© Submitted photo
The Conway Sandhills, a narrow strip of land along Prince Edward Island’s northern coast, is seen in this photo. The Nature Conservancy of Canada is working to preserve what it calls ‘a beautiful wildness’.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is looking for volunteers to assist in cleaning up sections of the Conway Sandhills on Monday, Aug. 26.
Volunteers will assist in cleaning up the beach, knocking down and removing several old shacks and identifying birds. A spokesman for the conservancy said a number of people have already registered for the event but more are needed.
The Conway Sandhills are part of a network of ecologically rich sand dunes and wetlands found along the north shore of western P.E.I.
This barrier beach system is a part of two important bird areas and critical in the life cycle of many populations of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and passerines, including the nationally endangered piping plover.
There are only 6,000 piping plovers left in the world.
The NCC wishes to improve the health of this ecosystem, preserving this habitat and the birds it supports by demolishing and removing these shacks.
"This is a chance to contribute to the stewardship of some of P.E.I.'s most significant sand dunes where NCC has been working since 2011, acquiring private lands in working to protect this unique area of Atlantic Canada," the spokesman said.
Depending on good tide conditions, NCC staff and conservation volunteers will head out to the Conway Sandhills Aug. 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There will be a boat leaving from Milligan's wharf to transport volunteers. Anyone with a canoe or kayak may paddle to the sandhills if conditions permit.
The event was timed to follow the conclusion of the plovers' nesting period so they will not be disturbed.
"But please feel free to bring a pair of binoculars along as we can survey for shorebirds too."
The online period for registering has expired. However, if people want to show up and lend a helping hand, they are free to do so.
The NCC is supported in this effort by the Confederation Bridge, EcoAction Community Funding Program, and the Imperial Oil Foundation.
In addition to their ecological importance, the sandhills have played an important part in the lives of early Islander settlers.
Aspiring fishermen built lobster canneries around water channels, only to have storms fill them in virtually overnight. Fishing boats and vessels always ran the risk of running aground in the shallow waters surrounding the sandhills.
Despite this, the sandhills were an integral part of local homesteaders who crossed over 'the narrows' to farm the marram grass when there was nothing else to feed cattle; to work in the lobster canneries that clustered around volatile channels; and to meet the rum-runners, illegally importing alcohol from the French isles of Saint Pierre and Miquelon during prohibition.
With the removal of the remaining cannery buildings in the mid 20th century, the sandhills bade goodbye to a generation as a working landscape, and resiliently reverted back to a natural ecosystem.
Now NCC helps protect not only waterfowl habitat, but a reminder of an iconic part of Maritime history and culture.