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Friday, July 12, 2024
Niagara Escarpment Commission celebrates 50 years with calls for co-operation and dialogue
NOTL's Jim Collard is the outgoing chair of the Niagara Escarpment Commission. FILE

The key to any good relationship is communication.

Jim Collard, the chair of the Niagara Escarpment Commission, couldn’t agree more. 

In one of the final acts of his term as head of the 17-member commission, the former Niagara-on-the-Lake town councillor has initiated the drafting of a corporate road map with the goal of enhancing the escarpment’s beauty, health and public value via a number of straightforward visions and actions.

“Every organization should have a strategic plan, a blueprint of where they have been and where they want to go and how they want to get there,” said Collard, whose term ends June 30.

“Every municipal council does it right after an election. At the NEC level, there hasn’t been one for a long time.”

With members of the escarpment commission in NOTL on June 17 and 18 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the entity, Collard jumped at the opportunity to be part of an official day-long brainstorming session on the 17th with the goal of creating a plan that will guide the commission well into the future.

One of the document’s first points to establish? 

Improving communication and co-operation between the commission, its member municipalities and partner organizations. 

“I did notice that when I came in (as chair) that not everyone was always on the same page,” he said, noting the commission’s jurisdiction is quite vast and “is really like a big town that extends from here to Tobermory and 23 communities in between.”

“One of the key values (that came out of the discussions) is to better communicate with the municipalities because in many cases, municipalities would just automatically defer issues to the NEC.”

It doesn’t have to be that way, said Collard.

“Because municipalities have far more boots on the ground with their own employees than we do.”

“For example, the NEC gets a noise infraction complaint about something on escarpment lands in Niagara. Its enforcement officer lives in Georgetown.”

Georgetown is 80 kilometres from NOTL, which doesn’t lend to reasonable response times.

“How can we make that work better,” he asked?

The issue of dialogue and co-operation extends further than the municipal sphere.

“We have to have better communication with our partners as well,” said Collard. “For example, the Bruce Trail Conservancy.”

He said members of the conservancy attended the commission’s anniversary celebrations “and I can tell you up to that point in the year, I knew they existed but I never actually talked to anyone from the Bruce Trail Conservancy.”

They do a different job than the escarpment commission, he added.

“We are land use planners. We don’t do actual trail enhancements or recreational enhancements. That falls to conservation authorities. Our mandate is to protect the escarpment biosphere in its entirety.”

Collard wondered how the two partners can work better together to reach the same goal, which is having an escarpment that will be cared for, preserved and nurtured properly.

He hopes the commission’s strategic plan will answer those questions.

“Like all plans, it talks about how to better use your resources. How can we best use our staff, how can we best use the commission, what is each other’s individual roles in all of this.”

“We had five tables of people in the room all working on particular challenges and at the end we were able to have five or six priority areas come forward.”

Currently in draft form, Collard expects the strategic plan to be finalized over the summer months.

 

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