Wildlife Reserve dedicated in honour of tireless advocate

·4 min read

For nearly three decades, Aurora resident David Tomlinson has been a tireless advocate for the creation of a local wildlife park that will serve as an example to the nation.

Now, as work to make Phase 1 wildlife park in northeast Aurora moves into the home stretch this November, the large swath of land stretching from the Stronach Aurora Recreation Complex (SARC) on Wellington Street in the South to St. John’s Sideroad in the north, will now bear his name.

On Friday afternoon, Mayor Tom Mrakas and members of Council joined Mr. Tomlinson and his wife Dierdre at the SARC for the dedication of the David Tomlinson Nature Reserve.

“In 2020, Aurora Town Council decided to name the Wildlife Park as the David Tomlinson Nature Reserve after Mr. Tomlinson, a local resident, landscape architect and environmentalist, who has ben studying wildlife in Aurora since the early 80s,” said the Town in a statement. “The Wildlife Park is based on a proposal developed by Mr. Tomlinson, who was instrumental in the success of the Wildlife Park being designated as a Provincially Significant Wetland.”

Speaking to The Auroran just before the dedication, Mr. Tomlinson said he was a reluctant honouree but honoured just the same.

“I always tried to resist it being named after me,” said Mr. Tomlinson who has always referred to the land in question as the Ivy Jay Nature Reserve, noting the name given to the area by former landowner Jim Spring, who originally turned the wetlands and surrounding areas over to Ducks Unlimited. “I have mixed feelings about it, but I am very pleased they have done it. Dierdre is very pleased about it, my family is pleased about it, and my family in England is, too. They know I have been working on it for years.”

Mr. Tomlinson has been a passionate and long-time advocate for the environment.

As a landscape architect in the United Kingdom, he worked his way up the ladder and, after moving to Canada with his family in the late 1970s, that passion was only amplified.

Here, he was a key player in the establishment of the Aurora Community Arboretum and Nature Aurora, and, closer to home, in the creation of Merlin’s Hollow, the renowned garden he created with his wife Dierdre in their Centre Crescent backyard which has welcomed visitors for nearly 40 years.

In more recent years, however, the development of what is now the David Tomlinson Nature Reserve has been his primary passion.

“I have not been around the Nature Reserve in about nine months since the COVID virus started, but I went around a couple of days ago and they are making a really good job with it,” said Mr. Tomlinson. “The northern part is coming along well, the trails are located well, all the natural areas are protected from human activity. It is a very protected wetland and you get a really good view when you go into the blinds. The platforms are in, the blinds haven’t been properly built yet, but from there you get a really good view of the ponds; from the blinds, if they are done properly, it will be the first view of the ponds you get when you walk in the trails. The way I have intended the blinds, the birds can’t see you and you can’t see the birds until you get to the blind. They don’t know anyone is looking at them and they are just completely undisturbed, which is how it should be.”

Over the last few years, particularly in the last few months, there has been every sign the Nature Reserve has been working as its new namesake has intended. Now-rare birds, once common sights in Aurora, are now regular nesters in the area, and other forms of wildlife are also flourishing.

“I am very pleased with the way it is coming along,” said Mr. Tomlinson. “In the end, I think it is going to become a national example of how you create a nature reserve in an urban area and I think it is really going to set the standard.

“We know already there are rare scarce birds nesting on it this year. If it works well and the public keeps to the trails and not try to walk all over the place, I think it will end up being an eco-tourist thing. It is not just people from Aurora who will travel to see it, it is people from our Town, once it gets known. I think it is going to be an eco-tourist destination, which is my view, you never know what is going to be on the ponds or in the woods. Birds will change from season to season.”

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran