By Jessica Sutton

Jessica Sutton is a 2nd-year University of Ottawa student in Environmental Studies and Biology. This fall Jessica is volunteering with the OFNC through the Community Service Learning (CSL) program.

As a child living in Peterborough, I would often visit family in Ottawa, and we were frequent visitors of the Arboretum but unaware of the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, which is located in the same area. Earlier this Fall I went to the garden for the first time. As a 2nd-year university student with a study focus on environmental studies and biology, I was excited to view the garden as a project to preserve native biodiversity in Ottawa.

I was fascinated by the ways in which the members of the OFNC have set up specific areas throughout the garden. These areas attract different types of plants and animals, supporting a diverse array of species in a relatively small amount of land surrounded by urban development. Take for example the Old Field, which contains grasses and wildflowers in an early succession stage. The Old Field is maintained in this state by mowing every few years. This type of habitat can occur naturally in the wild via forest fires. Keeping this section of the garden in the early succession state provides animals with a long-term habitat – volunteers also monitor any changes in species and habitat structure that may occur. Other interesting features were the “insect hotel” and the various brushpiles that provide shelter for many creatures, especially squirrels and chipmunks.

The Fletcher Wildlife Garden is simply a beautiful environment. Whether you go to admire the biodiversity of this natural oasis or to walk the trails and enjoy the fresh air, there is something for everyone. Being at the centre of the city, it is a close-to-home place that still provides the “outdoorsy” feeling.

Overall, I really enjoyed my first experience at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. I must admit that I lived a short bus ride away from the area for over a year without knowing about it, but now I can enjoy it! If you have not yet visited the garden, I highly recommend it – for its sheer beauty and maybe to gain a little knowledge while you’re at it!