A Brief History

Pre-European Settlers – Indigenous peoples used Second Marsh for food, water and shelter. The Mississaugas of the Ojibway Nation were the first known peoples to occupy the Oshawa area in the 15th Century.  Pathways along local creek valleys served as access routes between trading posts from as far away as Lake Simoce, Rice Lake and Lake Scugog. Specifically, Second Marsh was the southerly terminus of the ancient Scugog Carrying Place Trail.

1616 – Second Marsh was explored and mapped by Samuel de Champlain.

1750 – French traders built a trading post on the top of a glacial drumlin known as Gifford Hill, on the west side of the Marsh. It was abandoned in 1759 becoming part of a homestead in 1790.

Late 1700’s – clearing of forests for agriculture and land development begins to negatively impact Second Marsh.

Mid 1800’s – land clearing had led to habitat destruction and upstream erosion with the subsequent downstream sedimentation of the Marsh.

1816 – Gifford Hill, on the west side of the Marsh, was the site of Oshawa’s first cemetery (later moved to Lakeview Park).

In the 1930’s and 40’s, dredgeate from Oshawa Harbour was dumped into the Marsh by the Oshawa Harbour Commission (OHC).

Mid 1950’s – City of Oshawa establishes the Oshawa Fish and Wildlife Advisory Committee (OFWAC) in response to naturalists and conservationists concern about human activities impacting the Marsh.

Mid 1900’s – construction of the C.N.R. rail line and Highway 401 to the north of the Marsh further reduced the size and function of the Marsh and cut off historic wildlife corridors from upstream areas.

1952 to 1971 – effluent from the Harmony Creek Water Treatment Plant was directed into the Marsh.

1954 – the OFWAC designated the Marsh as a game preserve.

1956 – the OFWAC established a waterfowl banding station at Second Marsh. From 1956 to 1972, 32,633 waterfowl were banded under the direction of Mr. Ed Kroll. It was reputed to be the second largest banding station in Ontario and the fifth largest on the Atlantic Flyway. Banding ceased in 1973 by order of the OHC.  Some additional banding was done in 1978 by Canadian Wildlife Service personnel and an additional 1,084 waterfowl were tagged.

1962 – Second Marsh gained further ornithological fame when Mr. George Scott confirmed the first nesting of Little Gull (Larus minutus) in the Western Hemisphere at the site.

Mid 1960’s – the OHC identified the Marsh as a strategic site for a deep-water port if it was dredged.

1970 – With the promise of renewed economic activity, the City transferred the ownership of the Marsh to the OHC with the caveat that ownership would be returned to the City if the Marsh was not used for harbour expansion within a reasonable amount of time. During OHC ownership, the Marsh underwent many physical changes.

1972 – a number of naturalists and conservationists advocating on behalf of the Marsh created the Second Marsh Defense Association (SMDA), which incorporated in 1976. The organization, headed by Jim Richards and Bob Mills aggressively challenged the harbour expansion into the Marsh. A long, and often bitter, battle to save the Marsh was waged between 1972 and 1984.

1973-74 – The OHC dyked the natural western outlet of the Marsh into Lake Ontario. After being blocked over the winter, the barrier beach washed out at the east end. With the onset of spring floods, much of the vegetation and vegetated islands within the Marsh were destroyed and washed out into Lake Ontario. The new outlet then forced water entering the Marsh from the northwest corner to travel further to exit into the Lake in the southeast corner, which resulted in even greater and more rapid deposition of silt essentially transforming the Marsh into an open body of shallow water filled with sediment.

1983 – the Canadian Wildlife Service (Environment Canada) became actively involved in the management of Second Marsh with the publication of a comprehensive study of the Marsh entitled “Oshawa Second Marsh Baseline Study” (Cecile, 1983).  The study outlined the current attributes and potential problems of the Marsh, provided a wildlife inventory and formed the basis of a preliminary remediation plan.

1984 – the OHC and the Federal Department of Transport declared Second Marsh as “excess land” and a long process to transfer ownership back to the City began.

1984 to1991 – the SMDA supported the transfer of the Marsh to the City, encouraged the City to accept it and to establish a team that would explore rehabilitation measures for the Marsh.

1992 – a Management Plan to guide the rehabilitation of the Marsh, prepared by a Steering Committee comprised of key stakeholders, was endorsed by City Council. A network of partnerships was developed between the City of Oshawa, Environment Canada and SMDA to implement the recommendations approved in the Management Plan. Jim Richards of SMDA assumed the implementation and leadership role, and planned the day-to-day business of restoring the Marsh.

1993 – ownership of the Marsh was transferred back to the City of Oshawa.

1993 – the Marsh became a demonstration project of Environment Canada’s Great Lakes 2000 Cleanup Fund.

1993 – SMDA became Friends of Second Marsh (FSM).  See History of FSM for further information.

1995 – a portion of the Waterfront Trail was constructed on the west side of the Marsh.