The Old-Growth Forest Project aims to create a sanctuary for both people and wildlife by restoring a 40-hectare parcel of Ignatius Jesuit Centre land to vibrant forest and wetland communities with their associated cold water creek.
The project site is just north of the City of Guelph and stretches eastward from Highway 6 North to Victoria Road. At present it is a mosaic of farm field, wetland, meadow, and regenerating forest. Marden Creek runs through the site to its confluence with the Speed River, which is bordered by the site for about a 2 km stretch.
Historically, the site was heavily influenced by the milling operations of the Mickle family, who in 1832 dammed Marden Creek to provide water power for their sawmill. The industrious Mickles cleared trees from the area, so that the land could be farmed. They converted their original sawmill to a gristmill for milling grain. Though the Mickle mill has become a ruin, the creek remained dammed. The dam compromised water quality and prevented fish from accessing the Speed River. A milestone for the Old-Growth Forest Project was reached in October 2010 when the Marden Creek dam was removed, freeing the creek for the first time in 180 years. The dam removal was an integral part of the Marden Creek Restoration Project which aims to return Marden to a cold water creek ecosystem. The ruins of the original mill are within the project site, and are an interesting place to visit.
The Old-Growth Forest, the 500-year project, is an initiative of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre of Guelph: