In the News


 
NOTL military lands imagined as park
Maryanne Firth, St. Catharines Standard, Thursday May 19, 2016

Support is growing to see former military property in Niagara-on-the-Lake transformed into a public nature park. Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority endorsed the proposed project in principle during a board meeting Wednesday following a presentation asking for the organization's expertise to help turn the vision into reality.

Click Here for full story.



 
Residents lobby council to support opening DND property
Suzanne Mason, St. Catharines Standard, Thursday March 5, 2015

The Harmony Residents Group presented their proposals for the DND Lakeshore property to the Niagara-on-the-Lake council, and requested their support. They received unanimous support and the council later approved a motion to have the Harmony Proposal incorporated into the town's new Official Plan now under development, and sent a letter to Parks Canada requesting them to begin the process to open up the park for public access.

Click Here for full story.



The quest to turn a water treatment site into a park in NOTL
Newstalk 610 CKTB, Wednesday March 4, 2015

A residents group would like the federally-owned land on Lakeshore Road to be turned into a park that can preserve, protect, and open up the land to public use. The Harmony Residents Group is looking forward to the completion of the Parks Canada Management Plan which will reflect their plans for this area.

Click Here for full story.



2014 - Municipal Election - Candidates Elected  for Town and Regional Council.
Congratulations offered to elected Town and Region Council Members, Monday October 27, 2014

The Harmony Residents Group offers our congratulations to the successful NOTL candidates in the 2014 Municipal Election.

Elected Niagara-on-the-Lake Council Candidates - Municipal Election 2014
Position Elected Candidate
Lord Mayor - NOTL Patrick Darte
Town Councillor John Weins -Deputy Mayor
Martin Mazza
Maria Beau-Coute
Betty Disero
Terry Flynn
Jamie King
Jim Collard
Paulo Miele
Regional Councillor Gary Burroughs

We thank each of the elected candidates for their positive response to our question of them during the election campaign (October 5, 2013), which was; Do you agree that the DND Lands should never be commercially developed?

  Click Here for the Actual Responses.

Harmony wishes you every success for the four years ahead, looks forward to supporting and working with you, and asks for your continued support in helping us reach our goal of a Natural Heritage Park for the DND Lands.  Click Here to see our latest proposal to Parks Canada.

2014 - Municipal Election - Candidates for Town and Regional Council Respond
Question to electoral Candidates for Town and Region Council Positions, Sunday October 5, 2014

Harmony Residents Group Inc. sent the following e-mail message to all Council Candidates, seeking an answer to a single question.

For any of you who may not be aware, we the Harmony Residents Group are advocates for the protection and preservation of the area known as the DND Lakeshore Property. We are often asked by members, how do the various council members stand relative to our vision of a Natural Heritage Park for the DND property, and of course we often don't know the answer to that. Given that the current election is in progress, this would be a good time to see if we can determine where each candidate stands on this item. In recent meetings with our MP Mr. Rob Nicholson, Minister of National Defense, he told us that "the DND Lands should never be commercially developed", and that the property should be open to the public as soon as practical and be administered by Parks Canada or some similar conservation type organization.

Our question to you is do you agree that the DND Lands should never be commercially developed? A simple Yes or No answer will suffice, but any comments you wish to make are welcome.

  Click Here for the Candidates Responses.

Region holds Open House - Sewage Treatment Plant - Niagara-on-the-Lake
Region of Niagara, Community Centre, Tuesday June 17, 2014

The Open House provided an update on the new Niagara-on-the-Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant and Infrastucture Upgrades now underway.

Click Here for more info.

We need to get the ball rolling now
Melinda Cheevers, Niagara on the Lake Town Crier, Wednesday November 06, 2013

Just over a year after the announcement of funding for construction of a new wastewater treatment facility in Niagara-on-the-Lake, many are left wondering what will happen to the existing lagoons once they are decommissioned.

Click Here for full story.


 
Decommissioning Lagoons could be expensive project
Penny Coles, Niagara Advance, Wednesday December 18, 2013

Spend somewhere in the neighbourhood of $7 million to remove any remaining sludge from the current sewage lagoons when they are decommissioned and fill in the ponds; or spend considerably less and let nature look after itself.

Click Here for full story.



Niagara-on-the-Lake’s ‘Army Lands’ Belong To We The People

Niagara At Large May 17, 2011    (also featured in The Town Crier, May 20, 2011)

(Editor’s Note – The post below speaks to a picturesque stretch of federally owned land along the shores of Lake Ontario, hosting one of the last remaining stands of Carolinian forest and other natural riches. Many in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario and surrounding communities fought to preserve this land, where a military rifle range was in use during the first half of the last century, when a Toronto-based consortium wanted to transform some of it into a venue for summer music concerts. The Harmony Residents Group of Niagara-on-the-Lake would like the lands preserved as a nature park for the public)

By Randy Busbridge

Catching turtles to take home as pets, swimming in the lake when the red flag wasn’t up, skating on Four Mile Creek Pond  …  these are but a sample of the stories shared on May 11 during the “Rifle Range Memories” discussion hosted by the Harmony Group.

A 1956 photo taken on the lakeshore lands, courtesy of Randy Busbridge.

Speakers brought old photos, maps – even a replica of a bazooka rocket – to help illustrate their tales.  Most of all, they brought their memories.

Speakers recalled the former “Happyland Camp” facility for tuberculosis victims, fishing and hunting expeditions (including the Saturday night sport of shooting rats at the old town dump), and hours of childhood play on all parts of the “Army Lands”, as the Parks Canada Lakeshore Road property was known.  They talked about discovering the foundation of the John Secord homestead, and rumours of an old burying ground.
These days the site is fenced off and guarded by a handful of “No Trespassing” signs, but when the Army was active on the site they weren’t so stand-offish.  One speaker enthusiastically recalled the time when he hitched a ride in a Sherman tank.  Another joked about the time as a young girl when she and her sister tried to attract the attention of the handsome soldiers as they paraded from Camp Niagara on the Commons to the Rifle Range.

Humorous stories abounded.  One involved combing the town dump to collect Beehive Corn Syrup cans to mail in for hockey cards.  Another involved an unfortunate tourist who went swimming in the sewage lagoon before he realized what it was.

Humour was complimented by feelings of nostalgia, as speakers remembered a simpler time “before iPads, cellphones and the Internet.”  Reverence and joy were also present as people described the happy times and beauty they experienced as they explored and played on the property.

The healing power of nature was also a common theme, as speakers described how old roads are now overgrown, or talked about how the wasteland of the former tank range has now filled in with a young forest.

But nature can’t heal everything.  Some spoke with alarm at the rate of shoreline erosion.  One person estimates the shore has been reduced 200 feet in his lifetime.  Another recalls a photograph he took of his children standing under an oak tree that was 35 feet inland – a tree that has now vanished into Lake Ontario.

The property may have been called the “Army Lands”, but one thing that stood out from the discussion is that the Army never had exclusive use.  Locals have used the site to pasture their cows, to picnic, to hunt, fish, swim and play from time immemorial.  The federal government may be the current custodians, but the land belongs to the residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Randy Busbridge is a resident of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario and member of the Harmony Residents Group, a not-for-profit organization working toward establishing a Natural Heritage Park on the Parks Canada Lakeshore Road property.  Visit the group’s site at: http://www.harmonyresidents.org/


Council wants Parks Canada to work with stakeholders

SUZANNE MASON, St. Catharines Standard, March 23, 2011

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — Town council wants Parks Canada to develop "a common vision" for its Lakeshore Rd. property with stakeholders, but did not approve a request from the Harmony Residents Group for its support in principle for a natural heritage park on the 240-acre waterfront site.

Council approved a motion by Coun. Jamie King Monday that it "recognizes the tremendous natural, ecological and heritage resources … (and) the significant social, educational and economic opportunities these lands offer to the residents … the Regional Municipality of Niagara and citizens across Canada through … access to these lands and the Lake Ontario shoreline."

King said he knows the vision of the Harmony Residents Group for the property is not shared by everyone, so he wants Parks Canada to bring several parties together to discuss their opinions.

"I don't want Parks Canada or Niagara-on-the-Lake to wait for a developer to come to us," he said, adding that he wanted to advocate for public waterfront access.

King had wanted the town to initiate discussions with various levels of government and Parks Canada, but councillors defeated that part of the motion.

Coun. Dennis Dick said he was concerned about the amount of staff time that may be needed, pointing to the "hundreds of hours" spent by staff on trying to save Niagara District High School from closure.

"This isn't our land," said Dick. "We have to know exactly what our jobs are."

The property had been the favoured site for Project Niagara, a partnership between the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, for a proposed large-scale summer music festival. The land has been used by the federal department of national defence and contains sewage lagoons operated by the Region of Niagara.

 
No plans for public access
 
MATTHEW VAN DONGEN, St, Catharines Standard, July 30, 2010
 
Opening up Niagara-on-the- Lake's last patch of rare Carolinian forest to the public is no longer a priority for Parks Canada following the demise of an $80-million music festival proposal, says a federal official.

The 268-acre lakeshore property, formerly a military training ground and shooting range, has been off -limits to the public for decades. The department of national defence began cleaning up the property in 2008 in response to an ambitious pitch to turn the prime lakeshore lands into a summer performance home for two Canadian orchestras.

Project Niagara organizers abandoned the plan earlier this month, however, citing a lack of government funding.

That makes public access to the site unlikely in the near future, said Doug Stewart, Parks Canada director general for Ontario.

"There is no active planning for the property at this point ... It's not our intention to move forward and develop the lakeshore property," he said in a phone interview Thursday.

Stewart noted a small section of nearby shoreline owned by Parks Canada, Niagara Shores Park, is open to visitors now. "But beyond that, we don't anticipate any public use," he said.

"We have no other active proposals for the property."

The problem is not a lack of desire, he said, it's a lack of cash.

Ideally, Parks Canada would like to show off the history of the property, which includes the landing place of invading American soldiers during the War of 1812. Stewart also acknowledged a "recreational potential" for the property.

But cleaning up the historic contamination, including potentially unexploded shells and buried lead bullets, is expensive, he said.

Under Project Niagara's plan, millions of dollars in federal cash would have been spent on a cleanup benefiting up to 200,000 visitors a year.

Without that audience, "many competing projects" now rank higher on the Parks Canada priority list, he said.

He also suggested the military might not continue cleaning up the property to the higher standard required for public access, given the apparent death of Project Niagara and its projected mass of visitors. Parks Canada could run into liability issues if it allows visitors onto the property without a full cleanup, Stewart said.

National Defence spokesman Mike Graham was unable to answer questions about the Niagara-on-the-Lake cleanup effort this week.

But Randy Busbridge is betting the government has already done just enough work to make opening the property a reality.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake resident recently received a species-at- risk report from Parks Canada that was conducted last year, as part of a feasibility study for Project Niagara.

The assessment lists nine species at risk found on the site, including the threatened chimney swift and endangered butternut tree.

"I think that's actually very helpful," said Busbridge, who is part of a community group that opposed Project Niagara in favour of turning the lakeshore property into an eco-park. "This report is pointing to species that require some action in terms of preservation. I think that goes hand-in-hand with some sort of parkland designation."

He favours minimal development of the property, which features rare Carolinian forest remnants and a long stretch of virtually untouched shoreline.

Busbridge argued a park with few buildings, carefully controlled access and a well thought-out trail system would require a less extensive government cleanup than a huge amphitheatre designed to attract hundreds of thousands of people.

"First and foremost, our obligation is to protect the natural features on the property, but I don't think that's in conflict with the idea of opening the space to the public," he said. "If you do it in a smart way, I think you could showcase the heritage and natural features ... while minimizing the human footprint."

He hopes to meet with Parks Canada officials to pitch the community group's plan.

Stewart said he's "willing to listen to any proposal," but noted the agency expects any development plan for the property "to be fully funded by the proponent."

No one is offering to pay for a full cleanup of the former military lands now, but the idea of opening the property to the public does have high-profile supporters.

Regional Chairman Peter Partington is urging council to pay for a new sewage treatment plant for Niagara-on-the-Lake, instead of expanding the existing sewage lagoons that sit on land directly beside the Parks Canada property.

If Project Niagara had gone ahead, the amphitheatre would have been built on top of those lagoons. But even without the music festival, top regional brass are keen on the idea of decommissioning the lagoons, said chief administrative officer Mike Trojan.

"We're talking about a unique and pristine waterfront piece of property," he said. "We're generally agreeable to the idea of relocating the facility to another location, so Parks Canada can maximize the use of the entire property."

Niagara Falls Conservative MP Rob Nicholson has pushed for the opening of the lakeshore lands since his days as a regional councillor a decade ago.

"It's a very valuable piece of public property, right on Lake Ontario. I was one of the ones who said there has to be another use for it aside from a firing range," said Nicholson at a recent Parks Canada funding announcement in Queenston.

"It has been a long process ... (but) whatever use it ends up as, if it benefits the people of this area and the people of Canada I'll be supportive of that."

What's at risk

-- Snapping turtle, designated as a species of special concern;

-- Eastern milksnake, designated as a species of special concern;

-- Chimney swift, designated as threatened;

-- Hooded warbler, designated federally as threatened, provincially as species of special concern;

-- Monarch butterfly, designated as species of special concern;

-- Eastern flowering dogwood, designated as endangered;

-- Butternut, designated as endangered;

-- White wood aster, designated as threatened;

-- Shumard oak, designated as species of special concern.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

 
TSO, NAC pull the plug on Project Niagara
 
MARTIN KNELMAN, The Toronto Star, July 13, 2010
 
Click here for full text.
 
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 
Moves are afoot to gain public access to shorelines
 
MATTHEW VAN DONGEN AND JULIE GRECO, St. Catharines Standard, June 28, 2010
 
 I magine being able to wet your toes along any stretch of beach or shoreline, anywhere in the Great Lakes, regardless of property ownership.

Lake Erie citizens group ShoreWalk has chased the dream for years.

The idea has also been introduced as a private member's bill provincially by Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor.

Now, Regional Chairman Peter Partington is pushing the goal in Niagara -- and all around the Great Lakes.

Partington introduced a resolution at last week's binational meeting of Great Lakes politicians in Milwaukee, Wis., calling for support for a "right of passage" for all citizens to be able to walk the shorelines of the world's largest freshwater bodies.

At home, regional council is poised to get a first look at a Niagara "waterfront enhancement strategy" in the next few weeks.

"We're blessed in Niagara in that we're surrounded by water on three sides ... but I think perhaps in the past, we've taken our beaches and shorelines for granted," said Partington, who will end his term as Niagara's top municipal politician in October.

"I think it's becoming increasingly important to preserve our beaches, but also public access to the water in general."

The law is tricky when it comes public access to the water.

In Michigan, there is specific legislation guaranteeing shoreline walking rights to the public, but no such detailed law exists in Ontario (Craitor's private member's bill, if passed, would change that.)

Advocates for public access argue historic legal decisions in the U.S. and England consider the navigable portions of the Great Lakes as extensions of the ocean, making local shorelines fair game for strolling up to the high-water mark.

Many private property owners believe otherwise -- and have the fences to prove it.

Before he leaves office, Partington hopes to see a strategy in place giving Niagara the tools to gradually increase public access to its 117 kilometres of waterfront.

That strategy will inventory existing public shoreline and examine tools like municipal rights-of-way, conservation easements and special planning approvals for new developments tied to public access to the water.

It will also look at government opportunities to buy rarely available chunks of land.

Partington said he still feels regret for lost opportunities along Lake Erie, in particular a failed regional attempt to buy the old Easter Seals camp in Wainfleet, which ended up in the hands of a private housing developer.

"We thought we might get it, but we were out-bid," he said. "That, I would say, was a catalyst for this strategy.... We can't let that happen again."

The Region has already set aside $1 million for potential property purchases and the municipality just spent some of it buying 400 feet of waterfront in Wainfleet.

The Region isn't the only public body looking for waterfront access, either.

"It's our No. 1 priority in terms of acquiring recreational lands," said Stuart Green, a landscape planner with the City of St. Catharines.

The city boasts about 20 kilometres of Lake Ontario shoreline.

A little more than half is owned by the city or leased from upper levels of government, Green said, if you count the new addition of a trail along the Port Weller spit.

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority also owns about 1.6 kilometres of lake frontage, including the shores of Long Beach and Morgan's Point conservation areas on Lake Erie and the new Jordan Harbour conservation area just off of Lake Ontario.

The agency supports the regional strategy, said land management director Darcy Baker, who noted public ownership can preserve natural areas and fix degraded environments.

But he added planners and politicians will have to work carefully to ensure new public access doesn't hurt the ecologically sensitive areas they're trying to save.

He pointed to the old military lands in Niagara-on-the-Lake, off-limits to taxpayers for decades and which boast a rare patch of Carolinian forest, mostly untouched by farming or development.

Two major Canadian orchestras want to make the property the new home of a summer music festival, while some local residents would prefer an eco-park.

"Less access can sometimes be a lifesaver for certain environments," he said. "With that property, even unintentionally, the results have been beneficial."

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 
Where Is Niagara's Regional Government On A New Wastewater Treatment System For Niagara-On-The-Lake?
 
RANDY BUSBRIDGE, Niagara At Large, May 25, 2010
 
Click here for full text.
 

 
Create A ‘Tecumseh National Park’ Right Here Along The Lakeshores Of Niagara

JOHN BACHER, Niagara at Large, March 23, 2010

Click here for full text.



Sprawling Greenlands In Niagara-on-the-Lake Should Be Site Of An Eco-Park – Not A Music Festival

RANDY BUSBRIDGE, Niagara At Large, February 24, 2010

Click here for full text.


Opening up the waterfront

MATTHEW VAN DONGEN, St. Catharines Standard, December 15, 2009
Local leaders are searching for ways to provide more public access to Niagara's waterfront, including buying shoreline on both Great Lakes.

The Region began working this month on a Lakefront Enhancement Strategy designed to make it easier for residents to reach and use Niagara's 117 kilo-metres of waterfront.
Niagarans are virtually surrounded by water, including two Great Lakes and the Niagara River, but public ownership is limited and "access is uncertain at best," according to a recent report presented to regional council.

"My personal view is that there is room for more public ownership of our lakeshores," said Regional Chairman Peter Partington, who is championing the planned strategy to municipal mayors. "Every resident should have access to clean beaches, for example... but public access, in whatever form, is the goal."

The Region has set aside $1 million for potential land purchases, "but it doesn't have to be land acquisitions," said Patrick Robson, commissioner of integrated community planning. "There are many opportunities to bring lakefront property into the public realm."

Trails, municipal right-of-ways, hydro corridors and conservation easements are just a few of the less pricey options the Region and local municipalities can explore, Robson said.

The Region expects consulting firm OEB Enterprise to conduct phase one of the strategy, including developing a set of "guiding principles and goals" that may include:
-Increasing public ownership of waterfront lands.
-Establishing lakefront uses that benefit the most people.
-Protecting the shoreline environment.
-Preserving shoreline heritage.


There's plenty of work to do. The Region doesn't yet have an inventory of public or publicly accessible waterfront land in Niagara. Regional planner Ken Forgeron has estimated about 35 per cent of the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail through Niagara is actually on the water.

In St. Catharines, city staff estimate about half of the waterfront is in municipal hands.

Wallace Reid and his wife Mavis were out enjoying some of it Monday, strolling along the lakeside trail in Westcliffe Park.

Reid, 88, is a big fan of the trails in the north end of the city.

"It seems like they're constantly building new ones," said the regular trail walker, pointing in particular to the newly opened Port Weller spit trail.

"That's one of the nicest walks along the lake you'll find anywhere. You won't find any better."

Partington said the region as a whole has some wonderful beaches and trails. But in the past, Partington said, local governments "may have taken the lakeshore for granted."

He also pointed to "missed opportunities" to make lake access easier for residents.

For example, the Region was asked to buy a rare old-growth forest in Fort Erie, Marcy's Woods, several years ago, but it was sold instead to a private developer. The Region also tried and failed to buy the former Easter Seals camp in Wainfleet.

In future, Partington said, he hopes the Region and local cities and towns can agree on a "waterfront vision" that will help guide potential land acquisitions.

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has a lands acquisition strategy, but it doesn't focus particularly on waterfront property, said agency head Tony D'Amario.

D'Amario said the authority supports the fledgling regional strategy and expects to play a role in its development.

"Considering the amount of waterfront we have, there aren't that many places for public access, especially on Lake Erie," he said.

There are looming opportunities to reconnect residents with the Great Lakes.

The NPCA is just beginning to develop land in Jordan Harbour for trail-walkers and canoeists, for example.

Hundreds of acres of federally owned lakefront property in Niagara-on-the-Lake, off-limits for decades, may be opened to the public in the near future, too. The former military property is the proposed location for a controversial new music festival and amphitheatre. Local residents have countered with a proposal to turn the land into an eco-park.

Partington said one way or another, that stretch of lake-shore "has the potential to become more open to public use."

A preliminary staff report on the initiative is expected to come to regional council early in the new year.

In the meantime, a budget of about $20,000 is expected to give the consulting firm a head start gathering information.

Partington and several waterfront mayors will meet Wednesday to talk about the strategy. 


Tranquility threatened, residents tell forum

JAMES BRADSHAW, Globe and Mail, July 27, 2009
For the first time, residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake engaged in a full-scale public debate on Project Niagara. Last week's meeting (which lasted a vigorous four hours) was the first of several such forums as the proposed music festival takes shape - and as the community decides whether to embrace it.


New details unveiled to the public by project organizers may have won over some fence-sitters. But there remains a determined cadre of locals who would prefer not to see the proposed 17-week, 50-concert summer music festival come to town each summer.

Nearly 300 people packed the gymnasium of a public high school to hear presentations from Project Niagara's brass and to raise their concerns, a format that will be repeated every three to four months while the event is being debated.

Residents remain divided on the plan. The Harmony Residents Group, which counts some 600 members, has been vocal in its opposition. But while their members, and other detractors, dominated the forum, a newly formed group of supporters, Community Builders, recentlyattracted nearly 400 people to their inaugural meeting.

Kari Cullen, Project Niagara's manager, assured last week's assembly that the festival "intends to be a good neighbour" and trumpeted the allure of a world-class music festival in Canada. But the primary focus of the evening was a traffic study commissioned by Project Niagara and executed by Ontario-based international consultants Delcan, which dominated the question-and-answer period.

Residents repeatedly questioned the accuracy and scope of the study's findings. Project manager Nick Palomba remained adamant that the calculations are based on "worse than worst-case" assumptions.

Doug Stewart of Parks Canada, meanwhile, answered a proposal from the Harmony Group to turn the federally-owned 108.5-hectare site targeted for the festival into an eco-park instead. He said Project Niagara would be the catalyst for improving and opening up the land, closed to the public for decades, and it's unlikely the government would invest in the site without it. (Parks Canada is studying how to use the 80 hectares not occupied by Project Niagara.) For his part, Project Niagara architect Bruce Kuwabara - who also designed the nearby Jackson-Triggs winery - tried to spur the crowd to look to the town's future. "It's a great town, and it's changed. History doesn't freeze dry. This place is dynamic," he said.

Yet Gracia Janes, a member of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Conservancy, wasn't sold: "Where can we all get these rose-coloured glasses," she asked, wondering aloud what it would take for organizers to abandon their plans.

Many other residents at the meeting made impassioned pleas about the intrusions they suffer at the hands of the town's other tourist attractions, drawing applause.

But one onlooker was disappointed with the questioning. "A small town at its worst," he said. "I haven't heard one word about vision."

The National Arts Centre and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra joined forces five years ago to create Project Niagara, which would feature the NAC and TSO as well as other international orchestras, jazz, blues, pop, opera and world music acts. The festival would need $76.5-million in capital funding and would operate on a $20-million annual budget raised from its own revenues and the private sector.

The federal and provincial governments have yet to decide whether to grant $25.5-million each in capital funding.


Ecopark pitched over music festival for NOTL site



Posted By Suzanne Mason Special to The Standard
Posted May 26, 2008

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — An ecopark has been proposed as an alternative to a large-scale music festival on Parks Canada land in Niagara-on-the-Lake to attract tourists year-round and more young families to the area.

Harmony Residents Group spokesman Randy Busbridge told town council Monday that the Lakeshore Road site is ideal for an ecopark with its unique history and natural resources.
“Niagara-on-the-Lake needs such a park,” he said. “We are one of the most deforested towns in the province. We have limited waterfront access.”

Busbridge said an ecopark would help protect the natural resources on the property and stimulate education, research and rehabilitation efforts. “The shoreline is eroding, wetlands and creeks need rehabilitation, forests need enhancement and habitats must be preserved,” he said.

Busbridge said the town could capitalize on a rapidly growing green tourism market since nature and heritage are the main reasons that people visit the Niagara region. He also said provincial studies show that these visitors stay longer, spend more money and tend to visit year-round.

Busbridge says his group envisions a modest building that would feature an interpretive centre, information kiosks and a public meeting space similar to the facilities at Balls Falls.

“Our goal would be to minimize the human footprint with controlled access to sensitive areas,” he said, adding that capital and operating costs would be minimal.

Potential sources of revenue identified by the group are partnerships with educational institutions and conservation groups, fundraising, facility rental and public memberships. Busbridge said expansion could be tied to education and research projects.

He said an ecopark would benefit the community as a whole, complement existing attractions and stimulate new business opportunities.

“The development of a similar park in Annapolis, Maryland actually attracted young families to the area,” he added.

Busbridge said a non-profit foundation could be established to run the park in partnership with Parks Canada. He said his group has approached Parks Canada with its proposal and has been asked to develop more concrete plans.

Coun. Jack Lowrey asked Busbridge if he thought there would be room for both a music festival and an ecopark on the property.

“The other proposal is more invasive. We’re presenting this as an alternative,” he said to loud applause from the public gallery.
Project Niagara, a partnership between the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, hopes to build a $50-million amphitheatre and attract 250,000 visitors to shows from June to September.



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