Museum’s nature walk a history lesson

Eric Sparling
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Guide Bill Fairbanks shows walkers an example of glossy buckthorn on the site of what was once a farmhouse – possibly planted long ago as a substitute for hops (to make beer).

AMHERST – It was a nice day for a walk in the woods.

A small cluster of people gathered in the parking lot of the Cumberland County Museum and Archives before heading out in cars for a guided four-kilometre stroll through the Amherst Point Bird Sanctuary.

“We’re promoting that as part of our mandate,” said museum board member Bill Fairbanks.

Fairbanks was leading the expedition. The point he was making was that the museum’s mission isn’t just to house historical artifacts. It also extends to the natural world.

“This is an annual thing,” he said, speaking before the drive out to the point. He said they’ve been doing the walk for 15years.

The guide said one way to conduct science is on a grand scale, with advanced and expensive instruments.

“Another way is to study nature directly.”

Fairbanks collects data on the walks, stored at the museum, so that a record over time can indicate change, such as warming or cooling, or the impact of pollutants on the quality and type of growth seen at the sanctuary.

The interpretive part of the walk began before the group of seven, including Fairbanks, even left the parking lot. He pointed out non-native species, such as Norwegian maple and glossy buckthorn – foreign, thriving relics of a pioneer past, when the parking lot was a farmhouse owned by ‘Handsome’ Logan.

Kim MacDonald-Distassio, on the walk with her husband, said she saw an ad for the event and decided to come.

“You cannot learn the history of the environment by just walking and seeing.”

She gives one example: “We never would have known there was a house.”

In the shade, off the path: the small flowers of dames rocket, planted by the lady of the house a couple of hundred years ago, said Fairbanks.


Organizations: Cumberland County Museum, Amherst Point Bird Sanctuary

Geographic location: Fairbanks

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