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.(more…)
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!
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…)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
In any democracy, as administrations change so do their priorities. In the case of environmental management, it often is the case that a single administration is capable of undoing decades of work to protect natural spaces. In Peterborough, the last several years have been marked with conflict around how our administration has approved countless measures to degrade the wetlands, creeks, and forests that are valued by humans and wildlife alike. With work commencing on the policy portion of the official plan, now is our chance to shape policy that will discourage environmentally destructive behavior by our city.
There are many proponents of environmental degradation, one of the more obvious ones are real estate developers. Many real estate developers across the province have realized that it is not in their best interest to destroy the things that make these places desirable to live. Others in Peterborough have yet to catch up. Based on the sheer scale that they operate it is possible for them to have an outsized environmental impact on our city’s natural spaces. The approach thus far to prevent development within sensitive environmental areas has been to set a limit or buffer around each sensitive area and declare that no development should take place within these areas. Unfortunately, this has not been enough for the city to stop granting approvals that violate this policy.
One of the major drivers of development approvals for municipalities is development charges. Approvals for construction often come with a fee that is paid to the city. Therefore, the more development that a city approves, the greater access they have to funds. As an example, a recent apartment complex approved with a 20m setback from a provincially significant wetland (PSW) in Peterborough (100m beyond Otonabee Region Conservation Authority policies.) The development charges for the property are $12,910 per unit, totaling $555,130.00 raised for the city. When cash strapped city councils approve development, it is no wonder that when the environment comes into question a nice half a million dollar payout wins out.
I would propose that as part of the natural heritage system the following policy should be put in place:
“The city shall not collect development charges for site plans approved within 120m from provincially significant wetlands, 30m from permanent water bodies, or within areas identified as part of the natural heritage system”
This removes the cash incentive for approving development within environmentally sensitive areas. The other option that may be more appealing to some would be to offer developers a discount on development charges if properties that they are developing contain environmentally sensitive features providing a discount based on the area that is occupied. It by no means prevents developments from happening in this area, but it at least removes the dollar sign distraction from clouding the vision of our city council.
Have you ever been around the city and noticed where a small change could make a huge difference? When the city installed stop signs on the corner of Hunter and Bethune, that small change made such an incredible difference for traffic in the area. I’ve been thinking over the past several months, what small changes would make a huge difference in our city?
For years when I lived on Murray St. I would often bike to Reid St. and turn left into the hatched area jump the curb and connect to the bike trail to travel downtown. I’m not the only one that does this, I would argue that it is one of the strongest desire pathways in the city. You can actually see it from google maps!
Strictly speaking this isn’t a legal turn. Traffic flows in the opposite direction along the one way street. However, there is more than enough room for this maneuver to be just as safe as any other left hand turn. The nearby traffic lights create large gaps in traffic which creates more than enough time to cross over all three lanes. There are a huge number of people who live in the nearby apartment buildings who turn off of Murray in this way every day.
Perhaps it is time we looked at a way of making this turn recognized with the proper infrastructure? I would argue that this whole area needs serious work to provide proper crossing for bikes, but this may be a great first step. Check out the map below and let me know what you think!
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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. (more…)
(Originally published in Peterborough’s Greenzine)
This year City council has embarked on the process of revising the City of Peterborough’s official plan. The official plan will have far reaching consequences on the structure and function of our city far into the future. In the past few decades the province has mandated that a natural heritage system plan be integrated into the process of the official plan.
Over the past several decades environmentally minded planners have recognized that a healthy environment is not just made up of individual parks and greenspaces, but includes the connections between those spaces. Consider that many different creatures require different habitats as they progress through the stages of their life. A Blanding’s turtle for instance, will live its life in forests, wetlands, rivers and fields. If the turtle is not able to travel effectively between those spaces, it will be unlikely to reproduce and live a full life. A robust and effective natural heritage system will map out these core natural areas and recommend strategies to enhance and protect connections between them.
This wholistic approach to protecting healthy ecosystems acknowledges that natural communities require the ability of creatures to move from place to place. It also recognizes that humans are just as much a part of the environment, and that there are benefits to protecting our natural spaces. An effective natural heritage system can help a municipality meet health, recreation, and infrastructure objectives in addition to any environmental benefit. Therefore, it is critical that the official plan and the city’s natural heritage system strategy be completed in a way that is recognized and put into practice by all city departments.
In order to effectively implement a natural heritage system strategy there are a number of key principles that can help us protect our environment into the future.
Principle #1: The Natural Heritage System Should Be A Living Document
Nature is not static, and neither should our relationship with it be. In the past governments have allowed the destruction of critical habitat simply because it was not written down as such. The natural heritage of our community is too large for one person or company to map out or write down. Fallow fields and meadows can turn to wetlands or forests given time, it is therefore critical that as the landscape changes, so should the way that we protect it.
Principle #2: The Natural Heritage System Strategy Should Include Commitment To Improving Our Natural Environment
Currently the City of Peterborough is far below the recommended targets for natural space protection and connection. The strategy should set out objectives for the city and a plan to achieve them. With the ecological integrity of our environment under threat from climate change, habitat loss, pollution etc. we must work to improve the natural environment, not just maintain the status quo. A strategy to expand the natural heritage system of our city will provide benefits for years to come.
Principle #3: Citizens And Groups Should Be Involved In The Protection And Identification Of Natural Heritage Features
The city of Peterborough is full to the brim with some of the most knowledgeable and committed naturalists I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Again it is important to note that every single significant feature of our city’s natural heritage system would be impossible to map out and catalogue by any one group. With all of the work in this city being completed by so many talented people, it would be a waste to not include their input towards protecting our natural environment.
Our city still has a long way to go towards protecting and enhancing the nature which we all seem to cherish, a robust and important natural heritage system is an important first step. Whatever the results of our renewed official plan may bring us, there is no doubt that the citizens of Peterborough care very much about our shared natural heritage. Let us hope that council and city staff see the benefit of having a well protected and connected natural environment and that our shared passion for the environment is recognized in the process. Be sure to stay tuned to city hall and voice your support for a strong and resilient natural heritage system for the city of Peterborough.