- Our Town
Mapping the wild
Could you find Fairy Fen on a map? Most Bowen Islanders may have heard of Fairy Fen but don’t know its significance, beauty or location.
A fen is like a bog but while a bog depends on precipitation for all its water, a fen has water flowing into it from the surrounding landscape. The moss that grows in Fairy Fen is so deep that when you walk on it, it feels like stepping on a sponge. In fact, it is a sponge filled with acidic water.
When wetland biologist Karen Golinski surveyed the Bowen wetlands for the Bowen Island Conservancy, she was amazed at the quality and collection of species at Fairy Fen. She brought a team of peatland specialists to the site to study it further, coring down into the peat and radiocarbon dating it. The peat moss was 6m deep (as high as a two-storey building). Moss samples from just 3m down dated back to 10,458 years ago, proof that this wetland has existed since the last ice age.
Outside 45 (O45) is an outdoor environmental learning experience for Grades 6 and 7 students at Bowen Island Community School. The program features many small and large trips learning about our community and places further away. There are camping, cycling and kayaking expeditions. O45 recently received a generous grant from the TD Canada Trust’s TD Friends of the Environment to purchase ten GPS mapping units and other equipment and supplies to help map not just Fairy Fen, but also other areas that the 45 O45 students visit each year.
Around Fairy Fen, the students went to several places that hadn’t been mapped and identified viewpoints, landmarks and natural trails.
“Using the GPS, we learned how to create a trail with some bushwacking,” says Jarod Scrivens. “We also spotted a small waterfall.”
Laura Magrath, who teaches the program along with Vice-Principal Scott Slater, recalls one student saying that the technology made him more aware of the things around him. “We were looking at a special patch of moss” she says “and, using the GPS, the students began to get an idea of how far it reached.”
Outside 45 student Sophie agrees, “The GPS units are a good way to get a different experience of what Bowen is all about.”
Besides their teachers, the students have considerable help from a few of Bowen’s many professionals, including naturalist Sue Ellen Fast and professional biologists Claudia Schaefer and Nick Page. As the year progresses, further studies on repeated visits will lead to the creation of a website mapping different parts of Bowen Island’s natural heritage as well as tips on how to properly preserve it.
Sophie explains that with exploring comes understanding. “Fairy Fen is a great place to reflect on the many places on Bowen that need protecting.”