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Steward's Notes

Environment, Making and Everything in Between

Building the rCrumbl the Ultimate RaspberryPi Phone

About a year ago I set out to create a functional smartphone from a Raspberry Pi. Its been a fun adventure. I began this project with only a moderate amount of experience in working with electronics, and I’ve come a long way since that time. I am by no means the first person to create a raspberry pi phone there are one or two people who I am certain have come before me. In order to claim some sort of title for the work that I would be doing, I decided that I would attempt to create the smallest form factor phone possible given my knowledge and experience. This alone became quite the challege, but in the process I learned a great deal about product design, CAD, and 3D printing. (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.

I Switched To Linux For A Week. You Should Too.

It would seem that Linux and specifically Ubuntu has come a long way in the past 5 years. When I first tried Ubuntu around 2012 it seemed clunky and unable to meet many of my basic computing needs. A lot has changed in the past 5 years and after using Ubuntu Budgie for the past week, I can unequivocally say that this is no longer the case. (more…)

No Drill Gantry LED Upgrade – Essential Monoprice Mini Mods

The Monoprice Select Mini has become the workhorse of my 3D printing and making projects since I acquired it in the fall. I haven’t had many complaints while using it, but one issue that I felt needed to be addressed was the dark build plate. Obstructed by the gantry and the print head, it is very difficult to see what is happening on the print surface and make adjustments to bed height or monitor any issues that may be occurring within the print itself. In order to fix this issue I decided to wire up an LED strip to the gantry assembly. Since I don’t always require an LED strip running on the printer, I wanted to include a switch to control the light in an easy to reach location.

You can download the files to complete this modification free of charge from our store page.

Materials and Equipment List:

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Peterborough Nature Destinations Summer Bucket List

If you’re looking for a way to get out and explore the incredible environment that we live in, look no further. Recently Drew Monkman (@NaturesYear) published a list of excellent nature destinations to visit around Peterborough and the Kawarthas. After a brief conversation we agreed that it would be great to have a map to accompany the excellent write up that was published in the Peterborough Field Naturalists monthly newsletter. You can read all about the destinations listed on the map in the issues linked below. Perhaps if you’re interested in exploring these places with an expert, you should join the Peterborough Field Naturalists and tag along on our Sunday outings.

Read up on the locations, then hit the road with the handy map below! There’s lots to explore!

 

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!

Get the Peterborough Natural Heritage T-Shirt!

In a recent blog article I published the Natural Heritage System map of Peterborough in metro map format. Now you can show your natural Peterborough Pride in t-shirt form! Order yours today from Kawartha Local. Makes a perfect gift for your naturalist dad on fathers day. (June 17th, thank me later 🙂 )

Rob, the owner of Kawartha Local was instrumental in pulling this project together. Even if you’re not interested in this t-shirt, check out his shop full of awesome Peterborough swag!

Should Peterborough Profit from Environmental Degradation?

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.

Harper Creek regulated to the side of the road by urban development. (2018)

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.

The “conservation community” currently under construction at the edge of Peterborough.

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.

Left Hand for Bikes – Mini Urban Interventions

The desire pathway north of the Park and Murray Intersection (City of Peterborough 2016)

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!

A left hand turning lane for bikes only and a protected bike lane within the painted hatched area follows the pathway that hundreds use every day.

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