Reclaiming land one seed at a time

·3 min read

Seed by seed, sapling by sapling, Delaware Nation is returning a 100-acre parcel of farmed flood plain to its original state.

In partnership with the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, the community has been plugging away at the reclamation effort for a decade.

“We refer to this as our home,” says Delaware Chief Denise Stonefish as she surveys a swath of prairie tall grass swaying in the wind. “We’re tied to the land.

“We want to do what we can to preserve what we have.”

Although the entire 3,000-acre reserve is part of the naturalization effort, the section bordering the Thames River, known as the ‘mission farm,’ has been specifically targeted.

It’s the site of the second Moraviantown village, built on the south side of the Thames River after the first was burned to the ground by American soldiers in the Battle of the Thames in 1813.

The area being reclaimed is historically important to Indigenous people.

Delaware’s resident environmentalist Darren Jacobs, says he played and fished along the riverbank bordering the mission farm as a child. He says he was cautioned by his grandmother not to pick up or disturb any bones, as burial sites lined the river’s edge.

Jacobs says he can see the health of the land returning.

“It’s coming,” he says, adding he’s witnessed an uptick in the diversity of birds and insects, reflecting the influence of the re-introducton of native plant species.

Jacobs takes part in the annual Christmas bird count and says rare species, such as the Northern Shrike, have been recorded at Moraviantown.

The area is part of the Canada’s southern Carolinian Zone, a region boasting the greatest biodiversity in the country.

LTVCA Environmental Project Coordinator Greg Van Every, says reclamations efforts at Moraviantown are coming along nicely.

In 2020, he says about $50,000 worth of work was carried out at the reserve, including the excavation of a 5-acres wetland system of ponds.

Ten acres of tall grass prairie was planted along this year, with five acres of soft-needled pines, Van Every says.

Still just holes in the ground, the ponds are expected to fill up over the winter.

Van Every, says work is done piecemeal, as funding grants become available.

“My job is to help develop projects and acquire funding,” he says, adding the Delaware community is a “good advocate” for nature.

A popular walking trail has been created along the Thames but erosion has played havoc with it. However, Van Every says there are plans to revamp the path and loop it through the reclaimed areas.

Most of the 100 acres of the mission farm is still being cash-cropped but Stonefish says future plans will see the elimination of commercial agriculture in the future.

Stonefish says natural areas are important, as plants and trees “keep us safe.

“They (trees) breathe and reproduce.

“They’re alive.”

Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Herald