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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Lake Simcoe - People are the problem

People are the problem.

That was the conclusion of a investigation focusing on Lake Simcoe and the factors that threaten its health, with urban sprawl and climate change named as major concerns.

"One way or another, it comes back to our personal responsibility," said Brent Kopperson, executive director of the Windfall Ecology Centre, one of two organizations involved in the study.

Skyrocketing growth in areas bordering the lake is putting increased strain on this precious resource, a situation that is expected to worsen as new development continues in the watershed area.

"Primarily that is a result of the way we are building our communities, the population growth," Kopperson added.

Released on Wednesday, the study was co-sponsored by the Ladies of the Lake, a non-profit group of more than 100 women working to protect the water body from future harm.

The group, which includes members from the Orillia area, hopes to act as a bridge between government and the residents whose homes border the lake, with the long-term goal of creating a plan to combat the forces that threaten the lake's health.

"There have been many, many studies done, but never has there been a plan to do anything about it," said the organization's co-founder, Jane Meredith. The non-profit group raised eyebrows - and $250,000 - when members posed nude for a glossy calendar celebrating Lake Simcoe.

Meredith, who hails from the Keswick area, was among them.

"It was like no other experience before, but it was tremendous fun," she added with a laugh. "We accomplished our goal and then some."

Proceeds from the popular page-turner will support public education programs, including four events taking place at various locations around the lake this weekend. Armed with digital cameras, participants will document the impacts of urbanization, agriculture, invasive species, and climate change on the lake, while helping create a community action plan, to be unveiled in the fall. Locations include Innisfil, Barrie, the Holland River, and Georgina. "We had no idea of the reaction we were going to get," Meredith added of the publicity that followed the calender's publication. "It was incredible."

Prior to the report's release, past investigations of the lake focused on individual risk factors, with each studied in isolation. The Naked Truth - as the study has been dubbed - gathers those findings together under one roof, so to speak. "These things are all interrelated and you really can't look at just one thing," Kopperson added. "They all relate back to human activity."

The run-off of phosphorous into the lake from urban and agricultural areas has led to excess growth of weeds, algae and alien plants.

Researchers discovered "many canaries in our coal mine," Kopperson said, adding that rising temperatures are impacting harshly on fish habitat.

Wild trout are on the verge of disappearing, while some stocked fish "cannot reproduce," he added.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sutton - 320-home adult condo gets final green light

320-home adult condo gets final green light

The Moatfield development planning odyssey is over.
Now called Jackson's Landing By The Lake, the 320-home seniors lifestyle condominium development in Sutton cleared its final hurdle after a two-hour meeting at council earlier this month.

Geared to well-heeled retirees, the development stretches between Black River and Hedge roads, east of Maple Avenue.

The new housing development will be constructed by Concord's Alliance Homes Inc.

Approval came after a last-ditch effort to have more assurances wells in the area will be protected if there is water loss due to construction.

Margaretha Vandervelden, president of the North East Sutton Ratepayers Association, leading the battle against the development, said she still has serious concerns.

"We must have a commitment from the council of the Town of Georgina the interests of the residents will be protected," she said. "We definitely still feel they're not willing to take any responsibility for the consequences."

She expressed fear the development's foundation drainage system and the danger of piercing the protective clay layer will lead to area wells drying up.

In a letter to the editor this week, Mrs. Vandervelden warned the construction "will result in the destruction of most of the on-site forest and require the removal of huge volumes of water (temporary and permanent dewatering), with harmful impacts to air and water quality".

The development will be serviced by the town's water and sewer system, but there is insufficient sewage capacity to service the rest of the northeast Sutton area at this time, she said.

The well monitoring system in place is inadequate and the "possibility remains that at a minimum 65 drinking water wells will be at risk", Mrs. Vandervelden told council earlier.

NESRA had asked council to approve 281 units instead of the 320, arguing that number better recognizes the site's environmental constraints.

Town planners disagreed with that assessment and noted the developer must post a letter of credit to ensure a well-monitoring program is carried out and any "adverse impacts" on area wells are dealt with.

Councillor Dave Szollosy questioned if that was enough.

"If a well does not recharge, there does not seem to be any onus on the developer to compensate," he said. "The language is not clear enough."

Council members agreed to add a further stipulation the developer must provide compensation if residents' wells are affected.

Alliance Homes president Alex Troop outlined his plans for Jackson's Landing By The Lake. It will be constructed in four phases over at least four years, depending on market conditions, he said.

"We recognize this site has some environmental issues," he concurred, adding homes will be constructed according to the Energy Star requirements that are 30 to 40 per cent more efficient than building code requirements.

He presented architectural drawings of the two-storey bungalows on 40 and 50-foot lots, as well as the community centre and swimming pool that will overlook Lake Simcoe.

Alliance Homes has extensive development interests in southern and central Ontario including Ridge Hill near Barrie, Butternut Village in Uxbridge, Hunter's Farm in Brooklin, Kelly's Landing in Barrie and a ski chalet development in Mansfield. The Rose Corporation of Toronto is providing financing.

Much of the south side of the property bordering Black River Road will remain in its natural wetland and forest state. The developer was also required to undertake several peer-reviewed environmental impact studies, including the sensitive Sibbald Creek that passes through the property on its way to the nearby provincial park.

Paul Harpley, president of the South Lake Simcoe Naturalists, warned the potential harmful environmental effects on what he termed a very complex hydrogeological site had not been adequately dealt with and the effects of climate change were ignored in the studies.

Lifelong neighbourhood resident Deb Banfield said she first learned the area would be developed about 25 years ago and plans then called for 75 estate homes. As the plans for more intense development unfolded, she said she was upset.

"It's a sad day for our neighbourhood," she said.

Town planning director Harold Lenters said the development has a long history, culminating in Ontario Municipal Board approval along with extensive consultation with a citizens liaison group, spearheaded by NESRA.

"In my close to 20 years here at the town, this is the most extensive application I've dealt with," he said. While he agreed the final deal is not to everyone's approval, he called it fair and balanced. "This is an excellent proposal."

With the proposal finally concluded, work will soon begin on the new Sutton secondary plan that will provide the blueprint for future development.

The Sutton area is expected to become more of a development focus with site preparation for 115 homes to be constructed by Oxford Homes off Black River Road across from Briar Hill Cemetery ready to proceed, along with the finalization of plans for the Shouldice 550-home adult lifestyle development and 18 hole golf course off Catering Road.

The Sutton-By-The-Lake adult village across from Jackson's Landing By The Lake is also set to begin a multi-phase expansion that will see 193 homes constructed to join the 127 already there.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Pro Angler Reels in 25,000

It could have been a weekend to forget for David ‘Teeder’ Kennedy during the Canadian Fishing Tour’s (CFT) New Ark Super Series Pro-Am Open in Barrie this past weekend.

Broken equipment would have, by his own admission, made him throw in the towel if he were still in his first year of professional angling.

Instead, the Huntsville resident hung in and continued to fish, resulting in his pocketing $25,000 for finishing third. “This three-day tournament had the biggest payoff in Canadian fishing history,” Kennedy said.

“I believe that the payoff was more than $300,000 in prizes, with first place receiving $100,000, with second place $50,000. The prizes went right down to 30th place.”

The Barrie stop was the 20th event for Kennedy on the CFT, and was his seventh top-10 finish.

What makes his accomplishment remarkable is that Kennedy was situated in 52th place after the first day of live-release fishing for small mouth bass on Lake Simcoe. He managed to secure 10th place after two days and worked his way up to third by the end of the weekend.

No one was more surprised to make up that much ground as Kennedy.

“I had a whole list of challenges for me. The day before the tournament, my electric trolling motor blew up, and that is the most important tool on my boat to stay on top of fish. I had to race around to try and get it fixed. On the first day I brought in 18.75 pounds, but I was trying to help a guy out who was in trouble on the water. By me trying to help him out, I late coming in and was assessed a pound penalty. A pound over a three-day tournament for that much money can hurt you.”

Kennedy’s misfortunes didn’t stop there. On the second day, he managed to catch 22.85 pounds and was ready to head back into shore. “But when I tried to start my big motor, it died on me and I was more than 30 miles away from the weigh-in site.”

He managed to flag down another angler and put his amateur partner and his catch in his boat and head back to shore. “I had to use my trolling motor to get to shore and find a marina before I was stranded in the Orillia area.”

He managed to get his boat and motor back to Gravenhurst, where he managed to get it fixed by 11 p.m. Saturday night. “We managed to water test it on Lake Muskoka, and I was able to get a few hours sleep before I was up at 4 a.m. and back to Barrie.”

Under the tournament format, Kennedy and the other pro anglers would be coupled with a different amateur entrant each day. The pro’s totals would be accumulated over the course of the three days for the final result, while the amateurs would received the daily total of the pro they were paired with at that particular time.

“You are allowed a five fish limit each day. So my 15 fish over the three days came out to 62.75 pounds,” he said.

Kennedy, who was nicknamed ‘Teeder’ after the former Toronto Maple Leaf great because they shared the same last name and hard-work ethic when he was playing junior lacrosse or hockey in town, said he uses that same approach when it comes to pro fishing.

“It’s the old attitude. You never can give up and keep focussing, even with all the challenges you might have to face.”

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

First public consultation on Lake Simcoe Act

Approximately 30 residents attended St. John's Presbyterian Church in Bradford on Tuesday night as MPP Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe-North) began public consultation regarding the Lake Simcoe Protection Act.

"The environment has become the real sleeping giant in politics," Dunlop said. "I am pleased to speak with anyone on this Private Members Bill."

The Bill introduced to the legislature on April 25th, states, "in order to protect Lake Simcoe, it is important to establish a comprehensive protection program for the natural heritage system and watershed for Lake Simcoe and the Nottawasaga River".

Dunlop stated in his particular riding there is 100 km of Lake Simcoe shoreline, and it is something residents want to talk to him about on a daily basis. Concern about the lake

and its watershed has been brought to the forefront with the release of the Intergovernmental Action Report (IGAP).

"That puts us up to 667,000 residents in Simcoe County by 2031, which is an increase in population by 60%."

He said as a Conservative MPP, he was "left out" of the IGAP process.

"I had to read about it in the papers."

Dunlop outlined what he thought were the three things needed by residents of Simcoe County; an environmental plan, jobs and an economic strategy ("the last thing we need to do is add 242,000 people in Simcoe

Ontario's Greenbelt Fund

Fresh Local Food from Ontario's Greenbelt is prime focus of initial grants from newly established Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation
TORONTO, July 11 /CNW/ - Ontario's Greenbelt is the focus of $3.27
million in grants to keep rural life in south central Ontario strong and
productive. Urbanites across the Golden Horseshoe directly benefit, too, from
their proximity to a vibrant countryside, fresh food, prime agricultural land
and protected sources of clean water and air.
At a news conference today at the St. Lawrence Market, the Friends of the
Greenbelt Foundation announced the first 13 recipients of grants from the $25
million fund established to promote farming, rural community life and the
protection of the environment across the Greenbelt. The nearly two million
acres of countryside in the Greenbelt surround the Golden Horseshoe and
extends to Georgian Bay.
"The recent creation of the Greenbelt presents an enormous opportunity to
strengthen and redefine the relationship between our urban centres and rural
communities which, if achieved, will augment the quality of life for all of
us," said Sandy Houston, Chair of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation.
"The primary focus of the first grants is the farming community in the
Greenbelt," said Burkhard Mausberg, executive director of the Foundation.
"Farmers have told us that it is difficult to get their locally-grown fruits
and vegetables on store shelves and dinner tables. Urbanites have told us they
want fresh local food. We are funding several organizations to help bridge the
gap, such as $1 million to Ontario Farmers' Markets, and another million
dollars to Local Flavour Plus, a group connecting farmers to big institutional
users of food such as Universities."
"Immigrants, often coming to Ontario from rural areas, have difficulty
getting into the business of farming. A $62,000 grant supports the University
of Guelph's initiative to help immigrants overcome hurdles such as training on
how to grow crops in Ontario's climate and exploring opportunities to create
new ethnic-food markets."
The Greenbelt Foundation is supporting community events showcasing crops
grown in the Greenbelt, such as VQA wines at the Niagara wine festival in
September, the fresh local food festival in Durham Region, and Uxbridge's
celebration of its rural roots. These events attract people from the local
areas and across the Golden Horseshoe.
Enhancing the environmental health of rural land in the Greenbelt in
order to maintain clean water and clean air is a priority for both local
Greenbelt residents and the eight million people in adjacent urban areas. A
grant of $600,000 supports the ongoing efforts of the Ontario Greenbelt
Alliance representing 75 organizations committed to sustaining the Greenbelt.
Members include environmentalists, municipal leaders, planners and health
professionals. A $40,000 grant goes to the Rescue Lake Simcoe Charitable
Foundation in support of programs to reduce pollution in Lake Simcoe, situated
on the northern edge of the Greenbelt.
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation began its work in June 2005 as a
charitable foundation with a mandate to fund organizations in support of
farming, the environment and rural communities located in Ontario's Greenbelt.
The Greenbelt's 1.8 million acres (720,000 hectares) encompasses the Niagara
Escarpment, the Oak Ridges Moraine, Rouge Park, approximately 7,000 farms, and
hundreds of rural towns and villages. The Greenbelt is easily accessible to
people in Toronto and anywhere in the Golden Horseshoe from Niagara to Durham
and Northumberland Counties.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006 - spread the word!

This fall, the Ontario legislature will vote to protect Lake Simcoe: Either Yes or No. Whether you live around Lake Simcoe or vacation there if you live in Ontario then your MPP will vote on whether to protect Lake Simcoe or not. We've got one summer to make sure MPPs of all parties Vote Yes to protect Lake Simcoe. For years, local concerned citizens have worked hard to raise awareness of the threats our lake faces. Their work's paid off with the introduction of this law - and we've got one summer to protect our lake forever.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Last chance to save Lake Simcoe?

As another summer of smog approaches and Al Gore's frightening movie highlights failures to take climate change seriously, good environmental news is hard to find. But as people in the GTA trek north for a weekend by the lake, there is a chance to protect one of the most threatened lakes in the region.

This could be the last summer to protect Lake Simcoe before poorly planned development paves over the wetlands and woods on which the threatened lake's future depends.

The landmark greenbelt conservation plan of 2005 helps protect green spaces to the lake's south and east. But Simcoe County was left out and, as a result, more of the GTA's natural heritage is at risk.

In southern Simcoe alone, there are plans for 140,000 more people on green space that is vital for Lake Simcoe's health. Already, the lake suffers from polluted runoff and phosphorus that imperils many native fish species.

Unless natural spaces are protected from the sprawling growth seen north of Toronto, the trek to the cottage will see less green and more pavement with inevitable and irreversible consequences.

In Ottawa, the Conservative approach to climate change is worrisome. After more than a decade of falling behind other countries in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions, Canada appears set to do even less.

In Ontario, however, more reasoned provincial Conservative thinking is behind the push to continue the province's long record of acting to protect its natural heritage. A Tory MPP has stepped up to the plate and deserves all-party support.

This fall, Queen's Park will vote on Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop's Lake Simcoe Protection Act. It follows a proud, multi-party tradition of conservation in Ontario as shown by Tory governments in protecting the Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine, and the Liberals in the historic greenbelt plan.

Dunlop's act will direct development away from sensitive land on which Lake Simcoe's health depends and onto existing urban boundaries.

It will protect the area's $200 million tourism industry, more than 2,000 working farms and help protect the 65 species at risk in the area. And one of the GTA's most valuable and enjoyed watersheds will receive the protection that has been ignored for too long.

This long wait means time is running out for Lake Simcoe, which currently sees a hodgepodge of water protection measures on all shores. Its western side is literally a Wild West of poorly planned development that has impacts throughout the GTA. If commuter patterns mirror those in Barrie, proposed development on green space in Simcoe County alone could add another 33,000 daily commuters to already clogged highways.

Provincial leadership is required now and Liberals cannot afford to rest on their laurels.

The threats to Lake Simcoe continue and given rapidly mounting pressure to permanently pave over more of nature, there is no time to lose. The GTA's supply of nature is not endless and support for the act is essential if we are to protect the largest lake within Ontario's borders.

This should not become a partisan issue, and Liberal and Tory governments alike, with support from the NDP, have enacted popular and practical ways to protect natural heritage.

Summer is often a time when worsening air quality reminds us of how little politicians have done. The natural frustration that results sometimes creates the impression that politicians are unprepared to see looming challenges and respond to them. Dunlop is proving this wrong, and needs to be supported if Ontario is going to get more MPPs like him.

Summers are possible without more bad air, but with more green space. This can be the summer that we protect a lake and take another step toward the kind of smart, sustainable growth the GTA urgently needs — now.