Park named for trees, not canines

Lori Charron plants a tree in Wallaceburg’s Paw Paw Woods, as part of Union Gas’ Helping Hands in Action recently.
Lori Charron plants a tree in Wallaceburg’s Paw Paw Woods, as part of Union Gas’ Helping Hands in Action recently.

By Pam Wright/Special to The Voice

Thinking that Wallaceburg’s Paw Paw Woods is a dog park would be an honest mistake.

It’s not. It’s a tiny urban forest open to everyone.

Nestled between a soybean field to the east and the quiet Baxter subdivision to the west, this six-acre slice of Carolinian forest is located just on the outskirts of Wallaceburg’s south side.

Named for a thicket of rare pawpaw trees discovered in the centre of a two-acre woodlot, the reclamation of the bush has been a true community effort. Acquired by the municipality of Chatham Kent for unpaid back taxes several years ago, the land has been upgraded and managed by the Sydenham Field Naturalists (SFN).

Chatham Mazda from Chatham Voice on Vimeo.

Volunteers have cleared and carted away truckloads of trash, planted native tall grass prairie, cleared trails and added native Carolinian forest species. Recently, an additional 30 trees were planted, thanks to a $1,000 Helping Hands in Action grant from Union Gas.

The company also provided T-shirts, cold drinks, shovels and volunteers for the recent planting.

SFN president Dave Smith said the grant has allowed volunteers to “enlarge the scope “ of the conservation project by adding more native species to the mix. A variety of trees were part of the planting, including shagbark hickory, red bud and dogwood.

The fruit-bearing pawpaw trees, for which the woods were named, were discovered by local environmentalist Larry Cornelius. They are extremely rare in Canada.

Commonly found in the southern United States, the pawpaw was likely carried to southern Ontario by First Nation peoples or soldiers in the Civil War, Cornelius said.

“The fruit is really special,” he explained, adding bugs don’t eat its yellow flesh, which tastes similar to a banana.

Pawpaw fruit also contains all the essential amino acids. Cornelius said it is being examined for use as a pesticide, and possibly as a medicine.

Folks who want to see this unique grove can access the trails in Paw Paw Woods on the Hudson Crescent entrance.

“It’s open to the public and we encourage people to come and enjoy it,” said SFN past president Denise Shephard.

Paw Paw Woods, along with Sycamore Woods, is one of two forested areas within Wallaceburg. Chatham-Kent, which is heavily farmed, has only 3% forest cover.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here