Maintaining our
wooded heritage for
future generations.
      N 43° 21.598'
      W 81° 17.683'
      Elev. 1064 ft.
 
Seniors Exercise Group Introduced to the Sawyer Woodlot
July 22, 2016

Does this not look like an obviously happy group visiting the Sawyer Preservation Woodlot? For some, it was their first exposure to this local natural environment where exercise is an invigorating and enjoyable experience. Many did not know where it was or that it even existed — and that it actually was not distant from where they lived.

As part of their tour, the visitors learned of the woodlot's purpose, history and organization along with operational and management strategies and challenges. Not to be excluded were the sights, sounds and smells of the vibrant wooded environment on a summer's day. With membership being open, the visitors were encouraged to join the association's ranks and participate at whatever level fit their lifestyle.

The weather was ideal with the trails being in excellent condition. The bug annoyances were minimal with only a few mosquitos obtaining a snack. Unfortunately the youngest blood was the most tasty.

Photo of visiting seniors exercise group
Left to right: Aileen Burgin, Marilyn Thompson, Joyce Switzer-Doupe, Sharon Lynn, George Burgin, Clare Brandt, Barrie Temple, Mary Brandt and Harold Burgin. Absent from photo: Exercise instructor Karen Brinke & her 4 children. Photo credit: Janice Burgin-Wright




Keeping The Woodlot Safe
March 18, 2015

tree hazard Safety in our woodlot is the highest priority in the SPWA mandate. Constantly we are on the lookout for situations that might place our visitors at risk. During a recent inventory conducted by the Upper Thames Valley Conservation Authority, one such hazard was identified — a large damaged branch high in a maple tree — dangling above the Upland trail. Located nearly 40 feet above the ground, it was beyond range of an easy removal.

This was an urgent situation. Although we do not have accurate numbers on visitors to the woodlot, winter does provide some clues when you study the snow. Recent observations noted that the trails — particularly the Upland Trail — had a hard-packed surface indicating that there has been considerable foot traffic. The bottom line ... this hazard had to be removed — immediately.

On Friday, March 13, Joel Hackett -- Certified Arborist of Joel’s Tree Service, did what needed to be done. It was not an easy task. The height of the offending branch meant that it could not be reached by ladder. A bucket truck could not get to the location. To climb the tree using spurs was not desirable since spur damage leaves the tree vulnerable to disease, as well as bleeding in this spring sap season. The tree otherwise was in in excellent shape — too high in quality to cut down. The solution was to climb the tree using ropes in a manner used by mountain climbers, spelunkers, and in high-angle rescue situations. Our thanks to Gregg Blackler who supervised the procedure, and also documented it in photos.

1. Getting Started
The thin rope has just been thrown to catch a sturdy branch. (Gregg didn't say how many attempts were required.) Then a strong climbing rope was attached to its end, pulled through, and tied to Joel's climbing harness.
2. Elevator Up
Joel is moving up in the world. Reports are that he was huffing & puffing when he got to the top. Perhaps a bit out of shape after the long winter?

3. Making The First Cut
You can see why none of the SPWA membership volunteered for the task. When Joel was ready to start cutting, he had a lanyard (short rope to help keep him in place), and a small chain saw delivered up to him by rope and pulley.

4. A Little Higher
Into position for the next cut. Wow! What a view from here.

5. The Final Cut
Don't you wish that you could do this on Friday the 13th?
6. Mission Accomplished
The job is complete and Joel's feet are back on the ground. The hazard has been mitigated and the Upland trail is once again safe for all.



End-Of-Job Note:
On the ground, the removed branch weighed about 200 pounds with a diameter of about 9-10" at the saw-cut. That would have been a nasty surprise for some unsuspecting hiker travelling the trail below.

Your Board of Directors continually monitors the woodlot to not only deal with undesirable issues, but also to take in what Mother Nature does best. Our hope is that we can work with her to nurture a healthy environment to the benefit of both humans and nature alike. The Sawyer Woodlot awaits you.



Spring Update 2014

The winter of 2013/14 definitely was one to remember. Snowfall was significant, but not record-setting. Temperatures were cold, but again not in record-breaking mode, although flirting with the idea. It was the winter that started early, stayed cold, and simply wouldn't give up. There was no respite. Most will remember it as a very difficult winter.

The woodlot saw a beneficial (but not over-whelming) layer of snow that resulted in minimal frost penetration. There were long stretches of very cold temperatures that will have stressed some woodlot entities. Just one of Mother Nature's control mechanisms. No destructive winter/spring storms to cause problems, as was the case last year. Spring came slowly and thus no rapid snow melt — lots of moisture entering the soil — good news for woodlot well-being.

Log pileWe are now about 3 years into our Emerald Ash Borer disaster. During the late winter, stage 2 of the Ash tree removal program extracted approximately 200 marketable logs. What was surprising was the high percentage of removed trees that showed the beginnings of deterioration at the core — indicating that they were mature and were starting to decline even without the ash borer situation. There is still a measurable number of ash trees remaining in the woodlot, but many are showing signs of borer attack. Most will succumb within a couple of years.

Tree PlantersWith the current logging operations complete, steps are being taken to address the physical evidence of the logging effort and replace some of the lost trees. On Monday, April 21, a work crew including Harold Burgin, Roger Cook, Rebecca & Greg Dougall, Grant Ladell & Floyd Selves began the process by planting 36 trees — Tamarack, Hemlock and White Pine. They were good healthy specimens averaging 24"-30" in height — giving them a good start and excellent survival odds. Trail maintenance and brush mitigation efforts also were part of the day. It was a successful beginning, but more work is needed. Hopefully a couple of work bees in the coming weeks can achieve our goals.

Maple stem piecePerhaps one event worthy of note pertains to the large sugar maple tree that died in 2002. In the past year, a large section of its top main section (about 25' long & 16" to 20" diameter) broke off and is now laying on the ground just south-east of the main trunk. Although a couple of chunks broke off upon impact, the majority of the section did survive the 50' fall intact. This is the tree in Otis' "Tree Hugger" photo, and also in the July 16, 2003 Mitchell Advocate article. It is also the tree that we have been documenting since 2002 in our gallery section where you can watch its return to the earth. See Decline of Maple Tree Yes, time marches on.


Ice Storm of April 12, 2013
April 14, 2013

The winter of 2012/13 treated the woodlot well ... generous snowfall, conservative winds ... gradual end-of-season warmup. An inspection visit on April 11 verified the opinion that it had been a good winter. Then the spring storm the following day.

Heavy soaking rain; lack of frost in the ground; thick layer of ice coating branches; strong easterly winds sweeping across adjacent agricultural land — a recipe for disaster. As you can see from photos, branches came down, trees snapped off, and about 12-15 trees uprooted (wind throws). The assessment of total damages is ongoing.

Downed from April 12 stormBlack Walnut on April 13/13

As disappointing as it is to see, this is Mother Nature's way of management — pruning, providing fresh opportunities for plant & animal species; and promoting a stronger and healthier environment. It is up to us to understand and accept nature's logic and work with it.

As coincidence would have it, we have before & after photos, taken April 11 & April 13, of a black walnut tree casualty . It was a very valuable specimen and we should be able to salvage one or 2 logs from it.

Black Walnut on April 11/13Black Walnut on April 13/13

Cleanup is going to take some time. Currently it is very wet under foot, so work crews will have to wait until conditions dry somewhat, in order to prevent damage to trails and tender root structures. Visitors are being asked to defer their attendance until the end of the month in order for hazards to be removed and trails are cleared and the ground firms up. Yes, it is spring. The new season is upon us in spite of winter's dying gasps.

Update April 18, 2013

Conditions have dried up significantly allowing cleanup work to get under way. Yesterday saw a crew salvage some logs and restored the tipped out root balls. This is the first step — many hours of additional work remain.

Black Walnut on April 17/13Downed log removal on April 13/13

Black Walnut on April 17/13Downed log removal on April 13/13

April 12, 2013 Ice Storm -- in closing...

Black Cherry wind throwThis spring storm generated a considerable impact on the woodlot. Most of the damage has been addressed with the woodlot now back to normal operation.

This photo, taken April 26th, shows some of the evidence but also the progress of the new growing season. It is of a Black Cherry tree stump storm casualty with a new crop of leeks taking advantage of their "elevated status" in the woodlot.








Geocachers Discover the Sawyer Woodlot
November 13, 2011

Geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences online. Geocaches are currently placed in over 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents, including Antarctica. After 10 years of activity there are over 1,532,000 active geocaches published on various websites. There are over 5 million geocachers worldwide. In the past 30 days, more than 5.7 million geocache reports have been posted.

Geocaching members may be locals, but frequently are from a distance. Initially, a player will obtain information regarding hidden caches from a website - that includes gps co-ordinates and a general description of the location and the cache type. For most participants, the search for the cache is mainly to follow the clues and become modern day explorers. The cache itself, is just the bait. Their big reward is what they experience along the way.

This summer, with the permission of the Board of Directors, 3 geocaches were placed in the woodlot. Since that time, there have been more than a dozen geocachers in the woodlot. The following are some of their comments:

  • A great woodlot.
  • What a wonderful wood lot. This is what I like about geocaching. You find out about some wonderful spots.
  • Nice wooded lot with some nice trails, didn't know that it was here.
  • . . . very informing with all the description of the different vegetation and trees.
  • Trails are easy to get through.
  • . . . enjoying the area, reading the signs as we hiked along. A great spot!
  • An interesting hike in these woods, will be back when there is less bug activity.
  • Some really great trails here.
  • A very educational and fun series! We love seeing the little birdhouses scattered along the trail ... obviously a youth group project, or maybe a school class. One that we checked even has the remains of a nest in it!
  • What a wonderful wood lot.
  • What an amazing place... it's obvious a large amount of work goes into maintaining this woodlot. A nice hike on the trails this morning with the fall colours.
  • What a great woodlot! We were amazed at the amount of work put into the trails and signs. A wonderful resource for folks in the area!
  • Cool spot and full of information.
  • . . . another nice area to go for a walk
  • What a great spot! Had no idea this was here. We really enjoyed the hike.
  • . . . a great location, will be back
  • Very nice location; I'll definitely be back with my entire family

For those wishing to know more about Geocaching, visit the official website: http://www.geocaching.com. Also, take a look at Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia for a comprehensive description of the game.



Spring Work Bee
Saturday April 30, 2011

Tree felling

A bright warm spring day greeted 13 dedicated members & friends as they tended to various tasks to ready the woodlot for the coming season.

Along the stream area, a walking bridge was installed allowing pedestrian traffic to enter the woodlot from the road. A trail link was established to connect the bridge with the existing trails within the woodlot. Visitors can now comfortably hike along the raised border of the stream even in wet conditions and view a segment of the woodlot that has been difficult to access in the past.

Some invasive species issues were addressed with the removal of sections of Garlic Mustard and Buckthorn. These woodlot concerns will require continued attention the future.

The bulk of the day's efforts were focussed on the standing dead Hickory trees resulting from the Hickory Bark Beetle invasion. Approximately 50-60 Bitternut Hickory casualties were felled — many towering 40 - 60 ft. This was a priority of the day as many posed a safety risk due to their proximity to the trails. Some of the wood was collected for firewood for the outdoor stove in the woodlot. Much of the remainder will be salvaged as firewood for local use.

Lunch break

As a mid-day break, all enjoyed a hardy lunch featuring sloppy joes.

It was a highly successful day with much being achieved. Most importantly, it was a safe day for all, in spite of the high risks associated with many of the tasks.

Our thanks to all who contributed. The Sawyer Preservation Woodlot is now a safer and more inviting place for all. Maintenance is an ongoing and never-ending task. The next work bee is being planned for the fall.



Sawyer Preservation Woodlot Celebrates 20th Anniversary
Woodlot located at Fullarton, Usborne boundary foresight of Otis Sawyer

Legacy Stone

On Sunday, September 27, 2009, the SPWA and guests celebrated 20 years of stewardship of the property known as The Sawyer Preservation Woodlot. The focus of the day was the unveiling of the Legacy Stone — a monument and plaque honouring Otis & Gladys (Selves) Sawyer for their dedication in fostering woodlots for future generations.

The guest speaker was Dean Rob Gordon, of the Ontario Agriculture College of the University of Guelph, who opened eyes by outlining the impact that trees & woodlots have on our environment. To view his notes as handed out at the presentation, click here.

See below for the Mitchell Advocate newspaper article on the event.



Sawyer Preservation Woodlot Celebrates 20th Anniversary
Woodlot located at Fullarton, Usborne boundary foresight of Otis Sawyer

Posted By Hilary Long
Wednesday September 30, 2009

Mitchell Advocate — In 1989, the late Otis Sawyer severed a 28.61-acre wooded parcel from his 150-acre family farm.

Today, 20 years later, the Sawyer Preservation Woodlot stands as a testament to Sawyer"s lifelong love of trees and nature.

On Sept. 27, a small ceremony was held to dedicate a stone monument to Otis and his wife Gladys Sawyer, in honour of the 20th anniversary of the Sawyer Preservation Woodlot.

And while it is clear Sawyer has had a great impact on the local community and the family and friends that continue to maintain and enjoy the woodlot, Sawyer may not have known just how great an ecological impact the Sawyer Preservation Woodlot has.

Dean Rob Gordon, of the Ontario Agriculture College of the University of Guelph, was at the ceremony to speak to association members and anyone else gathered about the importance of woodlots.

"Trees are the longest living organisms on earth and one of our greatest natural resources. They keep our air clean, improve our water quality, enhance bio-diversity, help prevent erosion, provide food and building materials, create shade, help to conserve water and make our landscape beautiful", said Gordon.

He added, "Over a 50-year period a single tree generates $35,000 worth of oxygen, $70,000 worth of air pollution control, $45,000 worth of recycled water and $35,000 worth of soil erosion reduction. Unfortunately these ecological good and services are taken for granted and only considered as externalities in relation to their true economic value", he said.

Gordon also spoke of the importance woodlots have in reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere. He said annually one hectare of trees sequester enough carbon dioxide to equal the amount produced by driving a car 100,000 kilometers.

In addition to carbon sequestration, climate modification and water and air management, Gordon said woodlots also provide significant food and habitats to countless bacteria, fungi, insects, birds and mammals, contributing to the overall bio-diversity of an area.

The Sawyer Preservation Woodlot is located just off Highway 23 south of Mitchell on Line 12 (the Usborne-Fullarton boundary). It was purchased by Otis Sawyer in 1923 as part of his 150-acre mixed-use farm. The woodlot was used as a pasture until the mid-1930's when his woodlot was chosen as a demonstration woodlot for Fullarton Township. During the 1960's, 70's and 80's, Sawyer cleared a network of trails through the woodlot, which are managed today by the Sawyer Preservation Woodlot Association, who have helped to maintain the Sawyer Woodlot since it was severed from the rest of Sawyer's land under his direction in 1989.

With the financial resources of a trust fund, and the guidance of an association of dedicated individuals, subsequent years have seen the site become a tribute to his legacy. The site is alive with flora and fauna and complete with labels naming trees, wildflowers and birds.

For more information on the Sawyer Preservation Woodlot visit www.sawyerwoodlot.org.

Article ID# 1775774


Students visit Sawyer Woodlot
Grade 4 students visit wooded area outside Russeldale

By Marc Hulet
Wednesday May 12, 2004

Students in Woods
APPRECIATING NATURE Grade 4 students from Upper Thames Elementary School (UTES) visited the Sawyer Preservation Woodlot on May 6 as part of their habitats and communities science unit. David Butson (left) and Lewis eagerly lead their class up the trail.
Marc Hulet Photo

Mitchell Advocate — Grade 4 students from Upper Thames Elementary School (UTES) took their unit on habitats and communities a step further on May 6 with a trip to the Sawyer Preservation Woodlot located just off Highway 23 south of Mitchell on Line 12.

The students have been busy during this science unit.

Between March 30 and May 7 two students a day observed spring arriving at the Upper Thames school nature area, according to teacher Laurel McIntosh. On April 14 the kids took a hike on the West Perth Trail to observe wetland habitat. During the trip they observed four Canada geese nests and 15 Tundra Swans. On April 22 the kids again walked the trail to observe the aquatic habitat and participated in the litter pick up on Earth Day.

During their time at the woodlot, McIntosh said the kids would be compiling information on different trees and they will also be paying close attention to the tree as a microhabitat.

"A tree is a microhabitat within a forest or larger habitat," McIntosh explained. "The kids need to know what animals might make a home in that particular tree."

Afterwards, the kids will write a poem and draw a picture of the tree and their work will be posted on the bulletin board in Lions Park.

"They can show their families and the community what they learned in this unit," she said.

The site of the woodlot was purchased by Otis Sawyer in 1923 and it was turned into a preservation area in 1989.

The woodlot is now used to educate people, as well as serve as a habitat for wildlife and a recreation area, complete with trails and a picnic area.

Click for additional photos



Sawyer Woodlot welcomes people, critters to enjoy wilderness
Tree labels part of tour

By Holly Jones
Wednesday July 16, 2003

Large Maple Tree
NOW THAT'S A TREE! Norm Jefferson (left), Harold Burgin and Walter MacDougald of the Sawyer Preservation Woodlot Association pose with one of the larger trees on the Sawyer Woodlot. The 150-year-old sugar maple died last year and will be left standing to become a den tree for small animals and birds.
Holly Jones Photo

Mitchell Advocate — Thanks to a lifetime of efforts by a Fullarton area native, local residents have access to a user-friendly woodlot, complete with labels naming trees and wildflowers.

The Sawyer Woodlot, located just off Highway 23 south of Mitchell on Line 12 (the Usborne-Fullarton boundary) was purchased by Otis Sawyer in 1923 as part of his 60-hectare (150-acre) mixed-use farm. The woodlot was used as a pasture until the mid-1930's when his woodlot was chosen as a demonstration woodlot for Fullarton Township. During the 1960's, 70's and 80's, Sawyer cleared a network of trails through the woodlot, which are managed today by the Sawyer Preservation Woodlot Association, who have helped to maintain the Sawyer Woodlot since it was severed from the rest of Sawyer's land under his direction in 1989.

"There's not many woodlots with old (primary) growth, so its pretty wonderful," said Harold Burgin, a member of the association, along with Walter MacDougald, Norm Jefferson, and roughly 70 other members.

Among the 21 varieties of trees represented on the woodlot are several large ash, beech, hard and soft maple and hickory.

In addition to primary forest, Sawyer and his children expanded the woodlot in the 1940's by planting seedlings on the adjacent pasture.

Sixty years later the replanted area melds almost seamlessly into the primary forest, distinguishable to the careful observer by straight rows of tall trees, partially concealed by a healthy regrowth of forest underbrush, and a number of foreign species of trees.

Because little was known at the time about the importance of native species and there was not nearly the variety of species of seedlings available on the market that there is today, the eleven-hectare (28.61-acre) woodlot is home to some interesting experiments, displaying some of the more minor difficulties associated with introducing foreign species.

An example of this is a tall Scots Pine (commonly known as "Scotch Pine"). While this species is a highly valued natural forest species and reforestation tree in Europe, it seems that the conditions in dense North American forests do not allow enough light through to sustain this species of tree.

"He pruned it as high as he could reach to make it a forest tree," said Jefferson.

Jefferson and other association members fondly recall Sawyer's devotion to the woodlot almost right until his death in 1996 at the age of 96.

"His love of life was this bush," said MacDougald.

They remember coming across Sawyer deep in the woodlot atop a ladder with a chain saw in his hands trimming trees when was as old as 90.

"The feeling was that if he fell off the ladder and killed himself at least he'd be happy (to die among the trees)," said MacDougald.

"The older trees, Otis almost worshiped," added Burgin, generating avid agreement from his colleagues from the association, "certainly if he had been a logger he would have had them (older trees) logged out years ago."

The woodlot today is divided into two parts: the highlands and the lowlands. The 2.4 km upland loop permits year-round walking, while the lower trail can be seasonally wet and impassible at times.

During the summer months wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a heavy peppering of mosquito repellent is highly advisable.

While the association maintains paths and manages the forest so that taller trees do not block sunlight from reaching smaller, younger trees below, they are also careful to leave a lot of fallen tree limbs and standing trees alone to provide homes for smaller animals and insects.

"Some people do think its negative because (they think) we haven't cleaned up (the underbrush)," said MacDougald, pointing out a fallen tree brimming with healthy insect life, "but there's more bugs in that tree than any tree in the bush."

In fact, a hot topic at this year's spring meeting was whether to leave an over 150-year-old sugar maple standing after it died suddenly this past year. Some thought that it should be harvested for its valuable wood, while others felt that it should be left as a den tree, to be used as a home for animals.

"Our birders would be very pleased to see more den trees," said MacDougald.
Burgin estimates that the tree would have fetched from $1,000 to $2,000 at a wood mill. However, because the woodlot is already funded by a trust fund set up at the time that the land was severed, the feeling was that the woodlot did not need any more money, though it could always use more den trees.

Sawyer's lifetime of experimentation and learning about trees is continued these days through the various interests of members of the association.

"(Sawyer) continued to learn all of his life," attests Burgin.

In addition to maintaining the paths, the association looks after a picnic area, and labels for each of the 21 main varieties of trees to aid the novice and even the more experienced tree enthusiast along.

In recent years members of the association have also created inventories of the birds and wild flowers that can be found in the woodlot.

A large identification chart depicting many of the different birds that frequent the woodlot is set up near the entrance and smaller signs are set up along the paths indicating different varieties of wildflowers.

Through the association, Sawyer's curiosity and love of trees lives on. A couple of the trees have been fit with a dendrometer to measure their rate of growth, and Burgin hopes to photograph the large dead sugar maple on a yearly basis to document its decline.

The association's next project will be to invite outside experts in to study either soil or water.

"His (Sawyer's) love of life was this business," said Jefferson.



October 2, 2005

2005 Harvest Day Farm Hiker Tour A Success !

Hiker Tour Click for photos

Over 350 people ventured out on Sunday October 2 to kick off the beginning of Agriculture Week in Ontario. The 2005 Harvest Day Farm Hiker Tour was organized by the Perth and Huron County Federations of Agriculture, with the assistance of the Perth Junior Farmers.

This years tour was held in the Huron/Perth "border" community of Kirkton. Seven sites were enjoyed this year, and the Federations wish to thank the hosts for agreeing to participate, their efforts were very much appreciated by the organizers and tour participants.

This years hosts were Woodvue Farms, where the Hern family showcased their Holstein dairy operation; the Rundle family opened their beef operation for tours, and had information on egg production as they also have a layer facility; the Thomson farmstead showed visitors the intricacies of shoeing a horse; the Sawyer Preservation Woodlot provided the opportunity to learn about a farm woodlot; Quadro Communications took visitors on a time travel to see the development of a rural telephone system; the Heritage Barn Museum showcased the early farm family way of life; Pork Producers had on view a sow and her week old piglets; and OPRAH, Ontario's newest Farm Animal Care Specialist, delighted young and old alike (OPRAH is a child-sized robotic doll who rides a remote control-operated John Deere tractor). The day finished with a delicious pork BBQ hosted by the Kirkton Agricultural Society

Article courtesy of Huron County Federation of Agriculture