Celebrate the Great Trail

The Trans-Canada Trail is a spectacular achievement – a trail that links 15,000 communities over 24,000 km. This year, the 150th year of Confederation, the plan is to fully link the Trail. Celebrations are taking place in 200 communities across Canada in recognition of this milestone and the efforts of dedicated volunteers since 1992.

We are fortunate that the Great Trail extends through Innisfil along the Thornton to Cookstown section. You’re invited to participate in a local family celebration in Cookstown taking place Saturday, August 26, 10 am to 2 pm (Wellington St. and John Dr.)

Families can participate in a Trail Scavenger Hunt, learn all about turtles with Kids for Turtles, enjoy free pizza from Bernie’s Pizza, and more!

Learn more at thegreattrail.ca

 

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Celebrate and Contemplate

Next week (July 22) Innisfil Beach Park will be the site for Celebrate Lake Simcoe. It will be in recognition of its importance to our lives and an opportunity to learn about efforts to restore and maintain a clean lake and watershed for this region. Indigenous people will participate this year with a traditional pow wow and displays of their own.

Recent events make it all the more important to celebrate clean water and motivate us to ensure clean water for everyone. The mercury poisoning scandal at Grassy Narrows caused by industrial contamination of the Wabigoon River (up to 50 years ago and continuing today) may be one of the most neglected environmental disasters in history. At the end of June the Ontario government committed $85 million toward clean-up of this “gross neglect”. But a resolution will require more years of effort while almost all members of the Grassy Narrows First Nation exhibit symptoms of some neurological damage.

I’m reminding my readers of this because of an alarming report published in the American Chemical Society Journal and recently described in Science Daily and Clean Technica. One headline reads, “Waste Water from Fracking Pollutes Pennsylvania Watershed”.  Continue reading

Climate Change Survival

It’s another season of local flooding, see-saw temperatures, western wild fires and severe storms to the south. Locally, we are hearing some farmers around Simcoe County lament the losses that they are, and will be, suffering this year.

Now, a new study published in the journal, Science, predicts that “unmitigated climate change will damage the poorest-third of US counties to the tune of 20% of total income. The regions that will be hit the hardest in the US over the coming years economically will be primarily in the South and in the lower Midwest. In other words, economic centers will be likely to move northwards, leaving the hotter, southern parts of the US impoverished …”.

(Perhaps not wanting to wait, Missouri just voted to lower the minimum wage in St. Louis by 23% from $10/hour to $7.70/hour, but that’s another story.)  Continue reading

A Few Centuries, and 150 Years

Most of us will soon be participating in celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Overall we can be mostly proud of the society that has evolved from our European and colonial past. Some First Nations are reminding us, though, that Indigenous people have no reason to cheer about an imposed system that continues to have devastating social and economic consequences for their communities.

I took a look at some maps in the Economic Atlas of Ontario from the Ontario Archives, which dramatically illustrates how “Indians” systematically vanished from our consciousness in the century prior to Confederation. The following slides contain four maps spanning 1792 to 1882.

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We can hope that in this 150th year of Canada that history is finally starting to bend in the direction of a more just future. In symbolic recognition, the summer solstice, June 21, is celebrated as National Aboriginal Day, and will be renamed National Indigenous People’s Day. More importantly, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has presented a full catalogue of recommendations to address numerous injustices affecting Indigenous people. (visit Reconciliation Canada)

I think it is both startling and shameful that, over my lifetime in the 20th century, I have had virtually no meaningful contact with Indigenous people. So in that context, it is particularly important and meaningful that Innisfil’s annual event, Celebrate Lake Simcoe, is partnered this year with the Barrie Native Friendship Centre to hold a traditional Pow wow at Innisfil Beach Park in conjunction with other activities later in July.

Travel Ontario website describes a pow wow as a “sacred gathering of Indigenous peoples to honour the past, renew friendships and celebrate with music, song, food, dance and storytelling.” According to Wikipedia, “The word is derived from the Narragansett word powwaw, meaning “spiritual leader“.

The 2017 Celebrate Lake Simcoe event takes place on Saturday, July 22. Admission is free with a Food Bank donation. At 5:30 a.m. First Nations participants will conduct a sunrise ceremony, Blessing of the Water. A traditional Pow Wow begins at noon with a Grand Entry.

Celebrate Lake Simcoe also includes art, culture and environmental booths and a lake swims of 1, 3 and 5 km. Swim registrants are invited. Visit the website at Celebrate Lake Simcoe 2017

Rotary Walk & Run June 3 Supports Innisfil Trails

Rotary Club of Innisfil has been instrumental in fostering the development of a public trail through a 55 acre woodlot behind the Town Hall and Recreation Complex extending to the 7th Line. The Rotary Trail project consists of “a series of walking and biking trails that will be open to the community and visitors, as well as create a Living Classroom of our local ecosystem our students can come to explore.”  An initial portion of the trail was officially opened last fall and Rotary members are eager to further develop the project.

According to press reports, the County of Simcoe will link the trail to Alcona through a walking/cycling path planned along Innisfil Beach Road when it is widened. “There will also be a link to other County trail systems such as Simcoe and Huronia Trails and the Trans Canada Trail.”

Rotary is organizing this year’s Walk and Run at Innisfil Recreation Complex on Saturday June 3 to help raise funds for this ambitious trail project. (The total funding target is $2,000,000). In the past 2 years the Fun Run has contributed $8,000 toward the trails project. Additional funding has come from the the Trillium Foundation and the Inspiring Innisfil grant program.

This year, participants meet at the Innisfil Recreation Complex, registration starting at 7:30 a.m.; warm-up at 9 a.m. for a 5 km Fun Walk and Run. Entry is $5 for adults and seniors or $20 for families. (See below to register in advance online) The Walk & Run is followed by more Family Fun Day events at the Recreation Complex.

Fun Run 2017

 

Can We Change … for the Better?

I’ve been browsing the full Climate Change Action Plan released by the Ontario government. I see a lot of encouraging policy and a fair share of more vague intentions. But I can foresee the plan hitting some speed bumps along the way too.

The Abandel development proposal that Council just approved is a good example. It is a classic 1950’s strip plaza design with lots of vehicle parking and two drive through lanes. We are being graced with this architectural embarrassment, which does not conform with Innisfil’s Official Plan, because the developer insisted on having the project ‘grandfathered’ under old rules with the assistance of the OMB.

Before it is even constructed it is a fossil, totally incompatible with modern urban planning policy. We’ll be stuck with it for a generation. How many other “grandfather” projects are lingering out there in Ontario? This is a huge obstacle when architects and developers obstinately insist on designing for the 1950s instead of 2015. The government needs to outlaw all ‘grandfathering’ of development proposals. Regular recertification of architects, or early retirement for some of them, might be necessary too.

Let’s look at how out-of-step some current development proposals, like Abendel’s, are when compared to Climate Change Policy:

  • “The government intends to update the Building Code with long-term energy efficiency targets for new net zero carbon emission small buildings that will come into effect by 2030 at the latest, and consult on initial changes that will be effective by 2020.”
  • “Minimum parking requirements would be eliminated over the next five years for municipal zoning bylaws, especially in transit corridors and other high-density, highly walkable communities… Instead, bylaws will encourage bike lanes, larger sidewalks, and enhanced tree canopies.”
  • “The government intends to consult and propose amendments to the Planning Act to make climate change mitigation and adaptation mandatory in municipal official plans.”
  • “Municipalities would be able to require installation of electric vehicle charging stations in surface parking areas.”
  • “Ontario intends to establish a green bank to deploy and finance readily available low-carbon energy technologies to reduce carbon pollution from Ontario buildings.”

In theory, existing strip plazas in Innisfil like Trinity Crossing, Crossroads Plaza, and Innisfil Town Centre are ideal sites for rooftop solar or other renewable energy. There are no nearby buildings, trees or other obstructions. In practice this doesn’t happen because the roof belongs to a landlord with no interest in it, while the benefit would accrue to the tenants below who don’t have legal access to the roof or the means to install renewable energy. I don’t see how a ‘green bank’ is going to solve this problem. The only way I can see to break this impasse is to require landlords with buildings above a certain size to offer all tenants net metering of electricity. This would put the onus firmly on the building owners.

These are some of my initial thoughts as the climate change plan moves forward. I’m sure I will have more to say on the topic.