Community and industry cooperate to protect Lake Ontario wetland
TORONTO, November 12, 1997 - After four years of public meetings, discussion and negotiations, Clarington Municipal Council, at a special session on November 3rd, unanimously approved principles of understanding with Blue Circle Canada to protect much of Westside Marsh and create 120 acres of public parkland.
"Congratulations are due all round" said David Crombie, Chair of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust. "Future generations will thank you for protecting this important part of your waterfront. As the population of Durham Region grows, this area will become to Clarington what High Park is to Toronto, a natural gem and a source of pride for the community."
Westside Marsh is a provincially significant wetland on the Clarington waterfront east of Oshawa. It is the most diverse wetland in Durham Region, with over 250 species of birds, and many rare plants. In addition, the marsh borders a small community of waterfront residences. However, Blue Circle Canada has a licence dating from 1974 to expand its existing operations adjacent to Westside Marsh to quarry limestone from most of the wetland.
Community concerns about the future of the marsh led Mayor Diane Hamre, Clarington Council and St Marys Cement (recently purchased by Blue Circle Canada) in 1993 to request the Waterfront Regeneration Trust to bring the parties together and explore solutions. Early in the Trust's process, it was suggested by a member of the public that the company's need for aggregate could be met by trading limestone under a municipal road for the area occupied by the marsh. Based on this idea, community workgroups, the municipality, company, regulatory agencies and the Trust worked out a complex exchange of land and money to protect much of the marsh and add new habitat. The agreement will also provide an increased buffer between the residents and future quarry operations.
Mayor Diane Hamre thanked all the participants for their dedication and hard work. "Before we embarked on this process with the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, there was nothing but conflict and anger between the company and the community, with the municipality caught in the middle", she said. "Now we have an improved climate of cooperation, and I recommend that the new Council establish the community relations committee as a first priority."
Mavis Carlton, co-secretary of the Port Darlington Community Association, said "I am very pleased with the agreement overall. Of course, we recognize that this is just the beginning of implementation, and hope that the residents will be able to continue to participate to ensure protection of the habitats and quality of life of this unique section of the waterfront."
Wilson Little, representing Blue Circle Canada, was pleased to see the resolution of some difficult issues without having to resort to courts and tribunals. "Working together to solve problems was difficult at times but proved to be a better way. We have changed our plans to recognize the ecological and community values, while maintaining a viable operation that employs 180 people and makes an important contribution to exports and local taxes."
Many individuals and organizations worked creatively to develop this solution. Clarington Council approved funding to support elements of the package, and municipal staff worked countless hours negotiating and solving problems, as did Blue Circle Canada. The Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA) contributed expertise and support, and have agreed to manage much of the new parkland. Ontario Hydro agreed to the relocation of a stream to its transmission corridor, the Ministry of Natural Resources and CLOCA addressed flood concerns, and the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans ensured that there would be no net loss of fisheries habitat. The community residents contributed significant energy and time to participate in workgroups and evaluate options.
"This agreement shows that industry, government and community groups can tackle a complex problem, listen to the different interests and work out a practical solution that balances many objectives" said Mr. Crombie.
For additional information, contact: