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Niagara Falls
Saturday, April 20, 2024
Letter to the editor: Turn defence lands into a park, not wetlands


Dear Editor,

We all should thank Debi Goodwin and the Harmony Residents Group she represents for clarifying the intentions of their organization regarding the National Defence lands bordering on the Chatauqua neighbourhood.

We now know that they are not simply protecting the privacy of nearby homes, but rather creating a natural heritage park, with the sewage ponds area turned into “wetlands,” where people can see the Carolinian forest, species can be preserved, and history, including, that of the Indigenous peoples, can be reflected. A noble pursuit, indeed.

Yet we see problems.

1. There is very little forest in the largely open areas of the old National Defence grounds. If one wants to enjoy the Carolinian forest, nearby areas of the Niagara Parkway will more than satisfy one’s needs. Need more solitude or forest in a nearby lakeside setting? Visit the long-standing park on Lake Ontario just west of the new sewage treatment plant.

2. Another word for wetlands, in many areas, is swamp. Do we really think that parents and children, or groups of students, are going to want to don their rubber boots to slosh through the edges of a swamp to view wildlife, while swatting at mosquitoes and other noisome aspects of wildlife? I don’t need more skunks digging up my lawn, more raccoons chewing on my roof, or more geese bombing my driveway. If I want to see wildlife I will be happy to visit Algonquin Park. Niagara-on-the-Lake is not a nature preserve; rather it is an example of gracious urban living dating back to its planning by the British Army engineers.

3. After 42 years of living in Garrison Village, directly across from the sewage ponds, I, like many residents, can attest to the noxious odours that have emanated from that area, especially every weekend in the summer when the tourists arrived. At times we could not eat supper with friends on our patio because of the stench. Finally, after many delays, Niagara Region is about to start operating the new sewage plant, a kilometre down the road. We don’t need or want memories of the good old days; the ponds should be filled in and the land converted to other use.

Recently, my wife and I visited Jaycee Gardens on Ontario Street in St. Catharines, near Port Dalhousie, an experience I highly recommend to all residents concerned about the National Defence lands development. There, we strolled with many residents along lovely sidewalks and across green swards — just lawns and trees slowly winding down to the water of the rowing basin, where a long pedestrian bridge provides access to Port Dalhousie.

In one area there were swings and slides for children. A few bicycles and three Segways went by the pedestrians, the large area guaranteeing there would be no conflict between the various forms of locomotion. The experience was delightful and enlightening. Here, we realized, was a perfect model for the lands whose use we are debating. Picture large civilized open space with access to Lake Ontario, room to stroll in comfort without encountering hostile or undesirable wildlife, space to play, to throw or kick a ball, to run with one’s children. Perhaps even a boat ramp or a beach.

We have, of course, Simcoe Park, but I need not remind our townsfolk of how flooded with tourists that venue becomes every summer, or how impossible it is to find parking. One beauty of this proposal is that the park would be largely unknown to tourists. It could be a sanctuary for townsfolk , not snapping turtles. It would require vision, and leadership, but I am assured that our new council is replete with such qualities. It will require financing, but I can foresee that a subscription might well be supported by local residents who would enjoy its benefits. Perhaps, as in St. Catharines, the Jaycees might want to make this a project.

An argument against filling in the sewage ponds has been the cost involved. The Jaycee Gardens sit upon the third Welland Canal, which had to be filled in for the park. Clearly, “where there is a will …”

Again, my thanks to Ms. Goodwin. She corrected my error in suggesting the landowner was the Niagara Parks Commission, when in fact it is Parks Canada. Now, I will be certain to correctly address my next letter. We agree on one thing: “It’s vital that they hear from the community before it is too late.”

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