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Although it was a bit too early to view and pet the animals, our visit to Happy Rolph’s Bird Sanctuary & Petting Farm was still a delightful one. Seeing  the park this early in spring was just as enjoyable and only made you more eager to return when the summer season approached.

There were no animals to be found other than those noisy yet beautiful waterfowls swimming around in that famous pond – one of the many wonderful things this park is known for. The ducks and geese were hollering at the top of their birdie lungs when visitors would toss them some bread.

There were also kois discovered in the pond. They weren’t moving, (probably still in a state of hibernation since the visible ice floating on parts of the pond meant the water was still very cold), but they were there – alive and well!  There were many ancient trees throughout the park one of which we took a photo of that was over 160 years old!

Shortly after visiting the pond, something really blue down yonder caught our eyes. It was Lake Ontario! Probably the bluest you’ll ever see it, this time of the year.

Some facts…
  • Happy Rolph’s Bird Sanctuary is a 15.06-acre municipal park on the shores of Lake Ontario which boasts one of Canadas most exotic collections of flowering rhododendrons.
  • Harold “Happy” Rolph was a fruit farmer who founded a bird sanctuary on his property — now the public nature park on Lake Ontario. He needed water to irrigate the orchards and around 1950 built several natural looking ponds in a valley on the property. Several pairs of mallard ducks were purchased to attract other birds to the area. He and wife Jean built feeding stations for the birds over the next two decades, spending $1,500 a year on bird feed.
  • In October 1974, the property was named the Happy Rolph Bird Sanctuary in Rolph’s honour. Later, a children’s petting zoo was added to the attraction.
  • The petting farm, when it is open in season, includes chickens, pigs, horses, rabbits, sheep, goats, llamas, as well as a donkey named ‘Hoti’ — ‘Don Quixote’.  The pond’s inlet, sheltered by evergreens and bordered by grassy banks and willow trees, offers food and shelter for the resident waterfowl and migratory birds.
  • There are pathways to the lake, bird feeders, and a barn.   It is an ideal location for families or school groups to spend a day picnicking and visiting the animals. 
  • There are washrooms, a snack bar and a pavilion with plenty of picnic tables.  Happy Rolph's is also available for annual festivals and weddings.

The “Living Memorials” and The 9/11 Memorial Walkway

Another interesting thing we discovered throughout the park were the many “living memorials” plaques tied to trees. They are from the Hulse & English Memorial Forest Fund which is a non-profit tree planting charity. It provides private individuals the opportunity to contribute towards the greening of St. Catharines in the memory of loved ones. A tree symbolizes strength, durability, shelter and beauty.

We weren’t able to visit the entire park on this day but we later learnt, there was a trail that ran throughout the park which led to a peaceful waterfront memorial dedicated to Canadian victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The 9/11 MEMORIAL WALKWAY recognizes 27 Canadians who passed away at the World Trade Centre in 2001. Those that died are memorialized by twenty seven varieties of deciduous trees that line the trail. The wheelchair accessible walkway has benches with beautiful vistas on the shores of Lake Ontario. Another visit soon is definitely in order!

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Happy Rolphing!...