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Friday, November 20, 2009

Beach conflict - Don't put condos near park: residents

Don't put condos near park: residents

The possibility of stores and condo units near Innisfil Beach Park created contention Tuesday at a public information session about the reconstruction of Innisfil Beach Road (IBR).

Several residents wanted do to know if mixed-use/residential zoning would apply to the south side of IBR, running east of the 25th Sideroad to the Lake Simcoe.

Held at Town Hall, the session was staged to allow the public to examine possible landscaping designs for the entire length of IBR from the 20th Sideroad east to Lake Simcoe, said Tammy Kalimootoo of consulting firm Ainley and Associates. The second portion was to discuss the municipal class environmental assessment process needed for the project to be completed.

“One of the biggest things is to get public comment today,” Kalimootoo said. “It’s a $30 million project and everything is subject to council approval.”

But it was the possibility of the commercial condominium project that created the most concern.

While not on any drawing boards at the session, homeowners who live near the entrance to Innisfil Beach Park wanted to know the status of four-storey buildings to be constructed facing the park. These buildings would contain businesses on the ground floor.

Mayor Brian Jackson assured some residents that the land, which now contains older cottage-style homes, has not be rezoned.

Herb Dietrich of Crystal Beach Road, just north of the park, said, “I’ve been visiting the park for more than 50 years. I think it’s a very real threat. The park is 75 acres and very unique. Commercial stores with condos above would lead to a Wasaga Beach thing. We don’t want that across from the park. I think most residents feel that way.”

“I don’t want to see stores down by the park,” Deputy Mayor Gord Wauchope said to Dietrich and several onlookers. “I would rather see residential.”
“I feel much better hearing that,” Dietrich replied.

Sharon Stewart of Lakelands Avenue said, “I love the park. I don’t want commercial. I don’t want condominiums or town homes, just single family residential. It would be good if someone came along and rebuilt with a nautical look.”

Stewart said she had attended a September meeting at Town Hall where four-storey buildings were proposed, “and bars and maybe metered parking,” she added.

Her husband, Tom, said, “The Town takes $20 or $25 from non-residents to use the park and then it’s full and Innisfil residents can’t get in. Their main concern is to fill the park and make money. We’re the ones who paid taxes for the park.”

Mayor Jackson said any zoning for the area hasn’t come before council yet.
“It’s completely separate from the roadwork,” Jackson said. “There’s been some talk about commercial development from the park to the 25th. If there’s any change in zoning, it will come before council. It’s not on the immediate radar. We need to review, and assess, how we’ll do that.”

Local realtor Igor Vujovic, who is also represents the Alcona Business Association (ABA) on a town committee that drafted plans for IBR, said the ABA “supports the Town in improving the downtown core which will improve the livelihood of businesses. We also support a balance between residential and commercial development.”
Vujovic noted that as a realtor, “The value of these properties will increase, and the residents of Crystal Beach Road, and Lakelands and Adams Road will benefit. I share the concerns of the homeowners and they have to be addressed.”
However, he added, “The downtown was visioned to bring people down to the lake and it will bring more traffic. The reality is the town is changing.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Schools, residents, town all win environmental awards

Schools, residents, town all win environmental awards

Georgina residents of all ages were honoured for understanding, appreciating and protecting the environment at this year's annual Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority's Conservation Awards.
Lakeside Public School in Keswick received the Water Conservation Award, Peter and Katherine Smith earned the Soil Conservation Award, Lake Simcoe Public School received the Education Award and nature artist Paul Harpley garnered the George R. Richardsaon Award of Honour.

The Town of Georgina also won a water conservation award.

Victoria Pegg and her Grade 6 class at Lakeside Public school worked with authority staff on a buffer, creating a 15-metre strip of willow and dogwood cuttings, as well as native plants in the creek by the school. the buffer will to help prevent sediment, unfiltered runoff, oil and other contaminants from getting into the creek.

"It's something most of them walk by every day, so they took a vested interested in it. Text books are good but hands-on experience is always fabulous and it's making a difference in their community so it added an element of pride," Ms Pegg said.

Many students visited the site daily when going to or coming from school to monitor the progress of their project.

They weren't the only school in town putting their greenest foot forward.

Over the 2008-2009 school year, staff and students at Lake Simcoe Public School took on several greening projects around the school.

They formed an Eco-Team, including staff, students and parent council members, which empowered the school to participate in the many initiatives they developed, including adopting a Peregrine Falcon, picking up garbage in the school and surrounding community properties, energy conservation initiatives, a litterless lunch program and awards for the classes, which produced the least amount of garbage and recycled the most.

Their efforts of the now Silver EcoSchools certified Lake Simcoe Public didn't stop there.

The Grade 8 students worked in partnership with the adopt-a-stream program to plant close to 300 trees along the Amber Creek, which flows near the school and into Lake Simcoe.

Branching out on the idea of tree planting, Peter and Katherine Smith had 3,600 conifer seedlings planted on their property since spring of 2003 when the Smiths first had 1.5 acres of their property planted by the conservation authority.

In 2008, they retired another 1.8 acres of their land for tree planting, which finished in the spring of 2009, when they had another 1.75 acres of land planted with trees.

"This significant amount of planting contributes to improved water quality and helps prevent soil erosion," Dana Eldon, community relations specialist for the conservation authority, said.

Georgina's Mr. Harpley received the authority's top award, the George R. Richardson Award of Honour for his lifetime of work as a conservationist and wildlife and environmental researcher.

Also a well-known painter, Mr. Harpley has worked with the Zephyr Society of Lake Simcoe, the South Lake Simcoe Naturalists and the Toronto Zoo where he is involved in planning and design of award-winning projects as the manager of interpretation, culture and design.

For more information on the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority and to find out how you can become a watershed hero, visit or call 905-895-1281.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

LSRCA wins Thiess prize - “Nobel Prize” of Environmentalism!

LSRCA wins Thiess prize

For the second time in 3 years, the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority was a finalist for the International Thiess Riverprize – called the “Nobel Prize” of Environmentalism. This time, the LSRCA won the award, at a symposium held in Brisbane, Australia earlier this week.

The Thiess Riverprize recognizes organizations that are engaged in Best Practices in watershed management, and is awarded to a project that represents the world’s best effort to conserve natural watershed resources for future generations. It includes a cash prize of $350,000 Australian.

The LSRCA was one of 5 finalists for the 2009 prize, for its work on sustainability and an integrated watershed management program for Lake Simcoe.

“We are very proud to be honoured with this international distinction. From an environmental point of view, this is the biggest, most prestigious award in the world,” said Gayle Wood, CAO of the Conservation Authority.

Youthful duo reels in $25,000, bragging rights at derby

Youthful duo reels in $25,000, bragging rights at derby

With the 2009 Bass Pro Shops Lake Simcoe Open trophy and $25,000 grand prize close enough to touch, Barry Graves and Jason Gough were nervous as one more team still had to weigh in their catch.

"That's a big fish," said Graves of Keswick, as the last team held their fish up to audience cheers.

The fish wasn't big enough as the last team's fish weighed in under the winners' 29-pounds of five smallmouth bass, allowing the young team to take the grand prize, beating out professional and celebrity anglers from Canada and the U. S.

"It's incredible," Graves said, as fishermen walked up to shake hands. "It's a huge tournament."

Dave Mercer of Facts of Fishing was the tournament master of ceremonies and well-known fisherman Bob Izumi from the Real Fishing Show competed.

The annual one-day tournament on Saturday held its weigh-in at the Port of Orillia for the first time this year. The tournament kicked off at 8 a. m. with 100 teams of two, with the weigh-in beginning at 3 p. m.

Many of the fishermen had difficulty on lakes Simcoe and Couchiching with more than half coming in under the five-fish limit.

"The wind was coming about 20 knots out of the south; it's been a tough day on the water," said George Wallace, Canadian market manager with Bass Pro Shops.

"The weather is typical for this time of year. Mother Nature certainly comes into play. Half the field will come in without any fish; it's a real challenge."

Graves and Gough, of Toronto, said the trick was pre-fishing to pick good locations and staying out of the wind.

"We spent about seven days out on the water pre-fishing," said Graves. "We were scouting and trying to find spots where the fish are," Graves said. "It was really windy out and the spots we picked were on the side of the lake where you didn't get as much wind."


Bass Pro Shops hopes to keep the tournament weigh-in at the Port of Orillia in hopes of turning the event into "Canada's premier one-day fishing tournament." In the past it was held at Sibbald Point Provincial Park on the south end of Lake Simcoe.

"It's closer to a bigger population base, larger media centre and certainly an opportunity to deal with bigger businesses," Wallace said. "We're looking to the community to help us build this event into an internationally renowned bass tournament ; it has the potential."

Fish mortality is an important aspect of the catch and release event. The tournament works in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Queen's University doctors to ensure fish health and well-being, Wallace said.

"We are firm believers in providing a research element to what this tournament is all about," he said.

Orillia Perch Festival organizer Doug Bunker, who co-ordinated the event, said the event, from the city's perspecitve, is a huge benefit to the local economy.

"It's great for the town; it's quiet this time of year and they have been here all week pre-fishing, trying to find out where the fish are," he said. "It's great for the economy, they have been staying in hotels for a week and bringing lots of people into the city."