October 22, 2014

Gravel pit may become conservation area

As published in The Erin Advocate

A plan to donate 120 acres of land for a possible conservation area and sports park just north of Hillsburgh was presented to Erin Town Council by Strada Aggregates on October 7.

The firm will continue to extract gravel from its Hillsburgh Pit for the next three to five years, said Controller Grant Horan, but they are planning to rehabilitate the site on Eighth Line at 27 Sideroad and donate it to Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) and/or the Town of Erin.

Mayor Lou Maieron suggested that the firm make the donation, instead of possibly filling in the pond there, as a way to restore a natural area at the headwaters of the West Credit River, close to the Caledon Mountain Trout Club.

“We are the only municipality in the watershed without a conservation area,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity, a win-win-win for the environment, the Town and Strada.”

Horan said the mayor’s idea was “to establish a joint venture between the Town and the CVC that would offer the community a sports complex facility, including soccer fields and ball diamonds, as well as hiking trails and natural areas.”

In exchange, Strada Aggregates is seeking consent to develop four residential building lots on 27 Sideroad, away from the stream and prime natural land, as well as a tax receipt for the donation.

In a letter to Strada, CVC Manager of Land Planning & Management Eric Baldin welcomed the plan as a strong contribution to the community, saying CVC is always looking for beneficial uses for retired pits.

“This site provides a great opportunity to restore and enhance the natural heritage features and functions in this area,” he said. “CVC has technical expertise that could be helpful.”

The site would not necessarily become a conservation area. It is an opportunity for trails, a constructed wetland and retention of stormwater, as well as an attraction for tourists.

Maieron is suggesting that most of the land, including the pond and stream, become a conservation area, but that the Town get 40 acres of relatively flat land to develop for recreation.

Several years ago the Town purchased land near Barbour Field for future recreational use, but that land could be declared surplus and sold once the Strada lands are ready, he said and the proceeds of perhaps $300,000 used for another project, such as the sidewalk to Tim Hortons.

Strada had approval in 2006 to extract an estimated 1.6 million tonnes of aggregate below the water table. An estimated 450,000 tonnes were excavated in Phase 1, ending in 2008. A 30-acre expansion was planned, but after further study, and discussions with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), the expansion was withdrawn. The MNR will now work with Strada on a revised rehabilitation plan, while extracting the remaining 750,000 tonnes of gravel.

“Strada is committed to a best restoration and management plan that will achieve a goal of maximizing biodiversity value while minimizing maintenance costs,” said Horan.