Black Oak Heritage Park supports one of the finest stands of black oak in Southwestern Ontario and is home to such nesting birds as Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Eastern Bluebird and Cooper's Hawk. Many of the native plants at Black Oak Heritage Park are extremely rare elsewhere in Canada. Black Oak Park is part of the Ojibway Prairie Complex, which also includes Ojibway Park, Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, Spring Garden Natural Area and Ojibway Prairie Provinical Nature Reserve.
Black Oak Heritage Park - Frequently Asked Questions
What is Black Oak Heritage Park?
Black Oak Heritage Park (BOHP) - an ecological gem in the City of Windsor - is a natural area of land, and public park area that is part of the Ojibway Prairie Complex in the City of Windsor. The area also includes Ojibway Park, Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, Spring Garden Natural Area and Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve.
What is unique about Black Oak Heritage Park, and why is it special to Windsor?
BOHP’s Black Oak savanna is one of the largest stands in Ontario. It is also one of the most endangered habitats in Canada. This unique natural area in the City of Windsor includes large, often old-growth trees – some 150 to 200 years old. In addition to the precious Black Oak savanna and Black Oak woodland, the area includes: some tallgrass prairie; native plants that are extremely rare all across Canada; a variety of large wildlife (deer, coyotes, foxes); rare butterflies like the Hackberry Emperor; nesting birds like the Scarlet Tanager, Acadian Flycatcher, Black Oak Cuckoo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Eastern Bluebird and Cooper’s Hawk. BOHP is a true haven for many of these birds that require large sections of unbroken forest to survive.
What is unique about the Ontario Prairie Complex, and why is it special to Windsor?
The most striking aspect of Ojibway Prairie Complex is the tremendous variety of its vegetation and animal life. Wetlands, forest, savanna and prairie provide habitat for a great number of rare plants, insects, reptiles, birds and mammals – including those listed above. The prairie landscape, characterized by a lack of trees (less than 2.5 trees / hectare) includes grasses and flowers that grow very tall and lush; hence the name – tallgrass prairie.
Essex County, in extreme southern Ontario, has less than 6% natural forest cover. It is estimated that less than 0.5% of the original prairies and savanna remain in all of Southwestern Ontario today. The largest relicts which survived were those on lands controlled by native aboriginal peoples, such as Walpole Island, and those wedged between the developed urban portions of Windsor and LaSalle - the Ojibway Prairie Complex.
What is the history of Black Oak Heritage Park?
Of the five natural areas which make up the Ojibway Prairie Complex, BOHP is located closest to the Detroit River. The park and surrounding lands have a rich cultural as well as natural history and heritage. Early explorers reported the presence of Huron Indian corn fields along this part of the river. By 1749, the French had settled here, their fields replacing those of the Hurons. Their farmsteads represent the first major European farming community in Southern Ontario. Originally referred to as Petite Côte (Little Coast), the site later became known as la Côte de Misère (The Coast of Misery) because the sandy soils lost their fertility and farming was no longer productive. Industrial development threatened the site up until 1989 when the land was acquired by the City of Windsor.
What is the size of Black Oak Heritage Park, and the surrounding area?
Collectively, the four sites – BOHP, Ojibway Park, Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, and Spring Garden Natural Area – make up a total of approximately 244 hectares (604 acres) of land, and are designated as the Ojibway Prairie Remnants Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). The nearby Ontario Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve, owned by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, adds more than 105 hectares (230 acres) of additional prairie and savanna. The total area is continually growing as the City of Windsor and the Ministry of Natural Resources acquire more land for protection and preservation.
Who oversees Black Oak Heritage Park?
The Ojibway Nature Centre, part of the City of Windsor’s Department of Parks, Recreation & Culture, and Facilities looks after four of the five areas: Ojibway Park, Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, Black Oak Heritage Park, and Spring Garden Natural Area.
What amenities does Black Oak Heritage Park offer?
BOHP is a gem of eco-tourism, and a beautiful place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life to spend some time in the solitude of a natural area. BOHP amenities include:
How do I access Black Oak Heritage Park?
BOHP can be accessed from the parking lot entrance at Broadway Boulevard. This lot provides the only access point to the area.
Are there useable Trails available at Black Oak Heritage Park for public enjoyment?
Yes. There is one designated, accessible public trail in the north section of BOHP. The trail is two kilometres long, marked by helpful wayfinding and interpretive signage, and offers opportunities for passive recreational activities such as hiking, bird-watching, photography and leisure cycling.
A second trail onsite is not accessible and not open to the public.
Why is the second trail closed to the public?
The south section of BOHP, and the trail that runs through it, is not available for public use. Any trails present there must be avoided. Use of such trails would be in violation of the City of Windsor’s Parks By-law (200-2002), which is in place to protect and preserve environmentally sensitive areas. Human interaction with such protected areas would jeopardize numerous rare and endangered species in the area. BOHP contains sensitive habitats, and is a natural community gem. As such, its protection and preservation is vital to maintain the land and the species that make their home there. These lands are protected in our community because something rare and important exists within them. The City of Windsor works to provide a balance between public access to appreciate and enjoy such lands, while protecting the area so that future generations can access them as well.
What type of uses/activities does Black Oak Heritage Park accept/support?
The designated trail at BOHP is reserved for passive recreational activities only, such as hiking, bird watching, photography and leisure cycling.
What type of uses/activities are prohibited in Black Oak Heritage Park?
In order to protect and preserve BOHP and the numerous sensitive species and plant life that exist within it, the following uses / activities are prohibited in the park:
Motorized vehicles, including e-bikes.
Exploration / utilization of the trails on the south section of the park.
Exploration / utilization of the property owned by the Windsor Port Authority along the park’s western boundary.
Any alteration to the physical land (i.e. digging or creating trails, building structures, etc.).
Removing any items from the park (i.e. leaves, sticks, stones, dirty, plants, etc.); while tempting to take home a keepsake, everything found in BOHP has a purpose – we encourage you to leave everything behind for someone else to enjoy, and take pictures and memories away after your visit.
What can I do if I see someone abusing Black Oak Heritage Park?
To help preserve and protect BOHP, please report any unauthorized uses / activities to 311.
Black Oak Heritage Park was closed from December 2015 to April 2018; what was the cause of this closure?
BOHP closed to the public in 2015 to accommodate construction and development of the Herb Gray Parkway. The project required the closure of the parking lot entrance at Broadway Boulevard, which provides the only access point to the park. As a result, public access to the area was not possible during the project phase. Now that access to Broadway Boulevard has been re-established, visitors are once again able to enter and enjoy BOHP from dawn to dusk.
Will Black Oak Heritage Park be closed to the public again at any point in the future?
Construction and development of the site of the Canadian Port of Entry for the Gordie Howe International Bridge, adjacent to BOHP, is now underway. As this latest project progresses, temporary closures for Broadway Boulevard and BOHP may occur from time to time. During these times, access to the park may be affected. All members of the public are required to keep out of the construction site during such times - for preservation of the land and for personal safety. Unauthorized entries during such times will be considered trespassing. Visit www.wdbridge.com for information on road closures, and www.citywindsor.ca for information on closures that may impact access to BOHP.
Why is it important to keep out of areas that are regenerating or closed to the public?
Many plants, animals, birds and insects - especially rare ones – can be displaced by human disturbance. Regeneration of a natural area is critical to the proper assessment of its habitats and species.
What is the future plan for the preservation/engagement of Black Oak Heritage Park?
The City of Windsor’s Parks Master Plan – Rediscover our Parks – lays out a 20-year vision (2015 to 2035) for the design and development of city park areas, including BOHP. The Parks Plan sets forth a Vision “to provide a robust parks and recreation experience for all to enjoy”, and a Mission “to sustainably develop and maintain parkland and recreational activities with our natural and cultural resources; foster economic growth within the city, while cultivating a quality of life for diverse, healthy, active and liveable neighbourhoods.”
BOHP is a key natural area included in the Parks Master Plan, with future plans for management of the land being looked at through a lens of accessibility and inclusivity, communication and partnership, healthy and wellness, sustainability, park diversity, connectivity, safety, efficiency and experiential tourism. Work in this area is slated to begin in 2018.
What is a Natural Area Management Plan, and how long does it take to complete?
A natural area management plan outlines features, uses, data, mapping, species at risk, invasive species, rare habitats, significant functions, and other important properties of a natural area. It also provides an analysis of surveys, mapping and uses of the natural area, along with recommendations for management, mitigation, and protection.
A natural area management plan provides the background information needed to make sound scientifically based management recommendations. It is developed by a qualified specialist, biologist, or ecologist with experience in the natural area and its featured habitats, functions and species. Depending on the complexity and size of the natural area, a management plan can take from one to several years to complete.
Additional Resources and Information: