for the boardwalk initiative.  

“I am collecting bottles and cans,” said Peter Briggs, who has already raised $500, and vows to keep going, raising “how much I can.”

His grandfather explains where donations are being accepted.

“On The Friends of Laurier Woods there is a post I put up where people can contact me through messaging,” said Bill Silver.   

The Laurier Woods website also have a direct donation option to help meet their goal sooner.