View all Articles & Archives

Brought to you by Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Man fined for fishing out of season

An Oshawa man has been fined $1,000 after taking a walleye and a whitefish from Lake Simcoe after the season was closed.
Constantine Sokolowski, 58, pleaded guilty and has his fishing licence suspended for six months. Sokolowski is a repeat offender, according to a Ministry of Natural Resources press release.
Court heard that on March 23, 2006, during a routine inspection of a group's catch of yellow perch, Ministry of Natural Resources conservation officers found a large female walleye and a whitefish hidden in a box on their van.
The season for walleye and whitefish had been closed since March 15.
Mr. Sokolowski admitted the illegal fish were his.
Whitefish, lake trout and walleye season all end each year on March 15 to coincide with the removal of fish huts from Lake Simoce. Perch can be fished all year round.
Justice of the Peace Philip N. Soloman heard the case in the Ontario Court of Justice in Oshawa Thursday.
The ministry reminds you closed fishing seasons are designed to protect fish populations in Lake Simcoe during vulnerable periods, such as spawning.
To report a natural resources violation, call 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667) toll-free any time or contact your local ministry office during regular business hours. You can also call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Keeping a clean lake - Orillia

Orillia is wise to think twice before hitching its wagon to a conservation authority, says an area mayor disturbed by rising membership fees.
“I don’t think any of us anticipated it would be that much of a demand on our budget,” says Oro-Medonte head Harry Hughes.
With the spring thaw now revealing the widely-used waters of Lake Simcoe, fingers are again wagging in Orillia’s direction.
From the region’s MPP to one of its own members, council is being urged to rethink its longstanding position, and join the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority.
Coun. Don Evans finds it “ridiculous” that Orillia remains the sole holdout of all the communities bordering the lake.
While “not pretending” to be an expert on the issue, Evans is pressing the current council to consider becoming a member. “I do understand it is not cheap, but preserving the lake is extremely important,” he said.
“Preserving Lake Simcoe means preserving Lake Couchiching as well. In this day and age, we have to be more sensitive to the environment, which almost always means there will be a financial consequence to our taking responsibility.”
Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop agrees.
“It is the right thing to do. You shouldn’t let your neighbour pay the shot.”
Unlike the other communities bordering the lake, Orillia has repeatedly rejected the call to join.
Councillors fear the excessive fees, loss of autonomy, and the added bureaucracy they say membership brings.
Once a municipality enters the fold, it is locked in for the life of the authority, warns City Manager Ian Brown.
“With a membership, you can say I am going to stop being a member and get out,” he said. “You can’t under the legislation.”
The idea of “membership” is itself a misnomer, Brown adds.
“You don’t just join it: council passes a resolution inviting the authority to extend its jurisdiction into the municipality.
“The only way you can get them out is by effectively dissolving the conservation authority ... it is a very, very inflexible mechanism.”
Mayor Ron Stevens estimated Orillia’s annual share could reach $200,000 – a figure the authority disputes – or enough to fund two additional police officers.
“It is all well and good to say we should be members, but with that comes a very strong price tag,” he added.
Past councils have argued the money is better spent on local infrastructure projects that impact positively on the lake, namely upgrades to the city’s waste-treatment plant.
For rural municipalities with a small or non-existent engineering staff, joining made sense, as the annual levy was relatively reasonable when compared with the cost of hiring consultants for water-related work, Brown said.
Orillia, however, “has a relatively large engineering in-house capability,” he added.
Hughes believes the city is wise in taking a “wait-and-see” approach.
“Quite frankly, Orillia is being accused of abdicating their responsibility to their neighbours,” he said.
“I don’t see it that way. They are not sitting back and doing nothing. They are spending money that is impacting on the lake in a positive way.”
The city utilizes the conservation authority on a fee-for-service basis, paying for its expertise when needed.
Inviting the agency to expand its reach into Orillia would add another level of bureaucracy for developers building near the waterfront, Brown said.
“Whether it is a big subdivision, or you are adding a garage to your property and you are ‘x’ metres from (the lake), you need an approval,” he said.
“While we are strict enforcers of building code rules and permits, we are efficient and we do turn around applications in a timely fashion. We don’t want to jeopardize that with another level of bureaucracy.”
Said Hughes: “We have seen delays of three months.”
Barrie, a member since 2003, contributes more than $430,000 through the annual levy – money well spent, according to that city’s director of engineering.
“Do you look at environmental costs, or just funding costs?” said Richard Forward. “It is a long-term view.”
In the same breath, Forward is hoping that federal dollars recently earmarked for Lake Simcoe will lessen the financial burden on member municipalities.
“In order to plan for the long-term health and protection of the lake, it requires environmental leadership,” said Forward.
“That is provided by the collective input of the conservation authority.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Feds promise $12 million for Lake Simcoe

Patrick Brown couldn’t be happier.

The federal Conservative government tabled its 2007 budget Monday afternoon, a budget described as targeted at middle-urban Canada, and as far as Tory MP Brown is concerned, Barrie came out a big winner.
The biggest announcement to affect Barrie directly is the commitment of $12 million over the next two years for the cleanup of Lake Simcoe.
“Lake Simcoe is the heart of the community. It is part of the strategic goals of the City of Barrie to clean up the lake,” said Brown, who formerly sat on city council. “This is the largest one-time investment in the history of Canada made (for) Lake Simcoe. I’m ecstatic about that.”
Brown knew he was in for good news when on the way to the House of Commons, Environment Minister John Baird whispered to him that it was a good day for Lake Simcoe and for Barrie.
“If you look at the pillars of this community, the waterfront investment is a massive win, but the investment in health care will also enable RVH to do more,” he said, referring to the $2.6-billion health-care investment. An additional $600 million has been promised to reduce patient wait times.
Not every politician from Barrie was as content with the budget. Jeff Lehman, councillor for Ward 2 and a local Liberal, joined his party in panning the budget.
“I am disappointed Prime Minister Harper did not give municipalities a percentage of the GST. That would have been the right thing to do,” he said.
“I’m very pleased to see they’ve seen the wisdom of the previous government’s position to give municipalities some of the gas-tax revenue. That’s very important for Barrie taxpayers. It funds many important things, like public transit. We all want to expand transit.”
Lehman added transit helps municipalities to become environmentally sustainable.
Brown also sees the extension of the gas-tax rebate as a plus for Barrie. The rebate, which provides $2.2 million annually to the city for infrastructure projects, is equivalent to a two-per-cent tax increase according to Brown. (A one-per-cent increase in taxes is equivalent to approximately $1 million).
The federal budget comes just as Barrie city council, which has been under increasing pressure to control tax increases while still providing services, began deliberations on its 2007 operating budget Monday night.
Much of the pressure on local taxes comes from the downloading of services from the province when transfer payments from the federal government were cut in the 1990s. In the budget, the Conservatives plan to rectify the fiscal balance by providing $39 billion over seven years to the provinces. Brown believes that the efforts to alleviate the imbalance should help to relieve some of the pressure felt by municipalities.
“I hope it would trickle down (to the municipalities),” said Brown, “It’s a huge federal investment. It shouldn’t be a trickle-down, it should be a waterfall.”
This budget was aimed at middle-urban Canada and for Brown that means Barrie. “Every new investment area, whether it’s health care, the environment, taxes or transit, (they’re) all the areas that Barrie falls into.”
Both the NDP and the Liberals came out quickly to say they wouldn’t support the budget but the Bloc Quebecois gave it their support, likely avoiding a spring election.
“I don’t think we’ll have an election,” said Brown, shortly after the budget had been released. “I think this budget will be popular with Canadians. It’s good for the provinces and good for the cities. It would be out of sync with the people they (opposition parties) represent to force an election.”

Monday, March 19, 2007

Car driving on Lake Simcoe plunges through thin ice

York Region police were warning people to stay away from rivers and lakes after a man trying to drive across the frozen Lake Simcoe plunged through thin ice.
The man broke through the ice near Virginia Beach. Luckily, he was able to climb out of the vehicle and was not injured, police say.
There are fishing huts set up on the lake, but police say all should have been removed by the deadline late Thursday night.
Police say there are now areas of open water along Lake Simcoe's shore.
They warn that the recent bout of warm weather has thinned the ice on lakes, rivers and streams throughout the area, even though it feels like winter again with Friday's frigid temperatures.
Parents were also being asked to keep their children away from lakeshores, riverbanks, creeks or ponds because melting ice is causing rising water levels and fast-moving waters.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Get huts off lake

Get huts off lake
Date: Mar 13, 2007
The Ministry of Natural Resources reminds anglers using Lakes Simcoe and Couchiching to remove their ice huts and help keep the lake environment clean and safe.
Every year as spring approaches, many ice anglers have difficulty removing their ice huts because of unanticipated thaws. Huts that go through the ice pose a hazard to the environment and are a safety concern for boaters.
Ice hut owners are responsible for maintaining their huts and removing them prior to the spring thaw.
The deadline for removing ice huts from both lakes is this Thursday, March 15.
Owners who abandon their ice huts or store them on Crown land, islands, shore lands or access points are in violation of the Public Lands Act.
Owners may be fined and could be liable for removal costs. Anglers and recreational users are also reminded to clean up and take away their garbage.
Anglers are reminded that March 15 is also the closing date for walleye, whitefish and lake trout fishing on Lake Simcoe and its tributaries.
To report a natural resource violation, call 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667) toll-free any time or contact the Midhurst District office at 705-725-7500 during regular business hours.
You can also call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sprawl hits above the belt

Sprawl hits above the belt

The province created a well-intentioned greenbelt to help curb urban sprawl north of Toronto. But on the belt's upper fringes, local councils are bucking recommendations meant to prevent leapfrogging development, Peter Gorrie writes
Mar 10, 2007 04:30 AM
BOND HEAD – At first glance, this is just a quiet crossroads about 45 minutes northwest of Toronto.
There's a scattering of aging brick houses, a tiny church, a gas station and restaurant, and a couple of variety stores where Highways 27 and 88 intersect amid open fields and forlorn patches of trees. The last big change happened about 40 years ago, when a small subdivision went in just west of the old village core. With it, the population grew to around 500, and there it sits.
But not for long. This sleepy hamlet is at the heart of a development boom, and the new official greenbelt that curves across the Greater Toronto Area appears unlikely to stop it, despite the provincial government's best intentions.
The 720,000-hectare band of farmland and natural spaces is supposed to curb urban sprawl north of Toronto and make development beyond it impractically distant for potential commuters. The problem is, it takes less than 10 minutes to cross the greenbelt on Highway 400.
Just beyond that protected strip is Bond Head and the rest of Simcoe County, a rolling, mostly rural area bisected by the expressway. It starts just north of the Holland Marsh's rich, black soil and runs past Barrie and Orillia up to Severn Bridge, where the Canadian Shield begins. To the east, it stretches to Lake Simcoe; to the west, Collingwood.
While the province didn't include Simcoe County in the greenbelt, it has tried, using a maze of policies and regulations, to control the county's growth.
But developers have been snapping up land anyway, particularly in the lower half of the county south of Barrie. They're proposing projects that, if approved, would nearly triple the population to 1.2 million, says county planner Ian Bender. They'd also cover large swaths of fertile land with industrial parks, shopping malls and roads.
The county is the "Wild West" of development in Ontario, says Rick Smith, executive director of Toronto-based Environmental Defence.
Most local politicians and business people are eager for economic growth and insist it can be managed without destroying the county's environment and its relatively tranquil lifestyle.
But environmentalists complain the boom is proof the greenbelt isn't working: Instead of containing growth, it's simply leapfrogging a few kilometres north.
At stake is a new, compact style of growth for southern Ontario, an alternative to conventional, car-centred suburbs that are built despite the extra energy consumption, air pollution, greenhouse gases, traffic congestion and farmland loss associated with them.
Similar development pressures are building east and west of the greenbelt. That's why Simcoe County is so important.
The provincial government plan, called "Places to Grow," anticipates population growth of 3.7 million people by 2031 around the greater Golden Horseshoe – the region running from Niagara Falls to Peterborough, and up to the northern boundary of Simcoe County. For the county, it projects a total population of 667,000.
The policy requires that new development in the Horseshoe be more compact – meaning more people and jobs per hectare – than the land-gobbling subdivisions favoured until now. It also favours "complete communities," each with houses, jobs, stores and services. Long-distance commutes are frowned upon. And it attempts to limit the expansion of urban boundaries.
The province hired a consultant to produce what became known as the Intergovernmental Action Plan, or IGAP, for Simcoe County. The IGAP isn't law, but it is supposed to influence decisions on development.
The IGAP consultants said nearly half of the 235,000 people expected to move to Simcoe in the next 24 years should go to Barrie and a new development area just south of the city, in the northern end of Innisfil.
The rest would be scattered among the county's other communities. Each got a recommended target, with Alliston – home of the huge Honda car assembly plant – and Wasaga Beach among the highest-growth areas.
The study also decided the Innisfil site should be the only one swallowed by development. The other communities have enough space within their existing "settlement areas" for newcomers.
Then the province told the county to come up with a growth plan. Now it's learning how tough it is to maintain control when you call for a "local solution" and the locals and developers have other ideas.
At Nottawasaga Futures, a non-profit organization created by five communities in southern Simcoe County to promote economic growth, Margo Cooney says money and market pressures will shape the county.
"In the end, how the investors wish to invest, and where, will determine where the growth goes," she says. "The province would like (its population numbers) to mean something ... Whether investors agree, I'm not sure. But there's a lot of interest."
Developers have already indicated they'd rather not bother with the province's targets.
"A tremendous amount of land has changed hands, from farmers to land speculators and developers," says Bender. There are 250 projects awaiting final approval, and when all the developments are added up, they could increase the population to 1.2 million from the current 435,000. Since land is still being assembled, more development seems certain to follow.
Many of Simcoe County's 17 towns and townships don't want to be shackled by the province's IGAP. They make initial decisions on applications while the county council, which is in charge of the overall growth strategy, has the final say.
Innisfil has approved two subdivisions that could house, in total, about 75,000 people. One is proposed by developer Mario Cortellucci, whose name now graces a local skating rink after he made a $2 million donation to the new sports centre.
The two projects would give the town about one-third of the new population the province says it wants for all of Simcoe County.
The IGAP recommends settling 90,000 residents in the new subdivision at the north end of Innisfil, but both plans approved by the town are outside that area.
"We identified where we'd put them independent of the consultant's work," says Robert McAuley, the town's director of planning and development.
The same thing is happening across southern Simcoe. And even when projects are turned down, they don't disappear. New Tecumseth rejected a 53,000-person subdivision on a potato farm between Alliston and Beeton, but the developer "indicated they'll be back," Bender says.
Bradford West Gwillimbury is pushing against another provincial constraint. Last November, it approved a business park and mall at Highway 88 and Highway 400 that would cover nearly 500 hectares of land the IGAP said should remain farms. This week, over protests from Bond Head residents, it approved a subdivision to house up to 4,000 people.
Calgary-based Walton International Group Inc. has purchased 1,400 hectares between Tottenham and Beeton, on behalf of investors from Canada and Asia. Its parcels are outside any current settlement areas so, under the provincial policy, they aren't eligible to be developed. But the company is certain that will change.
"We're confident that area is in the path of growth and development and should bode well for us and our investors," says Dean Lower, Walton's senior vice-president of international marketing. In 28 years in business, Lower notes, "We've never lost an investor's money."
County and community officials are careful to say the county will comply with provincial laws, but the underlying message can't be ignored.
"A lot of our member municipalities are warning that the 667,000 number is light for Simcoe," says the county's chief administrative officer, Mark Aitken. "We'll develop a plan that fits within these (provincial) concepts. That said, every official plan has conditions that are open to possible amendments."
The province, for now, is keeping an eye on the situation.
It did intervene to reduce the size of a large all-season recreation community at Big Bay Point on Lake Simcoe. But it didn't stop development on one of the last bits of natural shoreline on the lake, at a place called Moon Point, outside Orillia.
"The proposals are just that," says Bruce Singbush, a planner with Municipal Affairs. "They're in the process of being considered."
Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretson says he hopes any "local solution" would take the IGAP study as a foundation. He's "not ready to speculate" on what would happen if it doesn't.
A big stumbling block to development is Lake Simcoe, where the effluent from sewage treatment plants and runoff from farms and urban streets is leading to pollution and algae blooms, and decimating a once-thriving sports fishery.
"Poorly planned urban growth jeopardizes prime farmland, wetlands, forests and, ultimately, the water quality of Lake Simcoe," says Smith of Environmental Defence.
Advanced sewage treatment plants might help, but they're expensive and would probably just keep the lake's water quality from getting even worse.
Bringing employment to Simcoe would reduce commuting, but experience shows it's much harder to attract jobs than people, says Tony Coombs, of the anti-sprawl Neptis Foundation. "The track record isn't good."
Smith says the solution is to strictly control and plan development, in part by expanding the greenbelt as far north as Barrie, making any development beyond it too far away to commute comfortably to Toronto. He and other advocates of compact development argue that, with higher-density development and infilling on vacant land, most of the people forecast to move into the Horseshoe could be accommodated south of the greenbelt.
Others doubt expanding the greenbelt would curb development. "If you draw an artificial ring around a city, growth will eventually jump over it," McAuley argues.
People drive more than 100 kilometres to work at the Honda plant – farther than the trip from Barrie to Toronto, Cooney points out. "How far do you want to go from Toronto? You'd have to greenbelt half the province. I'm not sure that would be in the province's interest."
Gerretson says he'd like to expand the greenbelt. When and where hasn't been decided, but "it will depend on the reaction of the county and local councils."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

New roads only drive sprawl: critics

New roads only drive sprawl: critics

The new commitment to expand three GTA highways is completely at odds with claims by the federal and Ontario governments that they want to combat air pollution, climate change, urban sprawl and traffic congestion, critics say.
"The plans are absolutely fatal to what we're trying to achieve," Mark Winfield, of the Pembina Institute, said yesterday.
He was commenting after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced funding for public transit, contingent on the province's pledge to complete the highway projects. These are "highways to sprawl," Winfield said. "There's no other way to describe them."
The announcement confirms three projects that have been under discussion for some time:
Extend Highway 404 from Newmarket to Ravenshoe, at the southern end of Lake Simcoe, by 2012: Cost, $250 million.
Extend Highway 407 some 67 kilometres east to Peterborough, with links to Highway 401 through Pickering and Oshawa, by 2013: Cost, not specified.
Widen Highway 7 across Durham Region, by 2012: Cost, $55 million.
Although yesterday's announcement included no federal funding for these road projects, Ottawa is developing a new infrastructure program that will include highways, said a spokesperson for Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon.
All of the routes run through the official Greenbelt, whose creation was intended to curb sprawl around the Golden Horseshoe, and the 407 extension "will be boring a whole new corridor" through that area and the environmentally sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine, Winfield said.
Major highways have a history of leading to car-centred development, long commutes and added air pollution, said David Donnelly, of Environmental Defence.
New roads will lead to new development and infrastructure that ultimately impinges on the Greenbelt.
Since there are few residents or jobs along the proposed extensions, if development doesn't follow, "you're wasting taxpayers' money," Donnelly said.
The highways will "embed long commuting times," Winfield said.
"The whole idea behind what the province has said it's supposed to be doing is to reduce long-distance commuting, not promote and facilitate

Monday, March 05, 2007

Lake Simcoe `Ladies' to the rescue

Lake Simcoe `Ladies' to the rescue

Who needs men? Not us, Ladies say

Ladies of the Lake is a redoubtable force of committed professionals and volunteers, women used to getting things done and knowing the most effective ways of doing them.

It was formed about two years ago, when Annabel Slaight and her neighbour Jane Meredith were talking about the rise in weeds and expanding areas of surface slime on their part of Lake Simcoe.

As Meredith recalls, "We said, `Okay, we're going to do something about this.'" They called some friends, and told them to bring a friend, to a meeting at Meredith's home.

The group's first task was to raise money to finance an action plan.

The Ladies of the Lake 2006 calendar was an overwhelming success, featuring as it did some discreetly undressed members of the action committee ranging in age from their 30s to their 70s.

Out of that initial gathering of 30 or 40 women, the Ladies of the Lake was born. There are now about 100 members.

No men have applied to join the group and there's a feeling that things work just fine without them.

Meredith describes their meetings as "electric with ideas."

"We hate to say so, but there's no question women as a group are better at this," she says. "You decide to do something and you go for it."

"I never worked in an all-woman organization before," says psychologist Goody Gerner, who lives in East Gwillinbury. "When I started working 30 years ago, if there was a meeting I'd be the only woman in the room. This is totally different. Women are used to getting things done, without questions."

Susan Walker
Mar 03, 2007 04:30 AM
Susan Walker
toronto star

Two years ago, they were posing naked on the shore. Now they're broadcasting the Naked Truth about the deplorable state of Lake Simcoe and what can be done about it.

The Ladies of the Lake, a force of about 100 women residents of the Simcoe watershed, are using the $250,000 they raised from the sale of a calendar featuring their tastefully denuded selves to rally government, business, the school system and the local citizenry to rescue the lake.

As Canada marks International Women's Day on Thursday, the example of The Ladies of the Lake illustrates the particular contribution women can make to their community. In this case, it's a whole watershed that benefits.

The Ladies have employed their formidable communication skills to raise awareness and create consensus under the slogan, "Drink it, Swim it, Fish it, Love it." They showcased their concerns last year through a campaign called the Naked Truth Summer of Events and followed that up with a research project in the fall.

Now that they're on the political map, the next stage is to move from awareness into action.

"We're talking about a real grassroots movement going here," says co-chair Annabel Slaight, founder of OWL magazine and OWL TV and an indefatigable activist with business savvy.

Nudity was their way in. "We can get meetings with politicians and town councils, and the meetings always begin with a joke and a smile."

Hilary Van Welter, who was one of the Miss Julys, says The Ladies of the Lake have been instrumental in creating strategies for change.

"We think about what role do we play to help integrate all the groups and all the voices and how do we use our expertise to really (co-ordinate) all these various organizations," Van Welter says.

Slaight believes Lake Simcoe will be restored when everyone takes responsibility for it. It's not a question of nagging or making people feel guilty. "I think the environment has to be totally integrated into everybody's way of life. We have to get everybody to say `we' and not `they.'"

The lake is the victim of pollutants and urbanization around its shores. The lake bottom is a gooey mixture of weeds and algae, the lake surface is dotted with gloating mats of Eurasian milfoil, an alien species, and zebra mussels proliferate. Georgina Township spent $200,000 last year in Cook's Bay, harvesting and dredging in a losing battle against the weeds choking swimming areas.

"For me," Van Welter says, "this lake is an amazing messenger of what we're doing in our world; it's a microcosm of the bigger picture."

Barrie beach is often closed because of biological hazards in the water, she says. "The zebra mussels were so bad last time we went to Willow Beach my son said he won't go there any more because he gets cut."

There are still fish in Lake Simcoe, many of them non-native species or trout placed there by hatcheries.

The native herring, whitefish and walleye are dwindling, an indicator of rising temperatures in the lake and lower oxygen levels.

To the cottagers and year-round residents, watching the lake decline is like witnessing the demise of a close family member.

More to the point, it's a slow death for the economic and lifestyle benefits that the lake and its watershed, an area of 3,576 square kilometres, has provided, for as long as humans have lived there: more than 5,000 years in the case of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation.

"Everybody used to drink the water directly from the lake, but you can't do that any more," says Cynthia Wesley Esquimaux, a member of one of the oldest families on Georgina Island and an anthropologist who teaches in the aboriginal studies program at the University of Toronto.

"We had to put in a water treatment plant."

She says the community has seen an increase in skin and ear infections over the years.

Ladies co-founder Jane Meredith says her family first settled on the Keswick side of Lake Simcoe in the 1880s. "Ten years ago, I used to drink the water."

Psychologist Goody Gerner, who lives in East Gwillinbury, south of Keswick, is assisting in one of the latest initiatives: researching what local schools are teaching children about the lake and the environment and developing an educational project.

The students, she says, are the generation that will make the difference, both by being instrumental in fixing the lake when they are adults and by going home and talk about the issues now.

"Remember, it was the kids who got all the parents recycling."

Another initiative has been a research document, The Naked Truth: Going Behind the Science of Lake Simcoe, that the Ladies commissioned from the Windfall Ecology Centre, a community-based, non-profit organization in Woodbridge set up to promote environmental solutions.

But Van Welter, who is chair of the ecology centre's board, says science is not enough.

The cure for Lake Simcoe is people.

One of the core accomplishments of the Ladies of the Lake has been to draw together different communities in the watershed through their common concerns for rescuing Lake Simcoe. The awareness projects last summer included a blanket invitation to everyone to contribute their ideas for solutions and priorities in cleaning up the lake.

"The community I live in is quite insular," Esquimaux says, "but we've been raised to work together."

Support for the Ladies has mushroomed, Meredith says. It seems that everyone wants to co-operate. In fact, the momentum and enthusiasm was such that it was more a case of, "Please can we have another meeting?"

Garfield Dunlop, Conservative MPP for North Simcoe, says the Ladies is one of the most effective organizations he's seen and he's doing what he can to help, including getting Queen's Park to agree that the environmental integrity of the lake should be a priority.

"I consider Lake Simcoe to be like the sixth Great Lake. It's the second biggest lake in Ontario after Nipigon. I think it requires federal designation as a hotspot. Through the International Joint Commission, they could provide funding to help rehabilitate the lake."

Dunlop says there is every reason for all sectors to co-operate. "The economy around the lake generates about $250 million a year."

Another aspect of the Ladies' approach is trying to learn from other people's experience. To that end, advice was from people who had solved problems similar to Lake Simcoe's in their communities.

Now Slaight is pushing the political envelope, meeting with politicians and advancing a proposal that a Watershed Council be established to manage the lake. It would be modelled after the Lake Champlain Basin Program, which was created after concerned citizens in Quebec and the states of Vermont and New York co-ordinated efforts to save their lake.

As Slaight notes: "If they can manage to get New York, Vermont, Quebec, Canada and the U.S all working on one thing in any orderly way, we should be able to do that for Lake Simcoe."


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Big Bay Point proposal passed overwhelmingly at County

Big Bay Point proposal passed overwhelmingly at County
Simcoe County councillors have given their support to a revised Big Bay Point resort proposal by an overwhelming margin.
In a special meeting held last Wednesday afternoon, county councillors voted by a margin of 84 to 7 in a recorded vote to support the modified plan.
But it saw the mayor of Essa township express grave concerns that the approval of the proposal may open the floodgates for major development in South Simcoe outside of existing settlement areas. He and deputy mayor Terry Dowdall were the only two county councillors to vote against the proposal.
The special meeting was held in order for the county's support of the motion to be recognized at a pre-hearing meeting of the Ontario Municipal Board today (Wednesday).
The county's Corporate Services committee had given its support to the revised proposal at its Feb. 14 meeting. The county defeated the original proposal in 2004.
With the county's support of the project, it is expected that a planned OMB hearing scheduled for May on the project will be either dramatically shortened or possibly not even held.
A six month long hearing had been expected.
Development on the project could start as early as this year.
County planner Ian Bender said the proposal by Kimvar/Geranium Corporation had undergone dramatic revisions in the past two years which meant the proposal better fit the county's definition of a resort development. The conclusion of the Internal Governmental Action Plan (IGAP) also gave some indication about the province's attitude about projects like Big Bay Point.
"We had seen it as premature until the settling of the IGAP study," he told council.
Simcoe county began negotiating a compromise with Geranium/Kimvar and Innisfil last August.
An OMB hearing had originally been scheduled for last Fall but negotiations started last August between all parties.
"It was a very productive and collaborative process," said county lawyer Mark Noskowich. "It is an improved proposal which is a win/win proposition for all concerned."
But Essa township's
mayor Dave Guergis told the rest of council that the concerns raised three years ago about the lack of infrastructure to accommodate the proposal had still not been met.
"We have been warned about the impact of development on Lake Simcoe. I can't see the proposed golf course, the storm water from the resort or the additional places on the marina benefitting the long term health of the lake," he said.
1,000 slips are proposed at the marina in addition to 2,000 resort units which will include not less than 400 hotel units and 1,600 other resort units.
"We have problems with our road system and lack of space at Royal Victoria Hospital."
Guergis also said that the jobs promised by the development would be largely low paying.
"These are going to be service jobs. We seem to becoming the Carribean of the North here in Simcoe County. Will our kids become chambermaids and short order cooks?"
Guergis said, that from a broader perspective, the decision on Big Bay Point will act as a precedent for other developers to push for mega-developments in areas not designated as settlement areas in South Simcoe"
"Will this open the door? Have we created loopholes? We already have a large group from Calgary buying lots of agricultural land in my township and its not for farm land. It is of grave concern and we should be drawing the line."
Other councillors raised other concerns about the development.
Adjala-Tosorontio mayor Tom Walsh said that he was in general support for the project but the problem of waste bothered him.
"Where is the waste going to go? Is it going to go outside the county or will it be heading to our landfills?"
Innisfil deputy mayor Gord Wauchope said after the vote that he felt that the county had made an excellent decision.
"It's going to bring jobs. We will be seeing employment at the proposed shops and stores in the development. The construction jobs will be high paying jobs. They aren't going to be all low paying jobs."
Wauchope said that Innisfil, Simcoe County and the developer had worked well together and brought in a solution satisfactory to all.
"We have seen a reduction in the number of proposed housing units from 4,200 to 1,600," which Wauchope felt met many of the early concerns from neighbouring residents about the size of the development.
Innisfil mayor Brian Jackson was unable to attend the meeting.
Simcoe County warden Tony Guergis also praised the compromise solution.
"I think that it shows the great faith that we have in our staff in reaching a solution in staff. It was a long process which will see the protection of heritage lands," he said.
Guergis noted that the proposal will see the location of a new ambulance station in the area which will serve both the resort and residents in northern Innisfil.
Guergis added that the county was facing possible legal bills of upwards of $2,000,000 if the OMB hearing had run the full six months with no guarantee that the proposal would have been rejected.
"It's always a gamble at the OMB. I think that our solution is really a reflection of what is acceptable to all parties," he said.
County planner Ian Bender said that the various residents groups are supportive of the proposal.
He said that there had not been any individual objections to the OMB on the proposal.

Lots property owners can do to preserve moraine

The Oak Ridges Moraine requires stewardship from the people who own land on it, and there are a number of ways to provide it.
People in Schomberg heard about some of them Thursday night at the stewardship program hosted by the Caring for the Moraine project.
A couple of local landowners offered insight on the steps they have taken to preserve the environment around their spreads.
Phil Chadwick, who has owned 25 acres on the west side of the township for 14 years, commented on some of the work he's been doing there.
The meteorologist, bee keeper and part-time farmer and writer said his property is on the crest of the moraine, with his front yard draining toward Lake Simcoe and the back yard toward Lake Ontario.
"When we arrived, the land needed a lot of love," he commented, stating there were only seven trees on the site when he bought it. He's since planted some 5,000 there, and hopes his property will eventually house a forest.
"The world is like a great big sandbox and we have to learn to share the sand, not just our fellow humans, but with nature," he told the audience.
Chadwick said there had been a timber operation of the site years ago, with a pond there used to keep the wood wet. The levelling of the trees, he said resulted in the property looking like a moonscape.
While the local conservation authorities helped restore the site, Chadwick said he and his family did the bulk of the work themselves.
"You've got to be patient," he said.
He also said he uses no pesticides on the property. He gets a lot of dandelions, but that's not much of a problem as his bees love them.
It's not just trees and dandelions that are benefitting from his efforts. Chadwick said they have about 200 bird houses set up around the property.
There are a host of other animals around too, including wild turkeys. One can sometimes see between 30 and 40 of them around the site. "You give them the habitat, you give them the food and they'll come," Chadwick explained.
Those aren't the only birds around the property. Chadwick said they have nesting platforms for mallards and nesting boxes for owls, and the odd trumpeter swan makes an appearance.
There are also deer there. Chadwick said they use the planted hardwood trees to sharpen their antlers. That doesn't do the trees a lot of good, but he observed that's just part of nature.
Other species on this land include mink, muskrat, beaver and a host of amphibians.
"All we have to do is play in the sandbox with nature, all in balance," he said. "It's paradise."
The meeting also heard from Jane Glassco, and the work she's been doing on 268 acres on the 12th Concession.
She said her parents bought the property in 1946, and much work was needed to restore the neglected, 100-year-old house.
The property now contains a completely organic sheep farm.
She cited back to 1989, when Health Canada sent a team to the Arctic to find people who had never been exposed to chemicals. They found Inuit people, who lived on things like seal, fish and caribou, hoping to use them as a source of base-line data, and what they found was a variety of chemical in their systems, including a pesticide that was only used in cotton fields in Georgia. In some cases, there were concentrations 200 times in excess of what people elsewhere in the country carry.
Glassco said that shows that chemicals can travel anywhere in the world, through the air or water, or though the food chain.
She said there are about 100 yews on her operation.
There's a forest management plan in place too. Glassco said her parents started to grow trees in the '40s and '50s to combat erosion on the property.
Glassco also said there was recently an agreement reached with the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust to place the property in a conservation easement.
Brian Peterkin, who is involved in environmental stewardship in York for the Ministry of Natural Resources, told the audience there are a number of organizations involved in the Caring for the Moraine project, including various conservation authorities, Oak Ridges Trail Association, the moraine land trust, and Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Kim Gavine, executive director of the Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation, explained the project started about three years ago, when numerous stakeholders formed the Oak Ridges Moraine Stewardship Partners' Alliance, which came up with a restoration strategy.
The objectives include increasing natural cover on the moraine, protect water systems and raise awareness.
Gavine said there are 27 conservation partners working on this project, and they cover a wide range. Some have very specific areas of knowledge while others are more broadly based. There are government and nongovernment organizations involved, and others that are specifically interested in the moraine while others that have a broader focus.
She also stressed involvement in the program is voluntary, adding it's aimed at assisting landowners. Gavine said they're not trying to impose new regulations on the moraine or create new programs.

Grading greenbelt's guardians

The greenbelt that's intended to curb sprawl and preserve natural areas in the Golden Horseshoe won't survive unless the province gets much tougher about protecting it, says a report to be released today.
Development is already slated for at least one part of the 720,000-hectare band of farmland, forests and meadows that stretches from Niagara Falls to Peterborough, and north to Lake Simcoe.
And much of the rest is threatened by expansion of highways, water and sewer pipes, gravel pits, as well as industrial and residential projects, says the report by the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance, a coalition of 80 watchdog groups.
The report gives the province a B+ for its handling of the greenbelt since it created the protected zone two years ago.
The public loves this jewel of southern Ontario – it got 89 per cent support in a recent poll – and the government has done a decent job of defending its current borders, the report states. Planning polices also support the greenbelt, at least in theory. And this month, the province added 600 hectares of rural land, just past the northeast corner of Toronto, to Rouge Park.
The government has performed well on some of the 10 "hot spots" identified in the report but failed badly on others, the alliance says.
The crucial factor, though, is that the greenbelt is "too small and still too vulnerable to attack," the report says.
"If the provincial government doesn't take a more aggressive approach to changing development patterns, this Greenbelt will suffer the identical fate as Premier Bill Davis' Parkway Belt of the 1970s (which is now known as Highway 407)."
Along with threats to the greenbelt itself, developers have begun to move into places just beyond its outer boundary, particularly in Simcoe County, on the west side of Lake Simcoe.
If they're allowed to proceed, sprawl, traffic congestion, pollution and the loss of prime agricultural land will continue unabated, the report says.
"If the result of the greenbelt is just an intensification of damaging development pressures as opposed to permanent change in how development happens, it won't be a successful policy," Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, a member of the alliance, said in an interview yesterday.
The policy allows new highways almost anywhere in the greenbelt, and a proposed network of 400-level expressways would probably lead to development in areas that are supposed to be preserved, said Mark Winfield of the Pembina Institute, another member.
The highway projects "are completely at odds with what the province claims it's trying to do with its planning policy," Winfield said.
The most extreme case is the proposed extension of Highway 404 from Newmarket to Keswick, at the south end of Lake Simcoe, he said.
The entire route is through greenbelt land.
The divided highway would allow easy access from Toronto to a business park York Region recently added to its official plan, even though the project is to occupy 256 hectares of land designated "protected countryside."
The province made only a half-hearted effort to halt the business park and appears to be proceeding at full steam with the 404 extension, Winfield said.
"The rationale for the business park is the highway, and the rationale for the highway is the business park," he said. The twin developments would also increase the pressure for urban growth in the area.
"This is exactly what the province is supposed to be against."
The same applies to proposed expressways that would link Niagara Falls and Burlington, and Brampton and Guelph, Winfield said.
The proposed network "sets in motion a future time bomb for the integrity of the greenbelt."
Provincial officials say they couldn't derail the Keswick business park because it had initial approval before the greenbelt was created. Such "grandfathering" of projects with only preliminary approval "is not sound legal theory" and sets a bad precedent, said David Donnelly, a lawyer with Environmental Defence.
Another trouble spot is Simcoe County, which was not included in the greenbelt and is now the "Wild West of development in Ontario," Smith said.
The province and local governments approved a growth plan for the county that calls for most of the population increase to be in and near Barrie. But developers have proposed projects that would house 250,000 people in conventional suburbs well south of the city. And politicians in Bradford-West Gwillimbury last fall approved a massive business park and shopping mall at Highways 400 and 88 that would cover about 500 hectares designated to remain farmland.
The province hasn't yet said whether it would challenge any of these projects, but Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen said it will be up to local and county councils.
"We're looking for local solutions and we hope that any solution ... will take the (growth plan) as its foundation basis. I'm not willing to speculate as to what we would do if that doesn't happen."
The government plans to eventually expand the greenbelt but hasn't decided by how much, or when, Gerretsen said.
As to Simcoe County: "I can certainly see portions ... that abut the greenbelt, once the appropriate studies have been finished and decisions made, can be added."
Local opposition might scuttle the plan, he suggested: "I think it would initially depend on the reaction of the county council and the two city (Barrie and Orillia) councils there as to how they want to proceed.
"You've got to wait for the appropriate work in order to allow it to happen."