Steward’s Notes Celebrates Successful Bid to Replace Simcoe St. Parking Garage

Today Steward’s Notes is pleased to announce a successful bid to replace the Simcoe St. parking garage with a natural outdoor park! This will provide an excellent opportunity to bring daylight back to Jackson Creek and create outdoor space for the downtown community! After working with municipal counterparts it was agreed that the parking garage was underutilized and should be replaced with a showcase of Peterborough’s Natural heritage and beauty! Once again daylight will shine on Jackson Creek for the first time since the 1960s. The multi-million dollar contract will enable the total removal of the parking garage and subsequent replacement with outdoor greenspace. The bus terminal will be relocated to the King St. Parking Garage once construction begins. The benefits of this park promise to be immesurable and include:

  • Health Benefits for Nearby Residents
  • Reduced Urban Heat Island
  • Improvements to Water Quality in Jackson Creek
  • Improved Capacity to prevent major flooding
  • Opportunities to fall for an April Fools Joke!

Explore the possibilities with this exciting new project on May 11th with Dylan Radcliffe as he leads a Jane’s Walk exploring the river as it meanders hidden through Downtown Peterborough!

Change Comes To Steward’s Notes

With the coming spring and increased readership of Steward’s Notes I have decided to introduce some exciting changes! Some of you may have received an email late last night that read like a cryptic field note, and for that I would like to apologize! I am adding a section to this site where I will be publishing my regular field notes. To keep email spam to a minimum, subscribers will not receive an email in the future when field notes are published, only for the more substantial content published here. If you are interested you can find a link at the top of the page.

Additionally, I have recently removed all of the content from this site around some of my other projects such as the 3D printers, DIY cell phone etc. You can find all of that at my sister site patchworksmfg.com This change is to keep the content of this site focused on my passion for Peterborough and the outdoors. It always seemed rather clunky to me to have a site dedicated to nature and making even if I did try and create some overlap. I found as time went on that blog subscribers would drop out when content they were not interested in was published. I have therefore decided to entirely focus this site on Peterborough’s natural heritage and natural history.

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Thank you to the Peterborough Community! The support I receive for this little blog is nothing short of incredible. I look forward to sharing and hearing stories of the land we love in the coming years!

Developer Plans Destruction of Habitat for Endangered Butternut Trees

A couple of weeks ago I received word through the Ontario Environmental Registry that a developer was seeking an application to “harm or kill an endangered species.” The Peterborough Examiner reached out for comments from the developer and their official statement was that roads and campsites would ideally be constructed around the trees. Wrapping the roads and campsites around the trees will do nothing but stress the trees and decrease the success of any saplings.

If we are to take the estimate of 10,000 remaining trees in Ontario as a reasonable number, the proposed removal or harm to 93 trees is just shy of 1% of the total population estimate. I would like to encourage everyone to submit a comment to the environmental registry before the April 8th deadline.

When it comes to endangered species management it is important to consider the removal of trees as a last resort after all other options have been considered. In Canada we have no known cure for the butternut canker disease that has decimated their populations and we have not located any disease resistant trees at this time. It is therefore critical that we ensure that every known piece of genetic resource of this species is preserved until we have developed a solution to prevent the eradication of this beautiful tree.

Exploring Jackson Creek’s Lost Tributary: Hidden Creek

About two years ago I was having a conversation with a friend and he asked me about a small little creek that ran through his backyard at the time. Knowing where he lived, I knew it was a tributary of Jackson Creek, but nothing more.

I’ve passed by this creek countless times, small creeks have always fascinated me but I’ve never had the opportunity to explore this one in particular. Small creeks and streams are some of our most fragile yet least understood aquatic ecosystems, yet they make up a large part of our watersheds. As Peterborough was built, countless small creeks were filled in, many people have wet basements because of it, but this small creek remains.

Having recently acquired a copy of a historical atlas of Peterborough, I wanted to understand how some of these environmental features of early Peterborough might still be visible today. This little creek seemed like an excellent starting point.

Blessed with a sunny day and high spirits, I decided to go out exploring….

At the base of Hidden Creek you can see where it spills out into Jackson Creek. The culvert has clearly been installed for several decades. Its nearly invisible this time of year, with Jackson Creek’s levels so high. Its not clear if any water is actually spilling out from underneath the bicycle pathway.

Hidden Creek spills into Jackson Cree

One block north on McDonnel St. it is possible to see where the embankments have been stabilized to make room for more construction. The heavy concrete construction seems to indicate that this creek may have been a bit of an engineering problem at the time. I suspect that before sewer system upgrades this little tributary received a lot of rainwater runoff from the city to the north. Continuing several blocks to the north, you can see how this little creek has been tucked away between lotlines, hidden from view. Neighbors have attached their downspouts to the channel to quickly convey rainwater away. From street level there are sometimes ornate iron bars that prevent passers by from falling into the channel. As you approach the head of the stream the water is not frozen, perhaps there is a hidden spring feeding this creek from below the city.

Finally upon reaching Parkhill road, is the most natural portion of the creek. Its “headwaters” you might say. From underneath the roadway Hidden Creek spills forth into a small grassy space. Apparently this land is municipal property! A great opportunity for a community group to install a pollinator garden or do a small tree planting along the creek’s edge!

Peterborough is full of long forgotten creeks, and this is but one of them. Do you know anything about this tiny Hidden Creek? Do you know of other little environmental hotspots in the city? Perhaps as the summer progresses I will try to discover more of these forgotten places.

This is why Jackson Creek Matters: Redux

This spring so far has not given us much in the way of precipitation, but that’s not to say that we can’t see our surrounding environment hard at work. In Peterborough we have a long history of flooding in our downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Looking at old maps of Peterborough, it is easy to see why this is the case. When the area was first settled 200 years ago, Jackson Creek meandered through a wetland located where the downtown currently resides. The river still carries memories with it, when the downtown flooded in 2004 the path of the stream passed through buildings and shops in much the same way as it did in times gone by.

Every spring with the influx of water caused by spring melting, we can witness how Jackson Park keeps water on the landscape and out of basements downtown. When the ice first melted this spring, giant dams of ice formed along the creek, water spilled over the banks of the river, and flowed through the trees and brambles that line the side of the creek. The water was slowly released back into the stream to travel towards the Otonabee. It made quite the sight to behold, however the implications are clear:

“Water is held in Jackson Park and the Lilly Lake Wetland instead of the basements of downtown homes and businesses”

(ed. The Previous) City council has had this explained to them on countless occasions, however it is clear they are not listening, or don’t care. Actions that reduce the ability of the wetland and park to properly function are at the direct expense of Peterborough business and home owners. The next time Peterborough proposes filling in wetlands or clearing forests, remember that you are the one who may be paying the bill.

Crayfish disturbed by the spring flooding litter the ice adjacent to the river.

With a new city council that may be willing to keep a closer eye on the natural assets of our community many hope that our natural assets may be accounted for in the same ways that our fire hydrants, sewers and hydro poles are. Just the same way that these assets depreciate, if we do not care for our natural spaces, they too will lose value over time. There are many groups and cities in Canada, such as the municipal natural assets initiative that are working to find ways to account for the value that spaces such as Jackson Park provides. Hopefully in the coming years we can find a way to include the value that natural features bring to our life in Peterborough!

What should Peterborough do in this Climate Emergency?

With the recent news of Kingston and possibly Guelph declaring a climate emergency, I began wondering what actions a city such as them or even Peterborough could do to begin the process of eliminating our climate emissions. Recently I came across the Drawdown proposal. It includes a list of 80 solutions that would reduce global emissions drastically while at the same time creating a better and more equitable future for humanity. All while creating a net global financial savings of nearly 50 trillion USD.

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How Safe are Coyotes?

Since I started collecting sightings of Coyotes in Peterborough, I have received several concerns about coyotes in the city. People have been concerned about going out for walks and taking their pets outdoors. I can say with certainty that coyotes pose a significantly lower risk than pretty much any activity that most people participate in. While on a walk you are more likely to be fatally struck by a car or hit by lightning than to be non-fatally attacked by a coyote. To get the point across and hopefully quell some fears here is a handy little chart that I’ve done up.

As a side note, some of the precautions you can take include making sure food stored outside is secure and avoiding any coyote dens during the springtime when the pups are first born. And NEVER feed the coyotes.

Coyotes of Peterborough

As a follow up to the impromptu citizen science project that took place in November and December, I’ve created a map for everyone’s enjoyment and so you can all see the results! It was a lot of fun taking in everyone’s input and creating something together. This mini project has given me some ideas for fun projects in the future, but for now, enjoy this map and let me know what you think!

Stewards Notes Talks Natural Heritage on Pints and Politics

While you’re in for the weekend relaxing before the holidays begin in earnest, why not check out this weeks episode of Pints and Politics. Bill Templeman, Ben Wolfe, Ian Attridge, and myself all sat down to discuss our city’s important natural heritage and how we might plan for a more ecological future. Check out the podcast from the link below and let us know what you think!

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Despite Lack of Provincial Leadership Dianne Saxe Offers a Vision for Way Forward

Its difficult to envy the position that Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe finds herself in every day. Her role as an independent commissioner of the legislature is to oversee Ontario’s ministries through an environmental lens and to administer the Environmental Bill of Rights. Throughout her tenure as the ECO she has issued dozens of reports critical of government activities and responses to pollution, environmental degradation, and planning. Just last week she released the annual ECO report detailing worrying trends in Ontario regarding wetlands, woodlands, water and wildlife. The report seems to have fallen on deaf ears at the legislature. Even worse, funding for the ECO office was cut nearly immediately following the release of the report.

It was a coincidence that that very day here in Peterborough we were fortunate enough to be joined by Dianne Saxe to discuss the protected areas shortfall that the province is facing in meeting our Aichi target 11 goals to protect 17% of Canada’s landmass for conservation y 2020. Currently Ontario sits at 10.4% protected area which is less than the global average of 14.5%. The response from Doug Ford and the CPC cacus has been that it was an agreement signed federally (by Stephen Harper), so it isn’t his problem.

Peterborough citizens making a difference!

Near the beginning of her presentation, Dianne offered examples of how leadership from cities, towns and other low tier governments is creating real change in the absence of higher leadership on environmental issues. South of the border, the “We Are Still In” coalition is on track to meet their Paris climate targets representing a constituency of over half of American Citizens an an economy of 6.2 trillion USD.

Now that the City of Peterborough has elected a council that may take environmental issues seriously, it may be time to discuss how our city may reach out to others to meet climate, water or protected area targets in the absence of provincial leadership. Perhaps our council and the engaged and eager citizens of our city can step forward as a leader in Ontario to create a vision for the future of not just our city, but the province as a whole. Organizations such as the Kawartha Land Trust, GreenUP, and The Nature Conservancy have all demonstrated the real change that can happen from the ground up when we decide to work together, lets hope that we can find an ally in our new city council.

Dianne Saxe may have a difficult road ahead as the environmental commissioner, and it may be difficult to be the harbinger of bad news but my respect for her comes from her ability to offer real solutions to the large problems that we face. I’ve trusted her advice since she took office and regardless of what happens, she will continue to be an invaluable asset for the people of Ontario.

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