There was much to celebrate on the waterfront in 2011 — from clean beaches to new sustainable development — along with many days spent fishing, boating, hiking, bird-watching, festival-going and relaxing with a glass of wine at waterside. And boy, was it hot!
As we ease into a new year, MyNewWaterfrontHome.com invites you to join us as we raise a cheer to our Top 5 “good news” stories of 2011:
Moratorium on offshore wind turbines
There was a big sigh of relief up and down the coastlines across Ontario when the province’s environment minister, John Wilkinson, announced on Feb. 11, 2011, that he was imposing a moratorium of unspecified duration on offshore wind turbines in freshwater lakes because these windmills are a new concept that requires caution and lots of study.
“This is what we’ve been asking for, from Day 1,” Jim Krushelniski, the Kingsville-based chairman of Citizens Against Lake Erie Wind Turbines, told MyNewWaterfrontHome.com. “We wanted an objective, third-party environmental assessment. Not one done by those advocating the turbines. We wanted a review of the impact on human health and on wildlife. That’s what we got. It could take years.”
This is the second moratorium Ontario has placed on the offshore models. The first one, in 2006, lasted for two years. With a renewed sense of optimism, some believe this one will be permanent.
Environmental concerns around water-based turbines include widespread killing of migratory birds, butterflies and bats, as well as the stirring up of long-buried toxins in the lakebed sediment (which could harm drinking water) and disruption of fish habitat. As well, no one has studied the impact heavy ice buildup could have on the turbines and their bases, and while ice is less frequently a concern in Lake Ontario, it would be a considerable fear in the more shallow lakes Erie and St. Clair.
Signed and sealed: Mississauga’s revitalized waterfront plan leaps forward
The waterfront will be the star attraction in a new mixed-use community to take shape on Lake Ontario in the Lakeview neighbourhood of Mississauga, east of Port Credit, on a former coal-fired power generating site. In this 99-hectare master-planned paradise you will find eco-friendly homes and green businesses, greenspace galore, waterfront trails, European-inspired recreational canals, wetlands, an arts and culture island and a kilometre-long pier perfect for evening strolls.
“There will be nothing like it in Canada,” says Jim Tovey, the Lakeview resident behind the redevelopment vision. He is now propelling the project forward as the new councillor for the ward, a position he reluctantly ran for at the urging of his many supporters. “The goal is to be the most sustainable community in the world.”
There are several issues to hammer out before construction can begin, including who will own the former generating site now in the hands of Ontario Power Generation; what needs cleaning up; and how the lake will be filled to create the islands that will connect to the Port Credit waterfront via a floating trail. There are also the logistics to consider, such as which areas will be zoned for housing, commercial etc., and how transportation will fit in.
If anyone can get things moving quickly, however, it is Tovey, whose tenacity has already resulted in a signed Memorandum of Understanding committing the province of Ontario, OPG and the City of Mississauga to work together on the shared vision known as Inspiration Lakeview. The agreement, announced on June 20, 2011, was cobbled together in record time.
“This is an important and exciting step forward for Mississauga’s revitalized waterfront,” Mississauga South MPP Charles Sousa said in the June news release. “I’m so proud that we’ve been able to get everyone to the table to help write this next chapter in Lakeview’s post-power story.”
While future ownership of the OPG land is being decided, residents anxious to see their waterfront redeveloped as quickly as possible won’t have long to wait for the first improvement — access to Lake Ontario, something that has been cut off here for more than more than 120 years by various industry. Plans are in motion to get people out onto the deep-water OPG pier, which extends one kilometre into Lake Ontario offering incredible panoramic views, by summer 2012.
Tiny Township becomes Ontario’s first Blue Community
The Township of Tiny, boasting 70 kilometres of shoreline along Georgian Bay, is named the first Blue Community in Ontario, and only the third in Canada. The recognition came on Sept. 12, 2011, when council passed the necessary resolutions that signal the municipality of just over 10,000 people takes its water seriously.
The Blue Communities
Project is an initiative of the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and in Quebec with Eau Secours. It calls on municipalities to recognize water as a human right, to ban the sale of bottled water in civic spaces, and to support the public ownership of water utilities.
“It is a small step like this, taken by municipalities not unlike our own, that will increase national awareness of these very significant issues,” Mayor Ray Millar told the Midland Free Press. “Single-user bottled water will no longer be sold in municipal facilities where access to municipal tap water is available, nor will it be purchased and provided at meetings where access to municipal water is available.”
Tiny Township has already been hailed across the province for its septic tank inspection program that was initiated by an association of cottagers’ groups anxious to keep their sparkling Georgian Bay waters clean.
Since Tiny’s move to become a Blue Community, it has been joined by the Town of Ajax, with Kingston not far behind. On March 22, 2011, Burnaby, B.C., became the first blue community in Canada to take the Blue Community oath, followed by Victoria, B.C., on June 23, 2011.
The resolutions in Ajax and Kingston were prompted by the work of a 13-year-old girl who has contacted dozens of municipalities urging them to turn “blue. Young Robyn Hamlyn of Kingston says she was inspired to take action after seeing the film Blue Gold, featuring the work of Council of Canadians chairwoman Maude Barlow.
“Because Canada is a water rich country, we tend to take our water for granted and we use up water faster than it can be replenished through natural systems,” Robyn told councillors in Kingston at a council meeting in September. “Just around the Great Lakes, we pump almost 3.2 trillion litres of water a day. 7.6 billion litres do not get returned.”
As part of the Blue Communities Project, Canadians are invited to “take the tap water pledge” to support publicly owned and delivered water by drinking tap water instead of bottled water. You can send in a photo of yourself with a glass of tap water for the Council of Canadians’ Tap Water Gallery, which features several politicians from across Ontario and the Ottawa Folk Festival.
TWO STORIES TIED
Swim Drink Fish Music Club voted Top 10 music website
Swim Drink Fish Music Club
, an online music and audio event developed by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper in collaboration with other Waterkeeper organizations across Canada and the United States, is declared one of the Top 10 Best Music Websites in Canada in a Searchlight poll by CBC Radio 3.
The Swim Drink Fish Music Club brings together artists, activists and ordinary citizens who care about clean water. “Our dream is to create communities you can safely touch the water, where the water is pure enough for drinking, and where it is clean and wild enough to toss in a line and pull out a fish for your family,” declares Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.
By plunking down $9.99 for an annual membership, you get to hear exclusive and rare music monthly while contributing to the fight for swimmable, drinkable, fishable water across Ontario. Members also have access to episodes of Living At The Barricades, a weekly radio program produced by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.
Among the club’s high-profile artists are Gord Downie from the Tagically Hip and Dave Bidini, a musician/author/playwright and former leader of the now-defunct Rheostatics alternative band. In 2010, Bidini offered up a suite of 30 new mini-songs for the website, dubbed “30 songs for 30 days to save Lake Ontario.”
“A lot of the songs are about living close to water — youthful summers on Toronto Island; a misspent teenagehood hanging out at the Leslie Street spit; as an adult sailing with my dad out of the Etobicoke yacht club — as well as the polluted soup that is our city’s lake,” the Toronto-based Bidini said of his 30-song collection. “Almost all of the pieces here were created through the ‘instant song’ technique — basically writing and singing whatever came into my head — although a few were more obviously crafted. Whatever the case, enjoy, and please help support the Waterkeepers. I do and will and will continue to, evermore.”
Proceeds support Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Ottawa Riverkeeper and Fraser Riverkeeper — the club organizers attempt to keep membership fee funds in the region where the donor lives.
Swim Drink Fish Music Club participating musicians also include Tony Dekker of Great Lake Swimmers, Broken Social Scene, Sarah Harmer, Bill Frisell, Chris Brown, Kate Fenner, Stars, Bruce Cockburn, Tony Scherr, Apostle of Hustle, Attack in Black, Emma Lee, Ghost Bees, Holy Fuck, Land of Talk, Matt & Jill Barber, Neko Case, Ohbijou and Wintersleep.
Toronto earns right to fly Blue Flag at eight of 11 beaches
When it comes to environmentally friendly beaches, the City of Toronto is tops in Ontario, with eight of its 11 swimming beaches earning the right to trumpet their good environmental practices under the internationally recognized Blue Flag program in 2011. In all, 16 beaches were certified to fly the coveted Blue Flag in Ontario in 2011.
Toronto is the undisputed leader, however, with Bluffer’s Beach in Scarborough added in 2011 to the seven that re-qualified to fly the Blue Flag on its Lake Ontario from the previous year. Also flying the Blue Flag in Toronto are Kew-Balmy, Woodbine, Cherry, Ward’s Island, Centre Island, Gibraltar Point and Hanlan’s Point beaches.
Lake Huron beaches that earned their Blue Flag status in 2011 were: Grand Bend Beach in Lambton Shores, Bayfield Main Beach in Bluewater, Kincardine’s Station Beach and Sauble Beach in the Town of South Bruce Peninsula.
Port Stanley Main Beach in Central Elgin was the only beach on Lake Erie to win Blue Flag status, returning for a second year.
On Georgian Bay, beaches earning Blue Flag status in 2011 were: Little River Beach Park and Northwinds Beach Park in the Town of the Blue Mountains, and Wasaga Beach Provincial Park.
The right to fly a Blue Flag has long been a coveted one in Europe, where the program has been operating for more than two decades. Beaches in Toronto became the first in Canada to be awarded Blue Flags in 2005.
Along with improvements in water quality, officials hope the Blue Flag program can help change attitudes. They want people to think “clean and green” when referring to Toronto’s waterfront. But despite the clean bills of health at eight of 11 urban beaches, many people still refuse to believe that Lake Ontario is safe to swim in, says James Dann, the city's waterfront parks manager. “We want to let people know that there are clean, accessible beaches just a transit ride away that are waiting for them,” he tells MyNewWaterfrontHome.com.
Tornado-hit Goderich surpasses goal, raises $3.7 million to rebuild town
Goderich, the Lake Huron town whose social, cultural and commercial heart was ripped out by a powerful F3 tornado on Aug. 21, 2011, is slowly on the mend, thanks to an outpouring of support from across the globe.
Tom Jasper, chairman of the Goderich and Area Disaster Relief Fund, announced in December that $3.7 million had been raised as of Dec. 8, surpassing the fundraising goal of $3.5 million. With the province matching funding of up to two to one, the local fundraising could translate into more than $10 million to pay up to 90 per cent of the eligible claims not paid by insurance.
“The real winner is the reputation of the Goderich Community,” Jasper says in a new release in December. “Donations from outside the municipalities impacted by the tornado accounted for over 65 per cent of the total amount donated. Donations came from nine of Canada’s 10 provinces. Donations from the United States totalled $55,000, online donations exceeded $40,000 and the Huron County household mailer generated over $163,000. It is extremely gratifying to see the huge number of people and organizations who care about our community and donate to such a worthwhile cause as tornado relief.”
There is much work ahead for Goderich, the community of 8,000 known as “Canada’s Prettiest Town” for its heritage core and tree-filled Courthouse Square and park at the centre of it all. Courthouse Square was devastated, with businesses forced to close, relocate or operate out of trailers; only three of the park’s 90 trees were left standing; more than a dozen businesses and about 30 homes, including heritage properties, are or will be demolished in and around the downtown core.
Planning and landscape architect consultants will soon be developing a master plan for the redevelopment of the downtown core, along with a landscape design for Courthouse Park, home to Goderich’s many festivals and social gatherings. The downtown design guide is to maintain the core as an anchor and “people place” and consider a mix of housing alternatives, all while taking the town’s existing heritage plans into account.
Goderich planned to ring in the New Year at its famous Square with a candlelight walk beginning at 11:30 p.m.
While the fundraising officially wrapped up on Dec. 1, the disaster relief fund is still accepting donations. If you would like to support the fund, please address your cheque to the Goderich & Area Disaster Relief and mail or deliver to:
Goderich Town Hall
57 West St.
MyNewWaterfrontHome.com — December 2011