AMHERST, N.S. – Amherst has an outdoor education centre in its own backyard called the Fundy Winds Marsh.
“It’s a whole different classroom out here,” Bill Barrow said. “When kids look at the plants, the insects, the frogs and the ducks, they’re senses come alive.”
About 12 years ago Barrow bought 50 acres of land just off the Eddy Street road between Amherst and New Brunswick.
“Ducks Unlimited spent about three months here a couple of winters ago, and they diked it off to hold 25 acres of water.”
Besides insects, amphibians and waterfowl, the 25 acres of flooded marsh also harbours many species of mammal.
“There are a few beaver and quite a few muskrat and mink,” Barrow said. “And there’s deer here all the time. We also had a cow moose and a calf last year, which was nice to see.”
Barrow grew up in Springhill and spent 25 years working for the Canadian Wildlife Service.
“I worked as a technician with waterfowl programs. I did banding, aerial surveys, hunter education, and a little bit of enforcement. Anything that dealt with waterfowl and waterfowl management.”
He lives in Amherst and hopes to pass his knowledge onto future generations.
“I want to introduce kids to the outdoor world, to nature, to conservation, and to partner with the schools and their outdoor education program,” Barrow said. “There’s a whole program for outdoor activities, and I can bring people in to talk about the marsh and why marshes are beneficial.”
One teacher who has brought his students to Fundy Winds Marsh several times is Spring Street Academy’s Daren White.
“Daren is a great outdoor education teacher. He’s always bubbling over with enthusiasm when he gets his students out here,” Barrow said. “But Daren is the only teacher to bring kids out. I’d like to see the other teachers and students get involved.”
Much of the Fundy Winds Marsh trail is paved with gravel, and one section is called the Robert Purdy Trail.
“Robert’s children, two sons and a daughter, provided money to start a trail and we dedicated it to him,” Barrow said. “With the money they provided we did a lot gravel work, installed two-foot bridges and, down in the woods, we built a shelter and a couple other things for the kids.”
The outdoor shelter area includes a barbecue, a fire pit, an archery range and an obstacle course.
Also, with money provided by anonymous donors, a two-storey outlook was installed this year providing a view of the entire marsh. There is also a wheelchair-accessible portable bathroom, and another bathroom will be built in the near future.
Fundy Winds Marsh is a registered non-profit with a board of directors dedicated to wetland conservation and the education of future generations.
“Last year this property became a conservation easement property. What that means is this property will remain in this state forever,” Barrow said. “I can sell it, but it can’t be changed. It’s in the deed. All this land is going to be used for wildlife and for outdoor education for the kids. That’s our mandate.”
Barrow hopes more teachers and students take advantage of Fundy Winds Marsh.
“You look at kids today, I don’t know if they’re much different than when I grew up with television, but right now we’re dealing with children and the internet and computers,” Barrow said. “Computers are a necessity, you have to be computer literate, but you still have to get outside and expand your horizon and enjoy nature and enjoy the fresh air.”