History of the Park

From dream to reality

In only just over two decades, what was once farmland became a park boasting an impressive array of indigenous plants and attracting some of the region’s most unique birds and wildlife.

The site was originally part of a 550-acre crown grant to one of the founding fathers of the Village of Beaverdams, Israel Swayze (1753–1844). The village itself was located at a crossroads of the so-called “Indian Trail” between Lakes Erie and Ontario and the east-west between Queenston and Hamilton.

The First and Second Welland Canals followed a route just east of Beaverdams, and although it was bypassed in 1887, the route was still used for local traffic until the early part of the 20th century. In was in 1904 that Beaverdams Creek was flooded to create a feed for the DeCew Falls hydroelectric plants.

In the mid-20th century, the northern part of Lake Gibson was acquired by the Griffiths family; and it was the environmental vision and philanthropy of Geraldine Griffiths who – in 1990 – ensured that 11 hectares of this land would be restored to its natural state.

The efforts of local citizens and the Municipality of Thorold meant that the Mel Swart Lake Gibson Conservation Park was opened officially in October 2002.

In 2009/10, the Niagara Restoration Council (and partnering agencies) planted more than 52,000 trees as part of an effort to naturalize the Thorold-Lake Gibson corridors. Native prairie-meadow mix was also introduced. The restoration of wildlife corridors and habitats has meant the return of indigenous animals, including deer, coyote, beavers, moles, voles and opposums. Nesting platforms have also been installed to attract the abundant raptor populations.

3 thoughts on “History of the Park

  1. A new resident of Niagara Region, I’m beginning to explore the area online as a prelude to adventuring in person. This website makes a spring visit to this Conservation Park a must. Thanks for the information here, and the photos that bring it to life.

  2. Returning to my home-town area as of this Feb 1st, I am researching places to visit come spring and summer, and this website makes Lake Gibson a definite must and a frequent revisit, I am sure. Thank you to all who provided this info, making it possible for many to enjoy the natural beauty of this area.

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