Oromocto Gateway Wetland: The Importance of Urban Wetlands

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Nestled in the heart of town, Oromocto Gateway Wetland and Conservation Area is a beautiful urban wetland with covered bridges, boardwalks, and an interpretive centre. All days of the week, people visit to walk their dogs, picnic, or adventure with their kids. There’s lots to explore! The 17-hectare freshwater marsh is home to many plants, small mammals, and birds. Including friendly chickadees and nuthatches who will eat seeds right out of your hand!

Gateway Wetland is more than a pretty place, it’s an example of how successful urban wetlands can be. Urban wetlands provide recreational opportunities, increase biodiversity, filter pollutants from our air and water, store carbon dioxide, cool urban centres, and can reduce the severity of floods. Overall, they help create more sustainable and resilient cities. This post is your guide to Oromocto Gateway Wetland and an introduction to the importance of urban wetlands.

Oromocto Gateway Wetland Trails

Oromocto Gateway Wetland is a mix of freshwater marsh and forest. Two walking trails lead you through the area, a 1.35 kilometre loop and a shorter 0.77 kilometre loop. Both trails are wide, easy to follow, and have rest benches throughout. There are wood carvings and interpretive signs along the trails. Two boardwalks provide wide views of the wetland, and the picnic tables behind the interpretive centre offer a panoramic view of the area.

For families with young children, the trails are all-terrain stroller friendly. My toddler can walk the short loop by herself. She loves looking at the wooden carvings and spotting the birds. Check out this free activity book I made for exploring wetlands with your kid! Inside, you’ll find information about wetland plants and animals to colour, a guide on critter dipping, a wetland scavenger hunt, and a spot for field notes.

Currently, 16% of the Gateway Wetland trails comply with Canada’s national building code for outdoor pathways.1 From what I understand, this takes you to the end of both boardwalks. More improvements are said to be in the works.1

Gateway Wetland hosts free programming like interpretative walks, critter dipping, and barbecues with local community partners and organizations. Check out their social media for upcoming events.

Features of the Wetland

Gateway Wetland is home to many species of flora and fauna. One of the first things you’ll notice is cattails abound. Cattails are perennial plants known for their tall, grass-like leaves, and distinctive brown, sausage-shaped flower spikes. They offer food and habitat for a variety of animals, including mallards, Canada geese, frogs, and salamanders.2

I associate cattails with red-winged blackbirds who nest in them and perch on top of their flower heads. They’re a noisy bunch – especially in springtime. Their ‘conk-la-ree’ song is loud and easily distinguished.3 Males perform this songs to impress females and ward off other males. They fly to a high perch, lean forward, droop their wings, spread their tail feathers, fluff up their red shoulder patches, and sing.3

Mallards are also common at Gateway Wetland. They’re often hanging out around the covered bridge with their bills covered in bright green duckweed. Mallards are great for wetlands. They help transport wetland plant seeds from one area to another, effectively connecting isolated habitats and increasing biodiversity.4 In this same area, you might also spot Canada geese, eastern phoebes, and frogs!

Along the forested parts of the trail, you’ll notice eastern white cedar trees. Woodland birds, like chickadees and nuthatches, love to nest and take shelter in them. If you listen for their calls and stop with some sunflower seeds in hand, they may land on you. Use sunflower seeds with no added salt or flavouring. The birds are much quicker to land in the wintertime when food is scarce and they need extra calories to stay warm.

During the summer, you can find spotted jewelweed along the trail. It’s a beautiful orange flower speckled with red. The Mi’gmaq use the crushed leaves to soothe insect bites, burns, and poison ivy rashes. Other flowers in the area include purple loosestrife (invasive, but pretty), butter-and-eggs, sheep laurel, northern blue flag, and broad-leafed helleborine. Definitely give the wetland a visit in autumn when the tree canopy is in full colour.

Community Driven

Oromocto Gateway Wetland is a testament to what community engagement and advocacy can achieve. Initially conceived in 2006, the project languished for years until community members petitioned for its revival, submitting proposals until it was brought back to life in 2012.5

The successful completion of the project was a result of partnerships between the town of Oromocto, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and the Oromocto River Watershed Association.5 Other community groups and organizations have pitched in to help over the years, including Ability New Brunswick who helped enhance the trail’s accessibility.1

The Importance of Urban Wetlands

Urban wetlands play an essential role in providing green spaces within cities, improving water quality, reducing flood risk, cooling temperatures, and providing habitat for wildlife. Unfortunately, the crucial benefits that wetlands provide are often unknown or ignored by government and in urban development.6 In Canada, we’ve lost 70% of wetlands in settled areas.7

Some of the biggest threats to wetlands are urban development and expansion, contamination, excessive nutrient buildup, and the introduction of invasive species.6 It’s up to our community members, environmentally oriented organizations, and other stakeholders to advocate for and promote wetland protection, restoration, and management. Educating people about the importance of wetlands is a crucial step.

Wetland Services

Increased Biodiversity

Urban wetlands foster biodiversity by offering habitat for a diverse range of amphibians, insects, reptiles, birds, and mammals that are adapted to aquatic environments.6 These wetlands serve as crucial corridors that facilitate the movement of species between fragmented habitats.6 Think of them as nature’s bridges, connecting islands of biodiversity. This is especially evident in birds, which rely on urban wetlands for shelter, feeding, and breeding as part of their annual migratory cycles.6

Habitat fragmentation occurs when large, continuous habitats are divided into smaller, isolated patches. Fragmented habitats present several challenges for wildlife, including decreased genetic diversity, restricted access to resources, and obstacles to movement.

Flood Control

Urban wetlands also absorb and store excess rainwater, helping to reduce the risk of flooding in urban areas. This is important as urbanization increases the amount of impervious surfaces, such as roads and buildings, which can lead to more rapid runoff during storms. Even small wetlands can have a big effect. A two-hectare wetland can retain water runoff from an area 70 times its size!8

Limiting flood damage also helps reduce soil erosion and drought.9 Wetlands slow down the flow of water, allowing sediments to settle and reducing the erosive force of water.6 Wetlands also act as natural sponges, absorbing water during wet periods and slowly releasing it during dry periods. This helps mitigate the effects of drought by maintaining groundwater levels.

Improved Water Quality

Urbanization increases runoff and pollution in cities, but wetlands can help! Wetlands are natural filters, helping remove pollutants and sediment from water. When water enters a wetland, it slows down, allowing dirt and pollutants to settle while plants absorb excess nutrients, effectively cleaning the water.6

Some wetlands are even built to treat city wastewater. These engineered wetlands mimic the functions of natural wetlands but are designed to handle higher pollutant loads.10 But, wetlands, natural or man-made, can only handle a limited amount of pollution before becoming overloaded.6, 10 When this happens, their ability to filter and clean water diminishes, leading to degraded water quality, the poisoning of aquatic life, and loss of biodiversity.6, 10

Urban wetland services: increased biodiversity, flood control, improved water quality, cooling urban heat, mitigating climate change, and recreation.

Cooling Urban Heat

Cities get hot! Dense buildings and roads absorb and retain more heat than natural landscapes, creating urban heat islands that are significantly warmer than surrounding areas.11 This effect can be deadly, especially for those aged 65 and older who are susceptible to heat-related cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses.11 In 2021, Vancouver’s heat dome claimed 619 lives.12

Urban wetlands help mitigate this effect by absorbing more sunlight, keeping the air cooler, and reducing water evaporation.6 They’re even known to create their own cooler microclimates!6 Research shows that cities with abundant water bodies and vegetation stay cooler and cool down faster than cities dominated by pavement.11

Mitigating Climate Change

Urban wetlands also absorb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.13 This process, known as carbon sequestration, involves wetlands capturing carbon through photosynthesis and trapping it in plants and soil.14 Over time, these wetlands can store carbon for thousands of years in layers of vegetation, soil, and sediment.14 This long-term storage helps keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, mitigating climate change and contributing to a healthier environment.


Finally, urban wetlands provide opportunities for recreation and relaxation, enhancing the quality of life for urban residents. I’ve written elsewhere about how nature improves our mental health. Studies over the past decade show that living within 300 meters of greenspace improves mental well-being15 and spending 120 minutes a week in nature enhances health.16 New research continues to highlight the health benefits of spending time in nature, reinforcing the importance of natural spaces for our physical and mental health.

American red squirrels are common sight and sound

Visit Oromocto Gateway Wetland

I hope this post gives you reason to visit Oromocto Gateway Wetland and fosters a new appreciation for urban wetlands. Urban wetlands are a small but important step towards making our cities more sustainable and enjoyable. I also hope this post reminds us of the power of community to demand greener cities and preserve vital natural spaces.

If you’re interested in becoming involved in wetland protection or donating to organizations working to protect Canada’s wetlands you can reach out to: Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, or the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, to name a few.

Other Posts You May Enjoy

5 Family Friendly Hikes Near Fredericton, New Brunswick

Celebrating Atlantic Canada’s Wetlands: A Guide to Wetland Plants

Nuthatches: The Bird That Walks Upside Down

Why Do Birds Sing in the Early Morning?


1 Town of Oromocto. 2020. “Gateway Wetland Trail Accessibility Enhanced.”

2 The Nature Conservancy. “Wetland Producers.”

3 Cornell Lab: All About Birds. “Red-Winged Blackbird: Sounds.”

4 Rebecca Heisman. 2017. “Mallards Are Everywhere, and That’s Great for Wetlands.” Audubon.

5 Wellness NB. “How an Accessible Adventure Trail is Helping People of All Ages and Abilities Connect with Nature.”

6 Somayeh Alikhani, Petri Nummi, and Anne Ojala. 2021. “Urban Wetlands: A Review on Ecological and Cultural Values.” Water.

7 Ducks Unlimited Canada. 2018. “Urban wetlands make cities more livable.

8 Office of the Auditor General of Ontario. 2022. “Climate Change Adaptation: Reducing Urban Flood Risk.”

9 Ontario Nature. “Wetlands Mitigate Flooding.”

10 David Sharlay, et. al. 2016. “Linking Urban Land Use to Pollutants in Constructed Wetlands: Implications for Stormwater and Urban Planning.” Landscape and Urban Planning.

11 Wetlands International. 2020. “Urban Wetlands for Cooler Cities.”

12 Moira Wyton. 2023. “Annual Deaths From Extreme Heat in B.C. Could Double by 2030 Without Climate Adaptations.” CBC.

13 Lakehead University. 2023. “Wetlands Can Provide Potential Climate Change Solutions.”

14 Board of Water and Soil Resources. “Carbon Sequestration in Wetlands.”

15 Victoria Houldon, et. al. 2019. “A Spatial Analysis of Proximate Greenspace and Mental Wellbeing in London.” Applied Geography.

16 Matthew White, et. al. 2019. “Spending at Least 120 Minutes a Week in Nature is Associated with Good Health and Wellbeing.” Scientific Reports.

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