by Alita Battey-Pratt [an abridged version of this article appears in the September/October 2019 The Columbine newsletter]
The Kingston Horticultural Society was founded in 1889 and is one of the oldest members of the Ontario Horticultural Association. This is our 130th year of continuous operation and so we shall be using every opportunity to tell our members about events in the past that have made an impact on our community during our long history. One such event was reported on January 24th, 1948 in the Kingston Whig-Standard concerning the efforts of Professor J.F. Logan to secure the lease on 600 acres of land northwest of the rifle range on CFB Kingston. He wanted to turn this into a protective forest area and sanctuary for wild life.
The area is about two miles long and three quarters of a mile wide. The terrain varies from forest to swamp with some parts cleared for farming in the 19thcentury. Professor Logan worked for two years to gain the political support for the opportunity to reforest the land. He pointed out that the conservation and replanting of select native trees would be an example to spur conservation activities throughout the area. He argued that the Barriefield Protected Area would provide a natural habitat for wild game and birds. Also, he argued that cleared land is a poor retainer of moisture while forested land raises the water table for farms in the area.
With the full sanction of the Horticultural Society executive and the cooperation of President George Scott, Professor Logan negotiated for the 99-year lease. He had the support of Austin Peters, then president of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and other leading members of the Kingston Rod and Gun Club. In August 1947, the lease was signed. Then the provincial government recognized the land as a Crown preserve. The general public was not permitted to trespass on the land and the single road running through the zone was shut off with gates. The long-term effort to reforest started in the spring of 1948 with the planting of 12,500 trees provided by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The trees selected included walnuts, elms, ash, maple, oak, black locust, black cherry, white and Scotch pines, larch and spruce trees. About 80 acres required reforestation.
In taking this action, the Horticultural Society was putting into practical action one of its main, though not well known, aims of fostering conservation. The Ontario Horticultural Association had a committee set up to do just this. It was headed by J.A. Carter of Guelph and Mrs. D.W. Boucher of Kingston was also a member. In this area, Professor Logan believed that trees, game, birds and flowers would flourish. The balance of nature would be restored in 10 to 15 years and the preserve would be a beautiful and refreshing place to visit. “Of key importance to the success of the project,” said Dr. Logan “was the wholehearted respect of the public for our aims. The public, we are sure, will assist us in keeping this a truly protected area.”
The area came to be known as the J.F. Logan Sanctuary. Children from area public schools participated during the 1950’s in many tree-planting exercises. In the spring of 1954, ten thousand trees were planted by 361 students over 25 acres. The children were instructed by members of the Land and Forest Department in tree planting, care and preservation of trees, wild life, and flowers. One report stated that 47,000 trees had been planted by 1955. During the Cold War period, military interest in resuming operations on the lands was a major factor in the reserve being restored to CFB Kingston for use as a potential rocket range. However, this never actually interfered with the growth of the trees. The land is still owned by the Department of National Defence and it can be used again, if necessary, for military practices and firing live ammunition.
It is interesting to realize that, in the past, the KHS has taken on very large community beautification projects and that the youth involvement was greater than it is today. The grounds of CFB Kingston are still forested and the addition of so many trees has greatly enhanced the entire residential region of Pittsburgh Township to this day.