The Ignatius Old-Growth Forest project aims to create a nature sanctuary for wildlife and people, to foster the conditions for the development of old-growth forest, and to restore Marden Creek to a cold-water stream ecosystem. This land forms a band of protected natural space along the bank of the Speed River, serving as an ecological corridor from the woodlots, wetlands and organic agriculture of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre, eastward to Guelph Lake Conservation Area.

The project was conceived in 2006 and began in earnest in 2010 with the removal of an old dam, allowing Marden Creek to flow freely to the Speed River. The resulting mudflats have been recovered by sedges, grasses and wildflowers, and bankside areas were stabilized with native trees and shrubs. Monitoring efforts have shown an increase in aquatic species diversity and the presence of cold-water indicator species such as Brook Trout and Mottled Sculpins. Two retired farm fields have been planted with a variety of young native trees and shrubs, in order to stimulate their regeneration and establish continuous forest cover. Natural succession and active control of invasive species also form parts of the restoration plan.

The project covers approximately 93 acres of land owned by the Jesuits, and is forever protected by a conservation easement that legally stipulates the intended uses of the property. This will ensure that a diverse, mature forest may develop, and that visitors can wander the trails for recreation and communion with nature for many years to come.  The future forest will help mitigate the impacts of climate change, will protect the water of the Marden Creek and Speed River watersheds, and be a place for ecological learning and spiritual contemplation.

At this time, old-growth forest does not yet exist on this land. The name of the project, Ignatius Old-Growth Forest, indicates the long-term vision of the project, supported by ecological restoration initiatives and the conservation easement.

Something as complex as an old-growth forest cannot simply be installed.  Our hope is that we can start by…sowing the seeds of something big.