A trail which combines nature, history and art opens Saturday in Oil Springs.
Fairbank Oil Fields opens the trail to the public at 1pm Saturday on Gypsy Flats Road south of Oil Springs Line.
The two-km trail begins with a viewing platform of the historic Flowing Wells of 1862. Displays tell the story of how Sandford Fleming – the inventor of world-wide standard time – came in 1863 to study these scientific marvels that flowed spontaneously with no pump and produced thousands of barrels of oil each day.
A 25-metre wooden bridge over Black Creek takes the trail to the ruins of the home owned once by the oil and gas producer A.W. Parks. It was a home so lovely, a postcard had been made of it around 1906.
The trail opens into grasslands where a massive art exhibit displays the destinations of the Foreign Drillers. This exhibit, by Grand Bend artist Geri Binks, was shown at Victoria Hall in Petrolia in February.
This parcel of Fairbank Oil Fields attracts a good assortment of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and plants. Some species are quite rare for Lambton County according to naturalist Larry Cornelis. He has been recording the flora and fauna along the trail and has found the rare redfin shiner fish, Orchard Orioles, black billed cuckoos, screech owls, cliff swallows, gray catbirds and many others. Wild mink have been spotted here and even a great white egret. Unusual plants on the trail include cardinal flowers, bladdernut bushes, and mayflower.
“I find it exciting,” says Charlie Fairbank, owner of the oil field in a news release. “The world’s modern oil industry was born here and this rich heritage is recorded in the landscape of the nature trail. Here you’ll find ancient oil springs, active for more than 10,000 years that produced Flowing Wells and gushers. There are relics of prosperity and decline, and artifacts of production. This site, cleared in the 1860s for industry, the natural world has reclaimed.”