The Blue Mountain Watershed Trust mourns the loss of Don Kerr,
Order of Collingwood recipient
Collingwood, ON – In their salute to Grassroots heroes of 2016, On the Bay Magazine profiled five people who made a difference in our local community. Don Kerr was chosen for the Silver Creek Vision Project, his strategy for transferring as much as possible of southern Georgian Bay’s most important wetland out of private hands and managing the properties as one unit. Don played a key role in securing agreement from both the Collingwood and Blue Mountains councils, and the boards of the Grey Sauble and Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authorities (GSCA & NVCA) and Niagara Escarpment Commission to adopt this approach.
On the Bay’s profile came just months after Don received the Order of Collingwood for his tireless dedication to the cause. He was also the 2014 recipient of Ontario Nature’s Ian Shenstone Fraser Memorial Award. Don passed away peacefully last Monday, August 1st following a period of convalescence after a fall.
Don’s remarks upon his acceptance of the Order of Collingwood:
As a director of the Watershed Trust, it has been my intent to contribute to the conservation of the natural features in this region. I believe that loss of biodiversity is the overarching issue that requires remedial action to prevent continuing loss of the quality of life on planet Earth.
Well into his eighties, Don was one of the most active, most passionate, and sharpest members of the Watershed Trust’s Watershed Action Group (WAG). The WAG tackles thorny conservation-themed issues in the Collingwood / Town of Blue Mountains area and Don was often its spokesperson at hearings into local developments and other matters.
As Dave Featherstone, Manager of Water Monitoring at the NVCA, recalls, “as one opposing consultant once noted…’ yes, I’m on the other side of the fence…but I wish I could deliver a presentation like Don’. He will be missed by so many.”
The members of the Watershed Trust feel Don’s passing very keenly and we thank him with all our hearts for his wonderful work.
See Don Kerr biography below for more details and full Order of Collingwood acceptance speech.
About The Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation
The Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation (Watershed Trust), Ontario’s first watershed trust, was founded in 1994. During the past 23 years, it has carried out a mandate to “preserve and enhance the Blue Mountain Watershed ecosystem.” It is a grassroots, all-volunteer organization supported by donations and fundraising. The organization exists in order to raise awareness of and protect watercourses in the Collingwood/Blue Mountains area including Silver, Townline, Batteaux and Black Ash Creeks; the Beaver and Pretty Rivers; and Indian Brook.
Donald J. Kerr Biography
Don grew up on a farm in Oxford County near Ingersoll, Ontario. He played baseball for Ingersoll in the local league composed of teams from Oxford and Norfolk Counties. In those pre-TV days, many towns had good baseball teams composed of mostly local players along with a few “imports”. (Red Kelly played for Simcoe.) Don remains a baseball fan, attending two or three Blue Jay games each summer. His other interests include ornithology, conservation, Nordic skiing, hiking and reading.
Don graduated in 1952 from the University of Toronto with a BASc in Chemical Engineering. He continued his education and received a degree in Political Science from York University in 1979. Don’s interest in birding led him to attend the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology birdsong recording workshop in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1992.
Don worked for Esso Chemical and Imperial Oil Limited with various business and plant responsibilities. He was Manager, Environmental Affairs for Esso Chemical Canada from 1982 until his retirement in 1986. From 1987 to 1998 Don was a consultant on environmental affairs – prime client Canadian Chemical Producers Association; plus other clients requiring advice on environmental regulations.
Don’s volunteer commitments include being a Director of the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy and a Director of the Nature League. Don joined the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation in 2004 and became a Director and a key member of the Watershed Action Group Committee.
Don is very active and his contributions to the protection and preservation of our natural environment include:
- Thornbury Mill Pond: Spoke at an ad hoc meeting of concerned citizens to which they responded by setting up an organization to oppose undesirable development.
- Birdsong Recordings: Donated about 850 recordings to Cornell University from Ontario, Cuba, Belize, Ecuador, Guyana, New Zealand and Hawaii. Also donated 22 to the Royal Ontario Museum and 90 to the Canadian Wildlife Services (CWS).
- For Bird Studies Canada and CWS: Conducted 41 surveys from 1991 to 2005 and contributed to the Atlas of Breeding Birds of Ontario and the Atlas of Mammals of Ontario.
- Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology: Contributed data for a four-year habitat study for Tanager species.
- Toronto Zoo and the Reptile Awareness Program: Reported 18 sightings of Massassauga Rattlesnakes and 51 sightings of other snakes.
Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation:
- Castle Glen Resort Community Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) Hearing: As part of the Watershed Trust Participant team in both Phase 1 and Phase 2, Don prepared submissions and made presentations to the OMB and The Town of The Blue Mountains. He also addressed the OMB Public Night. Requested (and did follow-up communications) the Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing (MMAH) to issue a Ministerial Zoning Order to prevent or reduce the impact of the development on the Niagara Escarpment.
- Silver Creek Wetland (SCW) OMB Hearing: Main Watershed Trust spokesperson at the Prehearing and Hearing. Identified the endangered Spotted Turtle as a species of concern in the SCW and a factor in the OMB hearing. Requested MMAH to issue a Declaration of Provincial Interest, thus preventing or reducing the impact of the proposal.
- OMB Reform: Spearheaded attempts to influence and reform the Board in both the supporting legislation and administrative practices, including the hiring of Hearing Officers.
- Probus Club of Collingwood: Addressed the Club regarding Castle Glen, Silver Creek Wetland and reform of the OMB.
Silver Creek Wetland Vision: Since moving to Collingwood in 1988, Don has been active in the campaign to preserve the Silver Creek Provincially Significant Wetland. The Wetland is the last remaining large coastal wetland on the shores of southern Georgian Bay. As a member of the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation Board of Directors since 2004, Don has worked tirelessly to save the Wetland. It is largely through his efforts that Collingwood Council, The Town of The Blue Mountains Council, the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority and the Niagara Escarpment Commission have all agreed to support Don’s “Silver Creek Wetland Vision”. The thrust of the “Vision” is to move the environmentally significant portion of the wetlands from private to public ownership, thus ensuring their protection and preservation in perpetuity.
Don was the 2014 recipient of Ontario Nature’s Ian Shenstone Fraser Memorial Award. The wording on the plaque presented to Don says “Presented to Donald J. Kerr for his 15-year volunteer efforts with the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation, particularly his exceptional leadership in the campaign to preserve the Silver Creek Provincially Significant Wetland on the Niagara Escarpment.” See the article on page 6 of The Watershed News Fall/Winter 2014 at www.watershedtrust.ca
Don’s Acceptance Speech:
“It is an honour to be recognized with the Order of Collingwood. My contributions to the Collingwood area were made possible by working through the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust.
As a director of the Watershed Trust, it has been my intent to contribute to the conservation of the natural features in this region. I believe that loss of biodiversity is the overarching issue that requires remedial action to prevent continuing loss of the quality of life on planet Earth. One must recognize the lack of sustainability which is inherent in the existing state of human development and the current level of human encroachment on the natural environment.
The planet is well into the sixth major extinction event since the beginning of life. Other events have been caused by various geological factors: tectonic plate movements, sea-level changes, asteroids, etc. This time, it is being caused by one species homo sapiens. The focus should be on arresting and reversing our negative impact on the planet.”