A Local Gem
Located along Mississauga’s Lake Ontario shoreline, Rattray Marsh features a shale beach and pedestrian boardwalks overlooking natural wetlands. It’s the last remaining lakefront marsh between Toronto and Burlington and provides important habitat for many species of birds, butterflies, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.
The evolution of Rattray Marsh into the publicly accessible greenspace it is today, is inspirational. This special space exists due to a dedicated community that rallied together to advocate for the protection of the marsh.
Becoming a Protected Space
The entire Credit River Watershed, including Rattray Marsh, is part of the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and the Traditional Territory of the Huron-Wendat First Nation and Haudenosaunee. While specific details regarding Indigenous use of Rattray Marsh are not known, one pre-contact archaeological site has been recorded and a few artifacts, such as a sinker stone used for fish netting, have been found.
Notable settlers on the land include Harris H. Fudger who purchased about 55 hectares in 1916. Fudger and his family built the Barrymede Mansion and Bexhill House. The property was purchased by James Rattray in 1945, and following his death in 1959, a long battle began to preserve the marsh and protect it from development.
Despite the efforts of concerned residents and naturalist groups, the Rattray Estate was sold to a developer and by 1969 Phase I of the development was complete. Efforts from the local community continued and in 1971 CVC acquired the first 10-hectare parcel of the marsh. A significant flood in 1973 and CVC’s new fill regulations renewed political support for the acquisition of the remaining parcel. With financial support from the province, the then-Town of Mississauga, naturalist and service clubs, and a citizen-led fundraising drive, the remaining lands were acquired. The 38 hectare conservation area officially opened to the public in 1975.
Rattray Marsh Today
Today Rattray Marsh is CVC’s most visited conservation area and receives well over 250,000 annual visits. It features excellent bird and wildlife watching opportunities and a pedestrian-only section of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail which connects parks, greenspace and communities across the Great Lakes Region. As a unique urban wetland, Rattray Marsh also faces many challenges, including impacts from invasive species, urbanization and climate change.
This November, CVC staff and partners hosted an open house for the local community. The open house provided an opportunity for residents to learn about the property’s ecology, history, management and ongoing restoration. Partners from the Rattray Marsh Protection Association, the South Peel Naturalists and York University also provided displays. Approximately 130 people attended the event.
Attendees were asked about what they value most about Rattray Marsh as well as what would make their experience better. As one person noted, Rattray Marsh Conservation Area is “a natural treasure in an urban area”.
What do you value most about Rattray Marsh?
“We love walking in the marsh with our family and dog! So much wildlife to see!”
“A natural treasure in an urban area”
“The new boardwalks are amazing”
What would make your experience at Rattray Marsh better?
“Have more sessions like this at community centres or places with high foot traffic”
“Teach people to dismount bicycles in the Marsh!”
“Make the Bexhill access accessible”
Next time you’re in the area consider visiting Rattray Marsh Conservation Area. Take a stroll along the waterfront trail, enjoy the spectacular lakefront views and take a moment to appreciate the efforts of a dedicated group of people whose actions are the reason this special space exists today.
While CVC receives funding from a variety of sources, there is never enough resources to carry out all the critical work that needs to be done to ensure a sustainable future for Rattray Marsh Conservation Area. Donations in support of Rattray Marsh help fund critical environmental restoration efforts. You can make a secure online donation through the Credit Valley Conservation Foundation.
By: Laura Rundle, Conservation Lands Planner