Amendment approval statement

August 28, 2019

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am pleased to approve this amendment to the management statement for Gravel River Provincial Park. The amendment provides revised direction in the management statement for the issuance of commercial tenure and conditions of any disposition, including requirements under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006 and approval through an environmental assessment process.

I would like to express my appreciation to those who participated in the planning process.

Sincerely,

Jason Travers, Director
Ontario Parks

Administrative Update to Gravel River Provincial Park (P2660) Interim Management Statement

May 2013

1. Purpose/rationale

Legislation has changed since the management document was last approved, so have policies and values within the park. New information should be added to keep the IMS current, relevant and effective as management direction (eg. species at risk information, values and pressures). The current IMS is void of many provincially accepted policies which should be added to inform both MNR and external interests of accepted uses and policies.

The following adjustments are proposed, resulting from a review of the IMS and its relevance as management direction in the context of 2013:

  • Add current provincial policies which have undergone public consultation since the IMS was written
  • Add new/additional research information, as available, including life science, recreation and earth science information
  • Omit references to D.L.U.G.s and modernize references by citing reference to PPCRA/CLUPA
  • Modernize wording to be inclusive of all Aboriginal peoples (including Métis)
  • Update mapping products

Provincial policies which have undergone public consultation in the past along with additional general information are the only changes being implemented at this time. These adjustments should produce a more cohesive document that is easy to use for both staff and the public in terms of direction for the park, permitted activities and convey additional information which may not have been available at the time the current IMS was authored. An amendment may also be carried out in conjunction with this update or at a later date to rectify any inconsistencies in park policy which are out of scope for this administrative update.

2. Description of administrative update

  • See attached

3. Decision

I approve this administrative update to the Gravel River Provincial Park Interim Management Statement (1991).

Signed by:
Tim Sullivan
Manager, Northwest Zone – Ontario Parks

Date: June 18, 2013

Background information

Name:Gravel River
CLUPA ID:P2660
Class:Nature Reserve
M.N.R. District:Nipigon
M.N.R. Region:Northwest
Total area (ha):763
Land: 
Water: 
Ecoregion:Lake Nipigon (3W)
Ecodistrict:Schreiber (5)
Date in regulation:9 March 1985

Life science representation

Site type / landscape unitSpecies / communities
Weekly broken deltaic sands and valley train depositsDiverse vegetation patterns; oxbow lakes

Earth science representation

Timiskaming Interstadial (fluvial landform/process theme)Incised river valley; meanders; river terraces; active bird’s foot delta; oxbow lakes

Cultural resource representation

ThemeTheme Segment
Unknown (high potential for sites identified in
Stage 1 Archaeological Assessments
conducted for forest management planning in
the Lake Nipigon Forest Management Unit)
 

Recreational opportunities

Day useCar CampingWilderness/back country
Canoeing, fishing, hiking/walking, nature appreciation, wildlife viewingN/AN/A

Inventories

Level/typeReconnaissance completion dateDetailed completion dateRequired?
Life scienceChecksheet, 1990March 2005 
Earth scienceChecksheetDecember 2004 
CulturalStage 1 Archaeological Assessment for FMPs Detailed
Recreational 8 June 2006 
Other   

Gravel River Provincial Park Interim Management Statement (1991)

I. Land tenure

The following lands are not included in the park, but abut it or are surrounded by it in several locations:

Hydro One Inc. currently holds a Land Use Permit (LUP) for a transmission line crossing the northern end of the park,

A snowmobile trail runs roughly parallel to the hydro corridor at the northern end of the park,

Highway 17 crosses through the park from east to west,

Canadian Pacific owns a railway corridor which crosses through the park from east to west,

Mountain Bay Road runs south from Highway 17 to access the cottage subdivision on the western side of Gravel Point,

An MNR waste disposal site within the park has been closed and relocated.

Guideline:

Suitable forms of land tenure will continue to be issued to Hydro One Inc. and to Canadian Pacific for the railway and hydro corridors.

Ontario Parks may provide tenure for a utility corridor to accommodate the development of the new East-West Tie electrical transmission line, subject to completion of an Environmental Assessment, approval by the Minister, and any conditions necessary to protect park values.

Maintenance of Highway 17 and of Mountain Bay Road will be allowed to continue.

II. Land acquisition/disposition

Eight patented parcels line the western shore of the Gravel River peninsula, incorporating some of the features desired in the park. The MNR has negotiated a land exchange to obtain the remainder of the bird’s foot delta and an additional section of the meandering river. These acquired lands ahead of the bird’s foot delta are slated to be added to the park in 2013. Additional portions of the lakebed will be added to the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Reserve.

Guideline:

The two acquired parcels of land will be incorporated into the park. Negotiations with the owners will continue to further the acquisition of a section of Rainboth Point adjacent to the park.

Land access to non-acquired parcels, crown land and Canadian Pacific Railway will not change.

New land disposition for commercial use may be considered in the form of land use permit or lease, provided that the proposed commercial use is consistent with conditions of the PPCRA and the project has been approved through an Environmental Assessment process.

III. Existing/proposed development

Approximately three kilometres of road presently exist within the park, mainly located north of Highway 17. It is used by Hydro One Inc. to access the hydro corridor on the northern boundary of the park and by a local First Nation trapper to access his/her trapline. It may also be used to access the snowmobile trail in winter time as well as trails which lead to Buckaday Lake in the Gravel River Conservation Reserve (C2225). The road is gated, but it is seldom locked or closed. As a result, several small branch roads have developed off of it.

Guideline:

No further road development will be permitted. Maintenance by Hydro One Inc. of its existing road for access to their transmission line will be permitted.

IV. Recreational activities

Gravel Point and Mountain Bay have long been recreation destinations for local inhabitants, with many people accessing the sand beach on the west side of the peninsula by boat before the construction of the railway and Highway 17.

A canoe route exists which travels down the Gravel River from the upper reach of the river. It can be accessed for day use via forest access road to a point below the first set of falls on the Gravel River. Multi-day canoe trips are possible on the Gravel River, but the route is seldom used, difficult, and is not recommended for novice paddlers.

An unauthorized walking trail exists which connects Mountain Bay Road to the cobble beach on the eastern portion of Gravel Point. The trail is currently being maintained by residents of the cottage subdivision. The majority of park users are residents of the cottage subdivision.

Guideline:

The following recreational activities are governed by the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006, (PPCRA), and may or may not be permitted based on Ontario Regulation (O. Reg.) 347/07:

  • Aircraft landings are not permitted
  • ATV use is not permitted on or off-trail
  • Campgrounds will not be developed
  • Horseback riding is not permitted
  • Hunting is not permitted
  • Motor boat use is not permitted
  • Mountain biking is not permitted
  • Existing uses may continue unless identified values are threatened
  • Rock climbing is not permitted
  • Sailing is not permitted
  • Scuba diving and skin diving may be permitted through planning. Existing uses may continue unless values are threatened
  • Snowmobiling off trail is not permitted
  • Snowmobiling on trail may be permitted through planning
  • Sport fishing is permitted. Consult the Ontario Fishing Regulations Summary for specific local details
  • Development of trails for non-mechanized activities may be permitted. Certain types of trails consistent with those allowed in Nature Reserve Class parks may be considered through planning

V. Commercial activities

Commercial fishing and bait fishing, trapping, tourism operations, and other resource harvesting activities occur on the landscape surrounding the park. One trap line (TR3), one bear management area (TR-21A-051), and two baitfish blocks (NI1503, NI3003) overlap the park. These activities were to be phased out by 1 January 2012, however interest by the Pays Plat First Nation in the inclusion of these resource licenses into their Lands and Larger Land Base has meant that they are still either allocated to First Nations individuals or not available for allocation due to this process.

The park has been withdrawn from staking and mineral exploration.

The park is adjacent to the Lake Nipigon and Kenogami Forest Management Units.

The park is adjacent to the Gravel River Motel, which is located along Highway 17 on the west side of the Gravel River.

No other commercial activities presently exist.

Guidelines:

Commercial timber harvest, oil, gas, peat and aggregate extraction, the generation of electricity and other commercial uses are prohibited within the park (PPCRA, Section 16). Prospecting, staking mining claims, developing mineral interests or working mines is not permitted in the park (PPCRA).

Existing commercial fur harvest may continue for the lifetime of the current head trapper. If a license is revoked, surrendered or an application for transfer is received prior to that time, all portions of the registered trapline within the park will be rescinded from the trapline’s legal description.

Existing licensed bait harvest operations in park-encompassed waters may be extended annually, for the lifetime of the current licensee or until the license is surrendered – whichever occurs first. Annual extensions are conditional on the outcome of a policy review of bait use and bait harvest in protected areas.

Trapline and baitfish cabins will not be permitted.

Transfers of licenses are permitted between or to Aboriginal peoples.

Hunting is not permitted in the park.

Other commercial activities will not be permitted.

Ontario Parks will act as a plan advisor and reviewer during the Forest Management Planning Process, according to the northwest zone’s protocol for Ontario Parks' participation in forest management planning. This process ensures that park values and park-related values are recognized and that protection and mitigation measures are worked out through the development of the forest management plan when these values are potentially affected by adjacent forestry operations.

VI. Natural resources

Gravel River Provincial Park is considered significant due to the high quality and uniqueness of earth science features. Though other deltaic deposits occur along the north shore of Lake Superior, the park area protects an unusual concentration of excellent features relating to meandering streams, including one of the few active bird’s foot deltas in the Canadian Great Lakes. In addition to the Gravel River, there are two other small rivers located inside the park: the Naomikan (or Dead) River and the Little Gravel River. The Naomikan River was "created" during the construction of the railway through the area. The Canadian Pacific railway line effectively blocks the Naomikan River in three locations. It is thought that during construction of the railway a shorter channel was cut for the Gravel River to the location of the existing modern-day delta to avoid the cost of building three or four bridges over the river. The Naomikan River therefore represents what may be the historic path of the Gravel River.

Minor aggregate removals have previously been made from within the park area before the park was regulated. The patent lands adjacent to the park were previously held as mining leases.

The park landform features are complemented by a diversity of vegetation pattern associated with the various river-related features and moisture regimes. One provincially rare and 11 regionally rare plants are found in and immediately adjacent to the park. Most of these plants are associated with the bird’s foot delta and the sand and gravel bars which line the river. A small part of the park was previously logged. The area has been used as a forest seed collection area. Rare moonwort ferns (Botrychium spp.) have been found immediately outside the area of the park along the Little Gravel River.

Endangered woodland caribou are known to frequent the north shore of Lake Superior. Individual animals and relatively large groups of caribou are known to frequent Slate Islands, Neys, and Michipicoten Island provincial parks. Gravel River Provincial Park is in the Lake Superior Uplands Linkage population range where caribou distribution is described as discontinuous. The Province of Ontario is committed to the maintenance and rehabilitation of the species across its range, and protected areas such as Gravel River Provincial Park will play an important role in the species recovery strategy and the Caribou Conservation Plan (OWCRT 2008, OMNR 2009).

The Gravel River Peninsula is heavily used by waterfowl during seasonal migrations and as a nesting site for shore birds. The peninsula supports a number of different species including white-tail deer, moose, snowshoe hare, lynx, and a nesting colony of blue heron. Gravel River is Bald eagles are known to nest immediately outside the park, lake sturgeon are reported to spawn in the Gravel River below the first set of falls, and northern brook lamprey have also been found in the river during past sea lamprey treatments.

Guideline:

Maintenance of ecological integrity will be the first priority and the restoration of ecological integrity will be considered (PPCRA).

Consistent with the protection objective for provincial parks, species declared 'special concern' like lake sturgeon and northern brook lamprey, and 'threatened' by the OMNR will be afforded the same protection as species declared endangered. The statutes and regulations of the Endangered Species Act apply to any species at risk noted or observed within the park.

Gravel River Provincial Park is located in the Boreal Fire Management Zone in which forest fires generally receive a full response including aggressive initial attack and sustained action until declared out. Forest fires are recognized as a natural ecological process in the boreal forest ecosystem, necessary for both maintenance and renewal. Due to the size, shape, and proximity of Gravel River Provincial Park to the cottage subdivision on Mountain Bay Road, allowing wildfires to be observed or employing a modified response may not be feasible. In the absence of a separate Fire Management Plan for the park, and according to the Forest Fire Management Strategy for Ontario, 2004 and the fire management objectives for the surrounding fire management zone will apply. All fires that occur within the park will receive a full response.

To promote and maintain the ecological integrity within the park, prescribed burning, consistent with Ontario’s Prescribed Burn Policy and associated guidelines may be used to reintroduce the natural role of forest fires within the park’s boundaries. Further long term direction will be addressed during the development of management direction for the park.

Management of wildlife will be directed to the maintenance of an evolving natural succession, unless alternative strategies are desirable. Nuisance, rabid or invasive species may be controlled when essential to protect human health and safety, the health of the species outside the park, or the values for which the park was established. No wildlife habitat or populations will be enhanced, rehabilitated, restored or managed in the absence of a management plan or separate specific Provincial direction as is the case with the Caribou Conservation Plan (OWCRT 2008, OMNR 2009).

Management of vegetation will be directed to the maintenance of an evolving natural succession, unless alternative strategies are desirable. Occurrences of insect and disease outbreaks native to the forest region, in which the park is situated, are recognized as an integral component of the park’s ecology. Non-native species will not deliberately be introduced. Where they are already established, a management program for their eradication may be developed, if it is practical and feasible for the perpetuation of the values for which the park was established. When control is undertaken, it will be directed as narrowly as possible to the specific insect or disease, so as to have minimal effects on the balance of the park environment. Biological controls will be used whenever possible. The control of native species will be addressed in the management plan.

The harvesting of vegetation for commercial use will not be permitted.

The park will continue to serve as a tree seed collection site.

VII. Aboriginal interests

Aboriginal persons and their ancestors have long had a connection with utilizing and caring for the land that should be recognized, respected and celebrated. The park is within the Treaty 9 area, and the nearest Aboriginal communities include Pays Plat First Nations and Red Rock Indian Band.

Northwest Métis Council, Red Sky Métis, and the Jackfish Métis Council, may also have an interest in this area.

Pays Plat First Nation began a Lands & Larger Land Base planning exercise in 1991, which includes an interest in the lands of Gravel River Provincial Park and Gravel River Conservation Reserve. There are no other known Aboriginal interests or claims within the park area.

Guideline:

For greater certainty, nothing in this interim statement shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for the existing Aboriginal or Treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada as recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

VIII. Cultural resources

There are no recorded archaeological sites or historic resources within the park, but many areas along the Little Gravel (western boundary of the park), Gravel, and Naomikan rivers have been identified as having high potential for archaeological sites during a Stage I Archaeological Assessment conducted for regular forest management planning in the Lake Nipigon Forest Management Unit. In addition, there are dozens of known archaeological sites along the north shore of Lake Superior, and Gravel Point has been the site of former aggregate extraction operations during the construction of the Canadian Pacific railway. During field work conducted during the summer of 2012 three potential Pukaskwa pits were identified as was various other human debris of various ages along the cobble beach.

Guideline:

Cultural resources, as identified, will be protected from disturbance. The MNR will continue to work with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport’s regional chief archaeologist to identify archaeological sites requiring further assessment or protection.

Archaeological and historical artefacts and landscapes will only be removed or altered through approved research projects for the purpose of defining past cultural activities.

The locations of any archaeological sites will not be public information. Necessary measures (access/development restrictions) to protect the integrity of any archaeological sites will be addressed through park management planning.

IX. Client services

Ontario Parks personnel based out of the Terrace Bay Area Office of the Nipigon District MNR and out of Rainbow Falls Provincial Park will be the primary contact for responding to inquiries about the basic level of information such as access, nature appreciation, wildlife viewing opportunities, fishing, permitted uses, and boundaries.

Guideline:

Interpretation will be conducted as a minor, occasional theme of the Rainbow Falls and Neys provincial parks visitor services programs.

A basic information leaflet will be produced providing information on access, significant resources, references, etc.

The park area will be designated on provincially produced maps to clearly delineate boundaries.

X. Research/inventories

Reconnaissance level and detailed earth and life science inventories have been conducted for this park. A Stage 1 Archaeological Assessment was conducted as part of the forest management planning process for the Lake Nipigon Forest Management Unit.

A recreation inventory was completed for the park in 2003.

Guideline:

Additional research inventories (earth/life science, cultural) will be encouraged to further document Park values, and may be carried out by the MNR. or by qualified outside interests. Non-destructive scientific research by qualified/recognized institutions or organizations that will contribute to the MNR's natural heritage information base will be encouraged. All research programs will require the approval of the MNR and will be subject to ministry policy including data sharing agreements and other relevant legislation.

Should inventories identify significant features, an update or amendment to this statement or a re-write may be requested.

Reference/sources

Cowell, D.W. 2004. Gravel River Nature Reserve (P2660) Earth Science Inventory Report. Unpublished report prepared for MNR Northwestern Parks Zone Nipigon District. 19 pp.

Foster, R., and A. Harris. 2005. Life Science Inventory – Gravel River Provincial Nature Reserve. Unpublished report prepared for Nipigon District MNR. 73 pp.

Imageneering. 2003. Recreation Resource Inventory Report – Gravel River Provincial Nature Reserve. Prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, St Joseph Island, Ontario. 22 pp.

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources [OMNR]. 1983. Terrace Bay District Land Use Guidelines.

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources [OMNR]. 2004. Forest Fire Management Strategy for Ontario. Queen’s Printer for Ontario. (online). 64 pp.

Ontario Woodland Caribou Recovery Team [OWCRT]. 2008. Recovery Strategy for Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) (Forest-Dwelling, Boreal Population) in Ontario. Prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Peterborough, Ontario. 93 pp.

Noble, T. 1990. Reconnaissance Life Science Inventory of Gravel River Provincial Nature Reserve.

Noble, T. 1990. Morphological Interpretation of Gravel River Provincial.

Appendix I: Summary of Involvement

In August 2019, this management statement was amended to allow for a hydro line crossing. On February 7, 2017, a policy proposal notice was posted on the Environmental Registry for the review of the proposed amendments. The comment period occurred between February 7, 2017 - March 24, 2017. Letters were also sent to Indigenous communities and other interested or affected stakeholders to notify, and request input, on the proposed amendments to park management direction. As a result of consultation, a total of 3 comments were received. One comment was supportive of the East-West Tie project. Two comments requested more information about the project.