Category: Municipal Planning

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.

See How The Lilly Lake Subdivision is Impacting our Waterways

This past week my partner alerted me to the fact that things in Jackson Creek looked a little off. “Like chocolate milk” is how she described it. I’ve seen rivers that looked like chocolate milk before, but never Jackson Creek. I decided to go have a look to see what was causing the phenomenon. First I went down to the creek near the entrance into Jackson Park. Indeed the water was murky with silt and mud.

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Murky water like this is bad for fish and other aquatic organisms. It can suffocate fish, decrease light reaching into the water to allow plants to grow and can mean increased nutrients will lead to algae blooms and decreased oxygen concentrations.

After discovering the milky water that had found its way into creek I wanted to see what the water looked like upstream of any housing developments. I drove outside of town to see what the water looked like where the river crosses under Ackinson Road.

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Sure enough the water was clear and crisp. Some tannins were in the water that gave the water a “tea like” appearance. This is a natural phenomenon and no immediate cause for concern. It was obvious that there was something along the banks of Jackson Creek that was causing the pollution in the area.

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Flowing into a small tributary along the North side of the housing development on Lilly Lake road was one of the most egregious cases of poor sediment control. Along the slopes of the new construction, huge gullies of sediment had been carved out of the embankments and sediment was pouring into a failed stormwater pond to be deposited in Jackson Creek.

I’m not sure what how to fix this situation, city council is consistently unwilling to take action on these issues, Peterborough is home to several failed stormwater ponds. And it seems like the problem is not getting better any time soon. Perhaps a new city council will be willing to make the changes required to ensure the continued health and wellbeing of our waterways, and ultimately our community as a whole.

The Environment, Jackson Park, Springtime, and Elections

With the upcoming provincial election possibly having a dramatic impact on the jewel in our city that is Jackson Park, I decided to take a stroll along the creek to explore the lush green valley that has recently sprung to life. The polls seem to suggest that the Progressive Conservatives will be the ones to lead the province for the next 4 years. Thus far they have not indicated in any capacity that the Natural Environment is of concern or a priority. Tomorrow, make the effort to go to the polls and cast your ballot with the future of Ontario and Peterborough’s natural environment in your mind and in your hearts. In the meantime, enjoy the eye candy that is Jackson Park in the spring!