Island Nature Trust (INT) recently acquired their first Natural Area in 2021: Penny’s Point Natural Area in Fortune Bridge—a small but ecologically important slice of PEI’s coastline.
The core area of the property is the coastal cliff and dune. It is 37 acres in size with 3800 feet of shore frontage, 1000 feet of which is beach. The site is one of only two owned by INT that hosts habitat essential for Piping Plover nesting—a species-at-risk on PEI. The property serves as a natural coastal buffer for the piping plover. The coastal headland includes ecologically important and fragile beach-dune habitat that will now be protected forever. The peninsula, named Penny’s Point Natural Area, is located within the Rollo Bay Wildlife Management Area and is on the south point at the mouth of Rollo Bay. It was transferred to INT for perpetual stewardship by land donors Tom Welch, Anne Lambert and Nancy Willis.
Penny’s Point is a significant part of the PEI coastline, which is under continued threat from erosion and wildlife displacement due to human encroachment. The property is part of the northeastern shoreline that hosts some of the best sand dune and beach systems in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone.
PEI has experienced high historic rates of habitat loss to agriculture and other development. Although natural forest cover is about 50%, remaining habitat patches are generally small, fragmented and degraded. The acquisition of this property will allow INT to conserve vulnerable beach-dune and coastal bluff ecosystems while restoring the land back to native coastal krummholz forest, dominated by the Island’s red oak and other native hardwoods. The sandstone bluffs exceed 10 metres in height and may provide suitable habitat for burrow occupants such as threatened bank swallow, in addition to belted kingfisher. The beach-dune area within and immediately adjacent the property’s southeast corner is identified as critical habitat for endangered piping plover.
Penny’s Point has been named after land donor Welch’s mother, Jane Coyne, who was fondly known as Penny. His family’s love of PEI wildlife flourished over the decades as they vacationed to the Island every summer starting in the 1950’s. As a youngster Tom and his siblings enjoyed creeping through coastal forest, that existed before being cleared for farmland, to high ground where they would watch the seals sunbathing on the Rollo Bay sand bars at low tide.
“Penny would have been thrilled to know the headland is now protected forever.” shares Welch. “We spent 60 years travelling to Fortune and she loved the area so much. She was concerned about the threat of development since our family observed first-hand the surrounding area being steadily built on over the decades.”
Fortune Bridge was and continues to be an important ancestral burial ground for Acadians. For the Mi’kmaq, the area has cultural importance including the harvesting of fish, birds, medicinal plants, and shellfish, specifically the fish harvesting of eels, trout, smelts; bird harvesting of ducks, geese; decorative and medicinal plant harvesting; and shellfish harvesting of oysters along the Fortune River. On the land, traditional Mi’kmaq use of the area includes feather gathering, campsites, and berry gathering.