Category: Municipal Planning

How These Cities are Keeping Their Urban Parks Open During COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the experience of the public realm in urban areas has all but vanished. There is one place where the public realm hangs on in many cities, the local parks. Unfortunately several cities around the province have resorted to the closure of their urban parks due to the reluctance of their users to practice proper social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. Several cities have recognized the culture of park users in the past does not necessarily reflect the new reality we are facing and have made some excellent adjustments to help curb the spread of the virus. We know that access to parks and green space is an excellent way to improve public health, and park users often have decreased stress levels when visiting a park. These are both great reasons to work to keep our parks open during a pandemic!

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A Little Toolkit For Confronting Climate Inaction

2019 was heralded as the year that ended climate change denialism. Enter a new era, where we must face a new threat: inaction on climate change.

Just over a week ago I published a short writeup on my twitter feed explaining how an enormous fountain in our town was an outsised contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in our city. This was due to the sheer volume of electicity used to power the monstrous pumps that spewed a steady stream of water 6 stories into the air.

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A Subwatershed Plan for Harper Creek

Harper Creek is arguably one of the most environmentally sensitive areas in Peterborough. On September 23rd Peterborough City Council approved the transfer of funds to complete a subwatershed plan for Harper Creek. This is an exciting opportunity to explore how future impacts on the sensitive local environment will be mitigated. The RFP includes several items that will ensure that both the built and natural environment will be protected.

Some of the most exciting proposals include identification and analysis of the natural environment and its sensitivity. This is particularly exciting as the extent of the Harper Park Wetlands has never been assessed since the upgrade of the wetland to a provincially significant status. Additionally an analysis of cumulative impact of the built environment on the natural environment will be addressed. This is especially important as the impacts of surrounding developments on Harper Creek although purported to be small have created significant changes on the local environment when added all together.

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Note: All of this would not have been possible without the amazing leadership of Kim Zippel on who worked on the ad hoc committee who set the objectives of this study. Congratulations Kim.

Comments on Peterborough’s Draft Natural Heritage Plan

Recently the city of Peterborough released their draft official plan for public comment. The official plan will guide the development of the city for the next several years and council cycles and provide some certainty to members of the public about how the city will develop over the next couple decades. The official plan is divided up into several sections, the one that I am personally most interested in is the Natural Heritage System. The natural heritage system is made up of all of the natural areas in our city, and the connecting features between them. This section includes a map of all identified features in our city, as well as a section of policy that will determine how these areas are regulated and managed. Over the past several years several people including myself have taken part in stakeholder meetings that will help determine the contents of the official plan before it is presented to council to vote on. With the release of the official plan, I have a couple comments and suggestions for the policy portion of the official plan.

In the draft plan. Natural areas designations are divided into “levels” to signify their importance and degree of protection. Under this system unevaluated wetlands are not defined under any level of protection. I would encourage the city to evaluate all wetlands within the city limits and re-evaluate wetlands within the city limits to further understand their boundaries and functions. Currently, although Harper Creek wetlands are designated as provincially significant there has been no effort to evaluate or update the wetland boundary. As a result several developments have had significant negative impact on the wetland function including flooding nearby neighbors.

Harper Creek Wetlands

The draft plan makes mention of the requirement to conduct environmental impact studies on new developments. I would encourage the city to lay out the exact requirements for an EIS as several other municipalities in Ontario do. In addition, the plan should encourage or development proponents to consult with municipal staff or our new environmental advisory committee. The environmental advisory committee will be an excellent resource for our city, so we should put them to work! This is a common practice and one need only look as far as the region of Durham to find an example.

Citizen’s being great natural stewards!

Finally I would encourage the city to experiment with new ways in which citizens might become involved in the identification, protection and monitoring of natural heritage functions within our city. The city of Peterborough is home to one of the greatest concentrations of environmental knowledge in Ontario, and it would be a disappointment to not put that resource to use. Formally recognizing the role that citizen science and stewardship plays in protecting and enhancing our natural areas!

The draft plan is a great first step, let’s make this plan something we can all be proud of!

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!

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.

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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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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Jackson Creek Pollution – Final Update

Today I took a stroll up to the Lilly Lake Subdivision to discover what had come of last week’s events. I knew that on Friday there had been activity on site, but I didn’t feel like popping my head into an active construction site, one that my actions may have precipitated. It seems that the construction company has fixed the giant hole in their sediment fencing by adding several more layers. Sections of the fence now are 4 layers thick. In addition, a wall of boulders was constructed at the outlet of a giant erosion scar. It will be interesting to see if even they can hold the water back. (more…)

Jackson Creek Pollution Update

Today I received word from City Councillor Henry Clarke stating that a sediment fence had failed on the site of the Lilly Lake Subdivision and that as he wrote the email they were working to repair it. With another rain storm headed our way I decided to go up and have a look at the work as it was being completed. I walked up the Jackson Creek Trail through the park. As I walked along the trail I noticed that giant sheets of mud had been left next to the trail from all of the water that had flowed through the site.

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Sheets of mud deposited along Jackson Creek Trail

I ascended the slope out of the river valley to notice the first spot where the erosion fencing had failed. Across the huge swath of property there was nothing but bare soil. No erosion control had been implemented on site.

I continued further along the southern boundary of the property, the mud was thick and deep, more than once I stumbled and fell. Just as I was about to leave, I noticed where a huge swath of grass leading into the river valley had been washed out by water. I approached and discovered  one of the largest erosion scars that I have ever seen.

The silt fencing had totally failed and you could see that possibly hundreds of tonnes of sediment had escaped the property and flowed down the valley into Jackson Creek. P_20181009_182132

I’m disappointed that this hasn’t been dealt with. Fish are currently spawning and this could lead to a massive kill of the eggs this year. In the mud I didn’t see any evidence that any humans had actually investigated since the last storm. I’ll be taking more action in the coming days and I’ll be sure to keep you posted.