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NOTL’s Jane’s Walk is journey through time and nature’s tapestry
Jo-Ann Fraser and Kate Sullivan are co-chairs of NOTL’s Jane’s Walk on July 20. (VICTOR TARNOY)

On Thursday, July 20, at 7 p.m. in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake, participants in the third annual Jane’s Walk will set out on a short walk, starting at the historic Steward House at 507 Butler St.

Over the next 90 minutes, they will hear stories from a lineup of expert speakers with a shared passion for the environment, history and the natural world. 

The walk is co-chaired by Jo-Ann Fraser and Kate Sullivan, who are excited to introduce a guided walking tour that will lead participants down Butler Street and delve into some hidden corners and landmarks that have shaped the town’s rich history. 

Jane’s Walk is a global movement that celebrates the legacy of urbanist Jane Jacobs by organizing guided walking tours designed to help communities discover and appreciate the unique stories woven into their neighbourhood tapestry.

“I like the sense of community and caring for our environment that the walk promotes,” says Sullivan.

“It is exactly the kind of activity we need more of, so I decided to volunteer. I’m happy to be part of the 2023 Jane’s Walk.” 

Beginning at the Steward House, Elizabeth Pilzecki will unearth forgotten stories and connect the home’s fun and heroic past with NOTL’s first settlers. There may also be a ghost story, or two.

“Past residents, William and Susannah Steward, both read and wrote, unusual at the time,” says Pilzecki.

“William was a teamster, a prominent figure in the Black community and one of the signatories on the petition to release Solomon Moseby, who fled to Niagara to escape enslavement in the United States.”

Next, Mary-lyn Hopper, a master gardener, will take the spotlight to outline the value of native gardening and dispel some common misconceptions. 

“A native plant garden doesn’t have to be wild and filled with only native plants,” she says.

“Native plants can be used in a variety of garden designs. I use visual design principles to both create beautiful gardens and foster an ecosystem that supports wildlife.” 

Moving closer to Two Mile Creek, walkers will hear from Jean Hampson, secretary of the Peninsula Field Naturalists, a member of a large community of people conducting bird counts and working on projects and campaigns to protect bird species, populations and habitats.

Birds can be found on every continent and almost every habitat on the planet,” says Hampson.

 “Because many species migrate, birds help connect our world and can be an indicator of the health of our ecosystems.”

Participants will learn how both migrating and local bird populations need interconnected green areas for their survival and will take away some useful resources and ideas on how they can assist our Niagara birds.

Next, Dr. Adam Martin, an ecologist and assistant professor of sciences at the University of Toronto, will give participants an overview of pests and diseases that have been wreaking havoc on the trees in NOTL.

“By sharing tips to identify pests and diseases, various life cycles and their impact on our trees, we can arm our community with ideas to combat and manage our ongoing challenges,” says Martin, whose work focuses on plant diversity and plant responses to climate change. 

“I’d like to foster a deeper understanding of tree health and encourage proactive measures we can use to help maintain our unique forest canopy.”

Finally, the stage will be set for Rick Meloen, an avid history buff, to transport participants back in time and recount the struggles and triumphs of Col. John Butler, one of Upper Canada’s great leaders.

“Butler helped to create Niagara-on-the-Lake,” says Meloen.

“He was an exceptional man, who served as deputy superintendent for the Indian Department, justice of the peace and, in addition to forming Butler’s Rangers, also helped establish St. Mark’s Anglican Church and the Masonic Order in Ontario.”

Participants will gain a new appreciation of the contributions of the Butler family, the significance of the Butler homestead and Butler’s Burial ground, where many found final solace and sanctuary.

“Jane’s Walk is an evening of community exploration,” says Fraser. “Our goal is to bring together diverse voices, spark conversation and empower people to learn more about our history and our environment.”

“We want to fuel our community with knowledge and an appreciation for both our natural environment and our shared history.”

So, lace up your walking shoes, bring your curiosity and join the third annual Jane’s Walk to learn more about the town’s vibrant tapestry.

Details: There’s a new date, a new route and new speakers for this year’s Jane’s Walk in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It kicks off on Thursday, July 20, at the historic Steward House, 507 Butler St., at 7 p.m., rain or shine.

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