Silver Creek Wetland: Communicating our Vision for the Future
By Don Kerr
For 20 years, The Watershed Trust has been reacting to proposals and applications for development in the Silver Creek Wetland area. We expected that sometime in the future, the town would own parts of the wetland for the benefit of all. Recently, Town amended the Settlement Agreement for 80 Madeline Drive to decline ownership of the lands designated as Environmental Protection. This occurred without our knowledge in spite of our involvement in the Settlement. As a result, we decided that it’s time to look ahead and develop a vision that could be shared by all with a mutual goal to work towards.
The vision is based on accumulating the undevelopable portions of the Silver Creek Wetland in conservationist hands when applications for development are made similar to what we had expected in the case of 80 Madeline. So far, about 30 acres are committed for transfer of ownership to Collingwood from the Consulate East lands and five acres are committed to The Blue Mountains from the
Haven’s property. The potential is for over 300 acres when all of the tentative proposals have been negotiated. This may take a few years.
We have presented this vision to Collingwood Council, The Blue Mountains Planning & Building Committee and the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) as well as the staff of the Niagara Escarpment Commission, Grey Sauble Conservation Authority and some others. We have plans to present it to all interested parties. We emphasize this is a vision but we are developing a definitive plan and will meet again with these groups seeking their agreement. We believe the logical choice for ownership is the NVCA.
The message: Importance of Wetlands
In the presentations, we emphasize the importance of wetlands because they:
- improve water quality by reducing sediments, excess nutrients, chemicals, pathogens, etc.
- provide water storage, flood control and reduce erosion
- provide habitat for an incredible number of species, many of which are threatened
- store carbon that would otherwise be released as GHG’s
- enhance our experience of nature
We remind the audience that much of our wetlands have been lost and that the Wetland Complex is home to five amphibians and reptiles listed officially as species at risk plus many rare botanical species.
Conservation in Perpetuity
Our vision is to provide the maximum protection for as much as possible of the Wetland complex and its adjacent lands and when enough acreage has been accumulated, to manage it as one unit. We note that zoning and designating these lands as Environmental Protection in the Official Plan is not adequate. Environmental disruption can and does occur on private lands. Enforcement is difficult due to lack of access and the need for a warrant which can only be obtained with valid suspicion of harm. Prevention is better than discovery after the fact which in many cases is irreversible.
An important part of the project is to create a Management Plan which would be used to preserve and enhance the biological features, reversing some of the earlier harm that was done. It would be a tool to pull together all interested parties: municipalities, Conservation Authority, MNR, NEC, volunteer groups, etc. It could be initiated when sufficient land has been committed. The important criteria are restoration and conservation of the ecological functions in perpetuity.
This Vision/Plan would also provide a framework for donations of land in or near the SCW if or when the opportunity is presented. We are making progress developing costs and timing and we are almost ready to move forward.