Mapping Land Use on PEI in the 1960s


by Choyce Chappell, UPEI
29 May, 2019

The poster that I produced at the UPEI GeoREACH Lab in the 2019 winter semester offers a unique glimpse into PEI’s past. Nick Scott, another GeoREACH lab member, found and scanned a map detailing the approximate property boundaries of almost all of PEI in the 1960s. We called this map the Beaulieu Map, after Andrée Beaulieu, a federal researcher with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. The Beaulieu map was based on aerial photos from the early 1960s, so while the plot sizes were not exactly accurate, they were extremely close for a hand-drawn map. This was a fascinating find. The map was created to support the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP), one of the central research subjects of Dr. MacFadyen’s GeoREACH Lab at UPEI.

A Geospatial Analysis of Land Use and Cover Change on PEI, 1968-2010. Click to see in new tab.

I began this part of the project began by exploring avenues to try and use processes that would automatically digitize the map into a format that would work with the GIS softwares that the lab uses. Unfortunately, due a number of factors, such as limitations with GIS tools, creases in the map from folding, and inaccuracies in the map, we were unable to do so. As a result, I switched over to sampling six  townships, and manually digitizing them. The result initially contained small errors in geometry, so we tried to minimize those using several GIS tools and by excluding slivers and small parcels from the analysis.

Getting the poster and preliminary analysis ready the Environmental Science Atlantic Conference was a real time crunch, and the first version of the poster had little quantitative data and little in the way of visual supplements. Over the following few weeks, the final poster (see above) was refined and presented to members of the GeoREACH Lab and other members of the UPEI community. I added added and rearranged new information, I completed additional quantitative analysis, and I added and edited more images to accurately reflect the research process and the story we uncovered.

Choyce Chappell presenting the first draft of the poster at the Environmental Science Atlantic Conference. Source: SciAtlantic on Flickr.

To perform the quantitative analysis, we categorized properties by the size of the parcel (a smallest size, three mid-sizes, and a largest size), and analysed land use by five dominant categories (cleared land, forested land, harvested clear-cuts; harvested partial cuts; and reverting land). Using this data, we were able to make some generalizations about ongoing trends among farms according to their property size, location, and land use. This is a unique glimpse into the lives of Prince Edward Islanders in the 1960s, finding many stories that could not have been told with other forms of historical analysis.

The true success of this work is knowing how much further it can go, and what it means for the future. This work is preliminary to digitizing the whole map, and can be used as a template for such a project. Additionally, the work can be used to see how much the CDP affected the land use and cover change, and the soil quality, of PEI over time, or to analyse the land use of properties by water shed, county, topographic features, and more. Even though I am no longer with them, I’m excited to see what the GeoREACH lab does with this work!

Choyce Chappell presenting the poster to the GeoREACH team and others at UPEI.

Welcome to the GeoREACH Lab Website


Land Use in Wheatley River, PEI (1935)

Welcome! The GeoREACH Lab supports Geospatial Research in Atlantic Canadian History and other projects of the Applied, Communications, Leadership & Culture program in the Faculty of Arts at University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI). The lab is directed by Dr. Josh MacFadyen, an environmental historian and Canada Research Chair in Geospatial Humanities at UPEI.

The Lab’s current projects focus on the history of food and agriculture in Canada, and we study the ways that the modern food system has shaped our relationships with animals and the land. Prince Edward Island was a relative late adapter of modern industrial agriculture, and in many ways it is still going through this profound social-ecological transition. This presents an opportunity to interview, map, and otherwise study the causes and impacts of agro-ecosystem transformation in one place over time.

We hope you will check out the About page keep watching this site for ongoing information on the research we are doing at UPEI.

Bank Swallows

Below is an excerpt from a series on the birds of Prince Edward Island that “Agricola” wrote in 1950. This one was published on July 22. According to COSEWIC the number of bank swallows has continued to decrease nationwide. In 2018, they were upgraded to a threatened status, and according to Parks Canada, have decreased by approximately 98% in the last 40 years (Russell).

“The last, and least known of the group, is the Bank Swallow. It is also the smallest and least colourful. ‘The little Bank Swallow (Cotile reparia), is a lustreless courser of the air, draped only in dull, mouse-coloured feathers. It chooses, however, the grandest home of the tribe. Sometimes it makes its nest in a low bank but more frequently in the lofty summits of the towering red cliffs that loom over ocean’s surges, on the wild sea-coast. How airy and beautiful their ceaseless circling round the dark summit of the great sea battlement, while the billows surge, and lash, and thunder, and foam, below!

“_DSC5261r” by pshanson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

“‘The birds dig their nest holes two or three feet into the face of the clay top of the cliffs. At the inner extremities the nests of grass and feathers are placed, having each four or five pure white eggs.’ This lengthy quotation is from Bain’s “Birds of P.E. Island,” and it leaves little room for further remarks.

“This swallow, common in Bain’s time, is now thought to be greatly decreased. It would help to settle this question if readers would send in their observations. There used to be a large colony of these birds on ‘Robinson’s Island’ in Rustico Bay (1934).

“Bank Swallow Riparia riparia” by Mark Peck Bird Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

“Bank Swallow. AOU 616. Summer resident. Becoming scarcer?

“Plumage: brownish-gray above; underparts white, with a brownish-gray band across the breast.

Length of adult: 5.20 inches.”


Agricola. “Newsy Notes.” The Guardian of the Gulf, July 22, 1950. Accessed May 29, 2019.
Falconer, Miles, and Debra Badzinski. “Annual Rate of Change for the Bank Swallow between 1970 and 2011.” Chart. Government of Canada. May 2013. Accessed May 29, 2019.
Russell, Nancy. “Threatened Bank Swallows Get Extra Protection in P.E.I. National Park.” CBC News. June 08, 2018. Accessed May 30, 2019.

Newsy Notes

Newsy Farm Notes (later just Newsy Notes) was a column written under the pen name “Agricola” that was published by The Guardian PEI newspaper (then known as The Guardian of the Gulf or The Charlottetown Guardian) in the 20th century. This column covered a large variety of topics, including farm news, nature profiles, historical tidbits, tips and tricks, and some opinion pieces among other things. It was fairly popular, and ran for four decades, from the 1920s-1960s.

You can keep checking back, as we will be uploading some excerpts from the column!

The text used for Newsy Notes excerpts comes from here.