June 26, 2013

Quarry plan cuts close to Crewson’s Corners

As published in The Erin Advocate

The project may be called Hidden Quarry, because of the trees that would surround it, but opponents say the impact of the pit operations will be anything but hidden in the coming decades.

The site owned by James Dick Construction Limited (JDCL) is on Highway 7, at the Sixth Line of Guelph-Eramosa Township. It is 1 km east of Rockwood and 2 km from the hamlet of Crewson’s Corners, at the western tip of the Town of Erin.

Stephanie De Grandis, whose farm is next to the proposed quarry,
believes the project can be defeated on scientific grounds.
JDCL has applied for a licence to excavate 30 metres below the water table. Instead of keeping water out of the pit, which was one of the challenges in their unsuccessful proposal for the Rockfort Quarry on Winston Churchill Boulevard, they would allow water to fill to its natural level. They would conduct underwater blasting and remove up to 700,000 tonnes of limestone per year from the 100 acre property.

The Concerned Residents Coalition (CRC) has been formed to fight the application, and they had about 250 people out to their second public meeting, held in Acton last week.

Linda Sword, who helped launch CRC, said possible impacts on Crewson’s Corners residents include noise, dust, vibration from the blasting (expected 15-30 times per year) and additional truck traffic on Hwy. 7, which could bring 26 additional trucks per hour through downtown Acton.

Crewson’s Corners includes Erin Township’s first stone house (1833) and stone barn (1847), designated as having cultural and architectural significance. Originally built by stonemason Morgan Crewson, at a time when most Erin residents lived in unhewn log shanties, they have been restored as part of an estate housing development.

Halton Region has a long-term plan to build a truck bypass to the north of Acton. Near Crewson’s Corners, eastbound trucks on Hwy. 7 could be directed onto the Erin-Halton Hills Townline, then back down the Fourth Line to rejoin Hwy. 7 on the other side of Acton, where they could proceed to Trafalgar Road.

CRC has a campaign to raise funds and provide lawn signs, and plans to continue canvassing door-to-door in September. CRC and others have raised numerous concerns with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Township. Dozens of letters were sent to MNR by the April 15 deadline, including objections from the municipalities of Milton, Halton Hills and Halton Region.

JDCL Vice-President Greg Sweetnam says that the site is ideal for a quarry, that it has long been identified for aggregate extraction in the county’s Official Plan and that they have kept neighbours informed of their plans. He noted that anyone who did not get comments in to the MNR can still have input during the rezoning process.

CRC hopes to persuade Guelph-Eramosa councilors to reject JDCL’s request to rezone the land from Agricultural to Extractive Industrial, a move that could trigger an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) fight.

“You need at least one strong OMB-defendable reason to say No,” said guest speaker  Tony Dowling, Vice-President of Gravel Watch, an Ontario group that monitors the industry. “You are going to need money. It’s like David versus Goliath – do you have enough stones to slay the giant?”

Dowling pointed out that NIMBY not only stands for “Not In My Back Yard”, but also “Next It Might Be You”. He said things have changed in recent years, with several pit proposals being turned down.

CRC expects to need $350,000 in the coming years, since they may need to hire experts for further studies and lawyers.

JDCL has submitted several studies in support of its application, covering issues ranging from hydrogeology to dust and noise. They will respond to objection letters, and may do further studies or make changes to improve its application. CRC is scrutinizing the Township’s Peer Reviews of JDCL studies and is pushing for additional studies on the cultural heritage and visual impacts.

They say blasting will be felt by 315 homes within a 2.7 km radius, with risk of foundation and window damage. They have a study that shows homes within 1 km of a quarry are at risk of losing 20-30% of their market value.

Stephanie De Grandis, a microbiologist and business person who has a farm near the site, is leading CRC’s scientific attack. She is skeptical of JDCL’s assurances that her ponds will not be affected.

“How can it not affect the water?” she said. The site is near Blue Springs Creek, and there are Provincially Significant Wetlands adjacent. She said JDCL’s plan to protect them is not appropriate.
De Grandis said underwater blasting is not common in the industry, and that it will increase the vibrations by 30%.

“It will be like feeling an earthquake,” she said. “We think we’ll defeat it on the science.”

Like the Rockfort Quarry, this site is on the Paris Moraine. CRC is concerned not only about contamination of water near the surface, but that blasting may damage the rock barrier that protects the deeper aquifers, putting springs and household wells at risk. They want well water monitoring to start now, to set a baseline for its quality.

 “The earth we walk on is the epidermis, and what’s underneath is the life blood of the earth,” said meeting co-host Harry Wilson. “If we mess with that, we are in trouble.”

More information on the JDCL studies and a link to an on-line petition opposing the quarry, are available at www.hiddenquarry.ca. They are also on Twitter with the #crcrockwood hashtag, and on Facebook: STOP the Hidden Quarry.

Nursery school gets rent relief from Town

As published in The Erin Advocate

Station Road Nursery School (SRNS) has persuaded Town Council to waive its monthly rental fee for July and August, as the non-profit group struggles to cut costs and stay afloat.

“All-Day Kindergarten has had a significant impact on our numbers,” said Board Volunteer Heather Baker, appearing before council with a group of parents and children.

“If we cannot significantly reduce our rent costs, we may be left with no option but to leave Centre 2000 and there is a real possibility the school may cease to operate.”

She thanked council for their August 2011 decision to freeze the rent for two years, but said they need more help with their current “financial bump in the road”. In a letter, they requested the monthly rent be reduced from $1,500 to $800 for six months while they take steps to increase enrolment. Verbally, they suggested the alternative of waiving the summer rent.

SRNS has been in operation 42 years, starting in Hillsburgh, but renting space from the Town at the Erin Community Centre for the last 30 years. They currently care for 17 children, but could handle up to 31.

Facility Manager Graham Smith said SRNS has “always been a good tenant and partner”, and recommended another two-year rent freeze, plus a 50% cut to rent in July and August.

The school does not operate in the summer, and their attempts to run a summer day camp have not been successful. The space is not easily adaptable to other uses, and Smith said major renovations would be needed if SNRS moves out.

After discussion, council decided not to approve Smith’s plan, but to waive the summer rent entirely, as well as the $1,200 theatre fee for their drama camp. SRNS will provide council with a business plan by December.

The school, which had its graduation ceremony last week, has been increasing its fees by 2-3% per year, rather than the 10-12% required to cover increasing costs.

Their long-term viability hinges on provincial approval to revise their license to operate as a daycare, with longer hours. A new fence is being installed as part of that process, but progress has been slow due to a backlog of applications.

Being open from 7:30 am to after 5 pm would allow them to “reach out to the many families in our area that have two working parents,” said Baker.

Unlike three other co-op nursery schools in Wellington County, SRNS has to pay property taxes, and appeals of the assessment have been turned down. As a non-profit group, they get a 40% rebate on their $4,000 tax bill. Wellington County has the authority to give a 100% rebate, but has not been willing to do so.

Mayor Lou Maieron said he would help lobby for the rebate and accompany the group if it appears as a delegation at a county meeting. “I would bring props, the little children, with you,” he said.

Other current efforts to boost enrolment include a five-day flex program that allows families to customize their schedule, lowering the minimum age from two years to 18 months, and marketing in Caledon where a nursery school had to shut down last year due to All-Day Kindergarten.

SRNS students interact with seniors at the East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) programs at Centre 2000, as well as high school students, and the school is involved in events such as the Santa Claus Parade and Fall Fair.

They host community events like Trike-a-Rama, the Bunny Brunch and Jack’o’Lantern Walk, as well as food drives and the Christmas Toy Drive for EWCS. They also have a Community Partner Program, encouraging their families to shop locally.

“We love the location and the facilities, and the proximity to the high school students and the seniors give our children a real sense of community,” said Baker. “This school is a wonderful vibrant part of our town’s history and we are not willing to stand by and watch it disappear. We are actively working to try to ensure that the school adapts to meet the changing needs of our community.”

June 19, 2013

Tenth Annual Review for Air Cadets

As published in The Erin Advocate

The founder and former Commanding Officer of Erin’s 242 Ross Ferguson Air Cadet Squadron returned on Saturday for their Tenth Annual Ceremonial Review.

Captain (Retired) Keith Smith, former Commanding Officer
of Erin’s 242 Ross Ferguson Squadron, has a word with cadets
as he does his inspection.
Captain (Retired) Keith Smith CD was the reviewing officer for the event at Centre 2000, which included a march past and inspection, a flag party demonstration, a remote control flying demonstration and a series of awards.

The squadron is named in memory of Erin’s Flight Lieutenant Ross Ferguson, who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross in World War Two.

Flight Sergeant Nathan Omardeen, the Flag Party Commander
 for Erin’s Ross Ferguson Air Cadet Squadron, watches the movement of
fellow marchers during their Tenth Annual Ceremonial Review

His grandson Scott Wilson presented the Ross Ferguson Memorial Trophy to FCpl. Ian Crocker. The award recognizes a cadet’s respect, loyalty, leadership, citizenship, dedication, and integrity.
Lac. Aiden Wigfield received the Keith Smith Trophy for the Best All-Round First Year Cadet, from Captain Smith.

Sgt. Daniel Peppler received the Citizenship Award, from Town Councillor John Brennan. FCpl. Katie Dowling received the Ontario Provincial Committee Director’s Award, recognizing her level of enthusiasm.

The Canada Fitness Award went to Cpl. Nathan Kovach, the Best Dressed Cadet was Cpl. Riley Dowling and the Most Improved Cadet was Sgt. Stephen Graydon.

The Best Junior NCM (non-commissioned member) was Sgt. Victoria Bennett and the Best Senior NCM was FSgt. Nathan Omardeen.

The Royal Canadian Legion Medal of Excellence, for exemplary performance over their career, was presented to WO2 Mark Keir by Erin Branch 442 President Rose Ostrander.

Native plants essential for a truly green yard

As published in The Erin Advocate

Choosing native plants for your landscaping will help protect woodlands from invasive species and reduce the time and effort needed for garden maintenance, according to Credit Valley Conservation (CVC).

“We want to protect and restore natural areas,” said Melanie Kramer, Program Coordinator, Residential Outreach at CVC. “Particularly here in the Headwaters, there are so many we can go and visit – how can we can support those natural areas with what we plant in our yards?"

She presented a Your Green Yard workshop last week at Glen Echo Nurseries in Caledon, which participates in the Ontario Invasive Plant Council’s “Grow Me Instead” program, which promotes native plants over invasive ones.

Conservation authorities are fighting the spread of invasives, which displace diverse native species and impact the animals that rely on native plants for food and habitat. They often escape from planted gardens and cause problems in natural areas.

“Many homeowners find manicured and high maintenance landscaping costly and disappointing,” said Holly Nadalin, Program Coordinator, Headwaters Outreach.

CVC promotes plants that flourished in the local climate and soils before Europeans settled here. They are generally drought-resistant perennials, requiring less water and effort to maintain in your garden. CVC encourages people to avoid cultivars – plants that have been bred for special features (such as colour variety) that would not grow here naturally.

Native plants are resistant to a wider range of local pests, making chemical treatment unnecessary, and they can withstand competition from other plants, which means less weeding.
Non-native favourites can still be part of a responsible garden plan, as long as they are not aggressive threats to the local ecology.

“We're not asking people to replace their tulips, but what goes well with tulips?” said Kramer. “There are quite a number of natives that, as the tulips die back, some of them are just coming into flower through early summer. There will be some after that, flowering in the fall.”

A thriving garden can also reconnect natural areas by providing a stop-over point for wildlife – though hopefully not of the type that will cause major damage.

“Even if you are not living directly adjacent to a forested area or a creek, having stopover points can make a big difference. Providing some food or nesting habitat can help to connect our natural areas which, as areas continue to get built up, tend to get more and more fragmented."

Ecological methods can achieve all the traditional landscaping goals, such as adding privacy, shade, colour and habitat for birds and butterflies, while stabilizing soils to reduce erosion.

“When you look at a forest, you see that there are the different layers – the canopy layer, the shrub layer and then a ground cover layer. How can you build on that in your yard?” said Kramer. “Ideally you are creating a beautiful space for yourself and your visitors.”

The planning process includes getting to know your soil conditions – clay or sandy, damp or dry, amount of sun – and choosing plants that are likely to do well.

For trees, CVC urges people to avoid Norway Maple, which produces very dense shade, and choose Freeman’s Maple, or Red, Sugar or Silver Maple. Avoid non-native Honeysuckles and Japanese Knotwood in favour of Red Osier Dogwood, Saskatoon Serviceberry and Joe-Pye Weed.

Among groundcovers, avoid Goutweed, Periwinkle and English Ivy, which aggressively choke out other plants. Go instead for Wild Ginger, Barren Strawberry, Bearberry and Bunchberry.

CVC also has a program called Greening Corporate Grounds to help companies incorporate ecological landscaping, including measures to reduce water runoff, such as rain gardens and permeable paving.

For more information, go to www.creditvalleyca.ca. Under the Your Land and Water tab, the Green Cities section has extensive resources for homeowners.

June 12, 2013

Environmental Club promotes green values

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Environmental Club at Erin District High School had another successful year, despite the interruption in teacher assistance with extracurricular activities, and the rabbits.

An herb garden was dug on the far side of the parking lot, to supply some fresh greens to the cafeteria. While the chives and oregano are doing fine, the parsley was pre-consumed by the local rabbit population. Chicken wire or marigolds might be used to deter them next season.

The club is supervised by teacher Ross Watson. He was unable to help for a few months this year due to the Ontario teachers' ban on extra-curricular activities, but that didn't stop the students.

"They've done a fantastic job this year," said Principal Kelly Shaw. "They ran it on their own, showed leadership and made things happen."

The school has for the second year earned an EcoSchool certification at the silver level – just one point short of gold status in the rating system.

EDHS Environmental Club members and their EcoSchool
plaque: (left to right) Jade Choquette, Danielle Merrithew
and Bridget MacGillivray, with teacher Ross Watson.

The EcoSchools Program is part of a provincial initiative to save energy in the operation of schools, develop ecological literacy and encourage students to take leadership roles.

The club has about eight members for meetings, and a few more for activities. They've achieved several of their goals, including installation of two water bottle filling stations. The equipment is mounted to the wall, providing a button to conveniently fill reusable water bottles with tap water, instead of drinking purchased water in plastic bottles.

"People really like using them," student Bridget MacGillivray. The club sells some stainless steel bottles, and is looking for ways to promote them.

They have set up double-walled digester-style compost bins behind the school. Students who work in the cafeteria use them to dispose of kitchen food scraps. They were also used for sod from the garden, which should benefit from the compost next year.

With a variety of reminders and messages to the student (and teacher) population, including live video announcements, the club is hoping to change energy-wasting habits.

"Some people are trying, and some are thinking that others can do it," said MacGillivray.

The club did an audit to see if lights and monitors were being turned off when not needed. They also sorted through a day's worth of school garbage.

"It was interesting to see what the kids are throwing out," said Watson. Along with the usual trash, there were binders of course material and lots of full lunches and unopened food.

The club does a Green Christmas promotion, urging people not to be wasteful and to consider wrapping gifts in newsprint.

"We're excited about what may lie in the future – we're interested in community links, including Transition Erin," said Shaw.

There are no detailed plans yet, but there is discussion about "greening" the school grounds with a small orchard, and construction of an outdoor classroom on the sloped lawn near the front door.

Seating in this area could be used by various classes, and would be useful during lunch since there are not many places for students to sit outdoors.

"We'd like to make it a beautiful place where kids want to be," said Shaw.

June 05, 2013

Community Services helps seniors stay in homes

As published in The Erin Advocate

East Wellington Community Services is helping seniors age at home. That's a good thing, not only because that's where people want to live as long as possible, but because getting into a long term care facility can be a lengthy process.

June is Seniors Month, a good time to survey the services offered locally. Most Erin seniors are fairly independent, and those with ongoing health needs can often stay in their homes with the help provided by the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC).

EWCS provides a variety of other services, including assistance with referrals. For example, a new streamlined referral process has recently been started in this area for Specialized Geriatric Services provided by St. Joseph Health Centre in Guelph.

A single form can now provide access to the intake service for Geriatricians and Geriatric Psychiatrists (with family doctor referral). EWCS can help families with this process, and make direct referrals to the Community Responsive Behaviour Team.

That's a group of health professionals that provides assessment of seniors with cognitive impairment for specific "responsive" behaviours such as agitation, repetition, and wandering. This can be due to dementia, mental health issues or addictions. They collaborate with caregivers to identify strategies to manage the behaviour and reduce risks.

EWCS has rarely had a waiting list for its Adult Day Program, which provides stimulating activities, outings and a hot lunch for frail seniors and those with dementia. It's one of the supports that can enable seniors to continue living at home.

"It keeps them connected to their community," said Sherri Plourde, Manager of Seniors Services. EWCS also provides support for family members who care for seniors.

There are currently two spaces available in the Centre 2000 program, which is held Mondays and Thursdays, and can handle up to 18 people. Space is also available in the Tuesday program in Rockwood.

Participants and staff are enjoying the reliable new bus that EWCS obtained early this year. The agency is selling advertising spaces on the bus, as a way to help pay for maintenance.

"It's a sustainable sources of funding," said Erika Westcott, Manager of Community Services and Volunteers.

EWCS is hoping to expand its recreational programs for able-bodied active seniors. Current activities include Pilates classes, Scottish Dancing, Line Dancing, Yoga, In Stitches (knitting etc.) and Bridge. Call 519-833-9696 or go to www.eastwellingtoncommunityservices.com for more details.

An outing is planned for July 24 to the Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge to the show Sorry...I'm Canadian, a mix of music, comedy and political satire. Contact Rick Eller at 519-856-2113.

There are four local volunteers helping provide friendly visiting and phone calls for seniors in their homes, coordinated by the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) with the support of EWCS.

More volunteers are needed, including drivers to supplement the core van service. Medical appointments get top priority, but driving can also be arranged for things like grocery shopping or banking.

EWCS knows there is a need for other transportation for seniors. In 2011 they started a bus service to bring people from Erin, Hillsburgh, Rockwood and rural areas to Stone Road Mall and other shopping locations in Guelph, for a fee of $10. The service had to be cancelled due to low ridership, but they are looking for an opportunity to revive it in some form.

Another project that has been put on hold is the Seniors Wellness Expo, which ran annually for several years. Considerable effort was expended by EWCS and various vendors and agencies, but attendance was quite low.

A couple of interesting sessions for seniors are coming up at EWCS. On June 12 from 2pm to 4pm, East Wellington Family Health Team Dietician Pat White will discuss different reactions diabetics can face throughout the day and provide a food demonstration. On June 19 from 2pm to 3pm, the Medical Care Store will speak about mobility items such as wheelchairs, custom orthotics, compression stockings and walkers, and how to apply for funding to help offset the costs.