A new 10-year stewardship plan for Glebe Park has been finalized and will focus on felling dangerous and hazardous trees, maintaining existing trail routes, and upgrading mapping at the 175-acre property.

JJim Blake, chair of Dysart’s Glebe Park and museum committee and curator of the Haliburton Sculpture Forest – located within the park – told Dysart et al council April 23 volunteers had been working on the plan since 2019. It replaces a previous strategy that had been in place since 2010.

“An enormous amount has happened since then – it feels like a completely different park now,” Blake said. “The introduction of mountain bike trails, the expansion of our snowshoe trails that now traverse the entire park, the new residence buildings for the college… it’s a fantastic space for the community to explore.”

The plan features three stewardship objectives – promote the space for recreational and cultural use, maintain the park’s ecological integrity, and ensure visitors are safe.

One of the biggest projects, Blake said, will be bringing down trees that are dead, or dying, due to beech bark disease. The ailment is an insect fungus caused by a beech scale bug, which feeds on the trees, causing cankers that spread and eventually kill the trees.

Blake said beech bark disease has been prevalent in the park for years but is now becoming a major problem, with most of the impacted trees now dead.

“We are dealing with them – we’re taking the trees down and then the recommendation is they be left where they are. We don’t want the wood taken out of the forest because that just transfers the disease somewhere else,” Blake said.

Deer looking for food in park

He noted volunteers assess trees regularly throughout the year and make note of any that could be hazardous. Blake said one of the committee members, a retired forester, then makes a final assessment. If a tree needs to be felled, Blake said he works with a local company who completes the job “for a very reasonable price.”

The environmental makeup of the forest has changed over the years, Blake said. An increased presence of deer has seen some native species, such as eastern hemlock, almost completely eradicated. With the township passing a policy outlawing deer feeding in Haliburton village, the animals are frequenting Glebe Park more often looking for food.

Blake said the park’s increased deer population could be partly responsible for declining maple tree regeneration, with sugar maple seedlings a go-to snack.

After seeing other native populations like Canadian Yew and ground hemlock take a hit recently, Blake said a key part of the plan is developing permanent sample plots throughout the forest, to be monitored and inventoried regularly, to track changes and trends in forest structure and composition.

In terms of trails, Blake said there are 13.5 kilometres dedicated for cross-country skiing, 7.66 kilometres for snowshoeing, 12.5 kilometres for hiking, and more than 10 kilometres for mountain biking.

“We have an enormous amount of action in the forest… it’s also incredibly popular for dog walking,” Blake said, noting a second garbage can specifically for dog waste will be installed this year.

He said Glebe Park is “maxed out” for double-tracked wide trails and told council development of any new trail loop is unlikely in the near future. There is a plan to improve signs and mapping to help people move around the property.

Blake said there’s also a recommendation to replant some white pine trees at Glebe to help the forest get back to its roots.

“Originally, the forest would have been all white pines with some maples growing under them, but at some point all the white pines were taken out… we want to fix that,” Blake said.

Council endorsed the plan, which is to run until 2034.