April 26, 2018

Gravel pit operator offers concessions

Halton Crushed Stone (HCS) is offering new concessions in its bid to get town council approval for a gravel pit expansion just south of Erin village.
Councillors deferred their vote on the issue until May 15, after hearing a presentation on April 17 from HCS representative James Parkin.
His offer first came in a letter to council last Friday, just after a report from Wellington County Planning Director Aldo Salis was released, recommending approval of the expansion. The concessions are intended to reduce the impact of the pit on the community, especially nearby residents on McCullogh Dr. and Aspen Court.
Parkin said HCS would complete gravel extraction within two years of topsoil removal in the corner of its property closest to the homes – a pie-shaped zone with a radius of 185 metres from the corner of the urban boundary. It’s not clear exactly when the two years would start, but HSC has planned to mine that area first.
HCS has also agreed to a monitoring program for ground water quality near its asphalt recycling stockpiles, to plant trees immediately on the northern border instead of within one year, to apply calcium chloride annually to suppress dust on the Tenth Line and to clean up any gravel spillage on Road 52.
Coun. Rob Smith said the deferral will be “an opportunity for citizens to chime in” on whether the changes are acceptable.
Salis told council the proposed land use is “appropriate and in the public interest” and conforms to provincial and county policies. The plan to expand the pit north towards County Road 52 has been the subject of technical studies and public meetings over the last two years.
“The applicant has demonstrated that the proposed use can be carried out in a manner that will reduce potential social, economic and environmental impacts,” Salis said.
The expansion would be on 50 acres west of Tenth Line and 100 acres to the east. It includes a 60-metre setback in the northwest corner, one of several changes already made by HCS.
Many residents want a 300-metre setback, even though the land is already zoned for gravel mining. Resident Roy Val said it appears the previous owners of the pit had no intention of mining the northwest corner, and although there is no documentation, that the subdivision may have been approved with that understanding.
Salis said any contaminants from asphalt recycling would be at concentrations well below those of concern to human health. A study found there would be no impact on groundwater or the nearby West Credit River.
The expansion would be on prime agricultural land, but Salis said aggregate extraction is acceptable since the land will eventually be restored to agricultural use – similar to rehabilitated land on the HCS property.
The Town hired WND Associates to review a visual impact study. They said proposed improvements to berm heights plus tree plantings are “adequate” for visual appearance, for screening the pit from second-storey views and for screening views further north on high points of the Tenth Line.
Coun. Matt Sammut has a conflict of interest because his home is near the pit, so he did not participate in the debate or vote. At the March 6 meeting he had Mayor Allan Alls read a statement saying he “will not influence Council or members of the public on the future decision.”
He has registered a notice of objection with the Ministry of Natural Resources to the HCS plan. He said, “I have been advised by both Municipal Affairs and our Integrity Commissioner that I can be an objector as a homeowner while being in conflict as a councillor.”

April 19, 2018

School closure process on hold

The public school board has put the brakes on a process that could have studied the possibility of closing Ross R. MacKay School in Hillsburgh.
A draft of the Upper Grand District School Board’s Long Term Accommodation Plan (LTAP) released this week has no new priorities or actions proposed for this area.
“There is uncertainty around the timing and scope of wastewater servicing, and as such, it is not appropriate to identify elementary accommodation priorities for the Erin Elementary Review Area at this time,” the draft report says. 
“The Board will review LTAP projections and priorities annually and will reflect future decisions of the Town of Erin.”
At a Feb. 28 meeting to prepare for this report, many local residents expressed support for keeping the school open. They also suggested a boundary review to increase MacKay’s catchment area, the transfer of some special education classes to the school, and the possibility of making Brisbane Public School entirely French Immersion, which could bring more English-only students to MacKay.
There will be more public consultation before the final plan goes to trustees in June, including a meeting on May 2 in the Erin Public School gym with a question and answer session.
With the Town of Erin undertaking a Municipal Class Environmental Assessment to determine a preferred alternative for wastewater servicing in Erin village and Hillsburgh, the board has published two scenarios, one with minimal growth and the other with moderate growth.
If the town gets adequate funding and decides to proceed with a wastewater system, construction could start within five years.
Without wastewater, more than 400 student spaces are expected to be empty in Erin public elementary schools by 2022. Ross R. Mackay’s population of 90 students would drop to 64, using only 32 per cent of the school’s capacity.
That rate would stay low without housing growth, but enrolment could rebound to 165 (83 per cent usage) in ten years if new subdivisions are built.

Mixed messages on Erin wastewater cost sharing

Residents who will not get wastewater service for their homes continue to get conflicting messages about whether they will have to help pay for the system.
A document from consultant Ainley Group, posted in the wastewater section of the town website, erin.ca, attempts to summarize questions from the Feb. 2 public meeting.
One question says, “I do not live in the planned wastewater service areas. Will I have to pay any of the construction or operating costs for this system?”
The Ainley answer is, “No. You will not pay anything and will benefit from having a local facility to dispose of and treat septic tank waste.”
Town council has not taken a position on this, but Mayor Allan Alls has promoted the idea that all property owners should pay for construction. The eventual local share of construction costs (after grants are received) could be $20 million.
The mayor says there is some flexibility within the Municipal Act to potentially allocate construction costs to the whole tax base. At the April 24 council meeting, he said, “I’ve been beaten down, but there’s more to go.”
Ainley President Joe Mullan said his firm’s “assumption since day one” is to have construction costs paid exclusively by serviced residents, which is normal practice in Ontario. But he said, “It’s your right to change that.”
In an earlier interview, Alls emphasized that wastewater would bring economic benefits to the entire town.
“When the Town of Erin goes out to borrow $20 million, they don’t borrow it for only a small section of people who will pay that $20 million back. You can’t do it that way. That’s not how it works in democracy.”
He suggested the issue could “bring some people out of the woodwork to run for council”.
Asked how people might react if a high tax increase was needed to cover sewer construction costs, the mayor said, “I’ll get fired.”
The Ainley document says dividing $20 million equally among the 2,672 urban lots (residential, commercial, industrial and institutional) would mean an expense per property of $7,500. The exact formula has not been decided, since costs could be allocated by various factors such as property frontage. But it is clear that sharing the construction cost with rural residents (who are the majority), plus those in unserviced urban areas, would drastically lower the cost per household. 
Ainley says the construction cost could be paid as a lump sum by homeowners, or through a loan from the town, as part of the municipal tax bill. Hook-up will be mandatory in serviced areas.
The construction cost does not include the cost of individual hook-ups, which could range from $4,000 to $8,000. This would have to be paid privately by the homeowner, to a contractor that they would have to hire themselves.
Ainley has sent individual responses to residents who submitted questions following the Feb. 2 meeting. The firm is completing an Environmental Study Report, as the Environmental Assessment (EA) wraps up. It will be open to public comment from May 14 to June 14, and the EA results can be appealed to the Minister of the Environment, as a request for a Part II Order. 
The town will be reviewing its Official Plan to identify specific areas for new housing – a step that has been delayed for several years.
The phasing of wastewater construction could follow many different scenarios, depending on planning decisions and financing.
In one scenario created by Ainley, if adequate funding is received, construction of Phase One could begin in the second half of the next council term (2020-2022). 
About 60 per cent of the Phase One capacity could service existing residents, while 40 per cent could be allocated to new development, allowing the serviced urban population to grow from about 4,500 to 8,864.
Phase Two would be entirely for new growth, and could happen about 2028-2030, eventually boosting the urban population to 14,559.

Train stations remembered as community hubs

As published in Sideroads Magazine

In the railroad boom of the late 1800s, four companies built an ambitious web of steel among villages between Georgetown and Orangeville.

The local train station became the new community hub – a meeting place where farmers and millers would ship products, visitors could arrive without a grueling stagecoach ride, shops would receive efficient deliveries and residents might gather to get election results by telegraph.

A scale model of the CVR station at Forks of the Credit, part of a model 
landscape created by Erin rail enthusiast Steve Revell. Photo - Phil Gravelle

As rails emanated from the economic powerhouse of Toronto, the first train station in Peel County was in Bolton. It was on the Toronto Grey and Bruce (TG&B) line that headed west starting in 1869.

In 1908, Bolton became a major junction point for a new line running north through Palgrave and up to Sudbury – an all-rail route to the western provinces.

In order to reach Caledon Village, TG&B builders had to climb Caledon Mountain. They designed the Horseshoe Curve, where the rail line doubled back on itself to gradually gain altitude. Trains could only climb with five rail cars per engine.

The Great Horseshoe Wreck killed seven people in 1907 when a Canadian National Exhibition excursion special came down the Curve too fast and derailed.

The TG&B brought passenger rail service to Orangeville in 1871 and it was to last 100 years. Within six months, Orangeville was shipping up to 16 loads of grain a day as well as timber, lumber, and fence rails. In the 1880s a stagecoach ferried visitors to and from the railway station on Mill Street and the hotels and businesses along Broadway. 

A scale model of the Orangeville CPR station and rail yard 
created by Steve Revell. 
The Orangeville CPR Station was moved to Armstrong Street in 1989 
and is now home to the Barley Vine Rail Co. restaurant and bar. 
Photo - Elizabeth Willmott
The smoke of three steam engines can be seen as this train blasts north 
out of Orangeville in the mid 1950s. The extra horsepower was needed 
for the steep grade up to Fraxa Junction. Photo - Robert Sandusky

The TG&B was taken over by Canadian Pacific (CP) in 1884. In 1907, they built a new Orangeville station on the east side of the rail yard on Townline. The distinctive conical roof resembling a witch’s hat covered a waiting room that once had separate sections for men and women. It is one of only three stations in Canada constructed in this exact style. 

In 1989, to avoid demolition, it was moved to Armstrong Street and converted to commercial use. The nearby rail yard bunkhouse and lunch bar, built in 1943, burned down in 2006.

Just past Orangeville was Fraxa Junction, where a northern branch of the TG&B carried on through Shelburne, reaching Owen Sound in 1873.

A scale model of the Fraxa Junction station on the TG&B line
just west of Orangeville, created by Steve Revell.

Elizabeth Willmot, in her book Meet Me at the Station, says people would gather along that line to see the Steamship Express headed north. This train was considered glamorous because passengers would later sail out of Owen Sound harbor, headed for Sault Ste. Marie.

The passenger office at the original two-storey Shelburne station, 
on the Orangeville-Owen Sound line. It was replaced during Canadian 
Pacific’s modernization and upgrading program, carried out in the 1910s.
Photo - Dufferin County Museum

About 10 miles north of Orangeville was Crombies station, a tiny board and batten building where travellers would wave a green and white flag to get trains to stop. It is preserved at the Dufferin County Museum.

The Crombies flag stop station north of Orangeville.
Photo - Elizabeth Willmot

The Credit Valley Railway (CVR) served an area west of the TG&B. It had a route from Streetsville through Cheltenham, Inglewood and Alton, ending at Orangeville. Alton had a CVR station in the village, plus a TG&B station a mile’s walk away. 

CPR steam engine 183 rolls into Forks of Credit station in 1905.
 The station was between the tracks and the road, near 
the trestle bridge over the Credit River.

The handsome brick union station in Inglewood, 1954, serving both 
the CNR Milton and the CPR Streetsville subdivisions. 
Published in Steam at Allandale by Ian Wilson, 1998.
Photo - Robert Sandusky

Cataract Junction Station in the 1890s, published in 1980 by Boston Mills 
Press in Running Late on the Bruce, by Ralph Beaumont and James Filby. 
This was the point on the Credit Valley Railroad line to Orangeville 
where a branch line split off towards Elora, passing through Erin, 
Hillsburgh, Orton and Fergus. It is now the Elora Cataract Trailway.

At Cataract, the 47-km Elora Branch of the CVR split off towards Erin and Hillsburgh. The CVR was never financially secure, and like the TG&B, it was taken over and revitalized by CP in 1884. In Orangeville, the CVR station on East Broadway in the Credit flats was abandoned in favour of the TG&B station.

For the past 18 years, Cando Rail Services has used the old CVR route to run scenic Credit Valley Explorer excursions and freight deliveries between Orangeville and Mississauga. The firm recently announced it is ending these services, and a new operator is being sought.

The arrival of the railroad prompted incorporation of the Village of Erin in 1879. The simple wood frame train station was a combination passenger and freight depot, with a grain elevator and coal dealership nearby.

In the early 1900s it was often busy with train excursions for sporting events, dances, boating and cottaging at Stanley Park, a major tourist attraction.

Erin CPR station in 1909, as published in Early History of the Township of Erin 
by The Boston Mills Press.

“The railway was more of a convenience than a stimulus for economic growth,” said Steve Revell, in A Brief History of Erin Village. “Passenger service was limited after the Crash of 1929 and abandoned in 1958. The station was demolished in 1971, the last train left in 1987 and the rails were lifted in 1988.”

The Hillsburgh station was built on the west side of the millpond created by the Gooderham and Worts dam. A station road and bridge had to be built over the dam to connect with the village. 

The Hillsburgh station and grain elevator in 1884. 
Published in 1977 by The Boston Mills Press, in Steam Trains to the Bruce 
by Ralph Beaumont.

The station burned down in 1932, and a new small building was erected in 1933. In that year, service on the branch was cut from four daily trains to two, one going from Orangeville to Elora at 11:30 a.m. and one returning about 5:00 p.m.

In its later years, the HIllsburgh station became a flagstop on the CPR branch 
line from Cataract to Elora, which opened in 1879. 
The rails were lifted in 1988.
The Caledon area was also served by the Hamilton and North-Western Railway line running through Georgetown to Barrie (later owned by Grand Trunk and CN) starting in 1877.

Along what is now the Caledon Trailway, there were stations at Terra Cotta, Cheltenham, Caledon East, Centreville and Palgrave. There was a “union station” at Inglewood (Sligo Junction) where it intersected the Credit Valley line.

With a gas lantern lighting its train order board, the Cheltenham station 
was typical of those on southern Ontario branchlines. In October of 1952, 
it saw two daily passenger trains. Published in Steam at Hallandale 
by Ian Wilson, 1998. Photo - Robert Sandusky

The Caledon East Grand Trunk station in the mid-1950s. 
Published in Steam Scenes of Allandale by Ian Wilson, 2007.
Photo - William Flatt

The Grand Trunk Railway built a Georgetown station on its Toronto to Guelph Line in 1858 with attractive stone construction and unique woodwork. It was taken over by CN in 1923.

Steam engine at Georgetown CN station in the 1950s. 
Published in Steam Scenes of Allandale by Ian Wilson, 2007.
Photo - Keith Simon

In his book Steam Scenes of Allandale, Ian Wilson reports that Georgetown remained busy through the 1950s with 14 passenger train arrivals and departures on most days. It became a VIA Rail station in 1977 when CN and CP merged passenger service, and GO train commuter service started the following year.

The Georgetown train station remains well used today.

The role of train stations has certainly changed, but they are key to understanding how small rural communities once flourished as industrial centres in a bold new country.

April 12, 2018

Citizen scientists needed for healthy soil project

The Soil Health Coalition chapter in Erin is recruiting citizen scientists and local farmers to help measure key attributes of local soil, as part of a campaign to promote regenerative agriculture and reverse climate change.
After two years of work, including Our Common Ground events last spring and $2,500 from the town for a feasibility study, the coalition has received a $70,000 grant from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation for a soil health project.
The funding was announced at a March 28 film night at the Erin Legion. Mayor Allan Alls was on hand, congratulating the group and offering to promote the project on the town website.  
On March 29 the coalition hosted a farmer-to-farmer networking day at Hillsburgh Baptist Church. Members include representatives from organic farms in Erin, Transition Erin, the Climate Change Action Group and Credit Valley Conservation.
Co-leading the effort is agronomist Ruth Knight. She said the testing would compare the characteristics of actively managed farmland with unmanaged land in marginal, unplowed areas. 
Instead of focusing on nutrients, teams including citizen volunteers will measure the levels of carbon (organic and inorganic) in soils, and their ability to hold and filter water. 
The project will build up an “adaptive network” of farmers who can share methods of building soil health and improving water quality. The goal is to produce healthier crops, stabilize farm incomes, and leave good soils to future generations.
For more information or to get involved, go to soilhealthcoalition.ca, or email Knight at soilregen@gmail.com.
Environmental groups see regenerative agriculture, which builds up soil by allowing it to capture and retain more carbon from the atmosphere, as one of the most important ways of reversing climate change. The coalition says it’s something Erin could be proud to champion.
“How does a town define itself?” asked Brent Klassen of Heartwood Farm and Cidery.
“We’ve kind of been about horses, and kind of been about something that’s vaguely Irish. It seems to me that we’re on the cusp of being able to really lay claim to something that’s really interesting, really engaging, something that’s really vibrant, that has everything to do with the food we eat, and everything to do with the ways we manage the land that we so fortunately find ourselves on. 
“It would enhance our own lives and make us irresistible to people who want to come and visit.”
Quality soil with high organic content not only provides nutrition, but growing plants also make soil one of the most effective carbon sinks – drawing it out of the atmosphere and storing it. 
Plowing and tilling release carbon from the soil, and conventional methods such as growing a single type of crop and managing it with irrigation, chemical fertilizers and pesticides tends to degrade soil and make crops more vulnerable to disease and drought.
“Regenerative agriculture is very good for farmers, as it increases the productivity and sustainability of their soils,” said activist Liz Armstrong.
“Our project in Erin will focus on measuring the state of the soil of at least 20 local farmers, then re-measuring after action has been taken to improve the water holding capacity of their soils (good especially for reducing the impacts of flooding and drought) and increasing the amount of carbon in their soils - the more carbon sequestered in the soil, the less carbon there is in the atmosphere that causes global warming.”

Extra $604,000 for Town of Erin well drilling

The search for new municipal water just got a lot more expensive, with Erin town council allocating up to $604,000 for at least two more wells.
Exploratory drilling and testing at two sites, as part of the Water Servicing Environmental Assessment (EA), has been a disappointment for the town. Sufficient water flow was not found at the existing Hillsburgh fire hall well or the Mountainview site on Kenneth Ave.
The search will now be expanded, with four potential sites in Hillsburgh and four in Erin village, most owned by developers. All the sites are in the Credit River watershed, (while the existing Nestlé well is in the Grand River watershed).
When the Water EA (separate from the Wastewater EA) was started in 2015, it was based on the projection that the urban population would grow from 4,500 to 6,000. That would have required one new well in Hillsburgh and one or two for Erin village.
With a new projection of 14,599 urban residents within about 25 years, Hillsburgh will eventually need two more wells and Erin village up to five more, according to a report by town engineer Christine Furlong of Triton Engineering.
 “It’s almost like a Catch-22 – if we don’t go ahead with the sewage treatment, we don’t get the population that needs the water,” said Coun. John Brennan, asking if the drilling can be done in phases. “$604,000 is a big pill to swallow.”
 “I hate spending money on the flip of a coin,” said Coun. Matt Sammut, while Mayor Allan Alls said, “This is something we have to do.” All members voted in favour.
The allocation of funds approved on April 3 will not directly affect water rates, since the money will be taken from the Water Life Cycle Reserve and the Water Development Charges account.
The town originally allocated $404,580 to the Water EA, and $215,496 remains unspent. Those funds will be used prior to the $604,000.
Furlong estimated that 90 per cent of the well costs could be recovered through targeted development charges, without reducing other development revenue.
She said the work would proceed in stages, each to be approved by town staff.  Once preliminary drilling confirms adequate water flow, development of the well to production status could be done later. 
A single well can cost over $300,000 because of requirements for extensive water testing, an archaeological investigation, a cultural heritage evaluation and a natural environment inventory and assessment.
One less well would be needed if the two village systems were connected, an option that is under study. Furlong also reminded council that more wells are needed for the existing water system, even if there were to be no growth.
Erin currently operates its water system with two wells in Hillsburgh and two in Erin village. The province requires the town to develop an additional well for each community to provide redundancy (back-up) in case of failure or contamination at an existing well.
Hydrogeologist Andrew Pentney of Groundwater Science Corp. (who has taken over from Ray Blackport) told council that the amount of money being spent on the water search is typical of that spent by other municipalities.
He said it is “not uncommon” to find insufficient water flow at a specific test site, but expressed confidence that the problem is not lack of groundwater in the area.
“The water is out there,” he said.

Erin dips into reserves for unbudgeted costs

The Town of Erin will use reserve funds to cover an operating deficit of $62,924 for 2017, plus an unbudgeted total of $693,388 to complete the Wastewater Environmental Assessment.
Town council agreed on April 3 to fund the deficit from the Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve, which now has a balance of $224,881. At the end of 2016, that reserve was at $383,809.
Details on the 2017 fourth quarter results were presented in a report by Director of Finance Ursula D’Angelo. It includes explanations for departments that were over or under budget by more than 10 per cent or $10,000. 
The overall operating budget is about $10.5 million. In addition, the Town had budgeted $7.6 million for capital projects in 2017, but by the end of the year had spent only $2.4 million. Council has agreed to push a list of projects forward to 2018.
D’Angelo also got council approval to cover $693,388 in outstanding costs for the Wastewater EA, to be funded equally between three reserve funds: Infrastructure, Water Lifecycle and Administration Development Charges.
The March 2016 EA contract with Ainley Group was $899,253, and the town intended at the time to budget $200,000 per year towards it for three years. That was done in 2016, and with funds brought forward from 2015, $345,865 was covered.
D’Angelo’s report indicates that no funds for the contract were allocated in the 2017 or 2018 budgets. Councillors made no comment about this, but Mayor Allan Alls said later that covering these costs from reserves was always the plan. 
Also not included in the budget or the cost of the Wastewater EA was $140,000 in management fees from Triton Engineering. When added to the Ainley obligation, the total outstanding is $693,388.
“I want to know how we missed the management fees,” said Coun. John Brennan. “Obviously that is an important part of any project, and something that we need to pay attention to as we go forward.” 
The town’s 51 reserve accounts were up by about $1 million at the end of 2017, to a total of $9.1 million, and are projected to be almost $10 million by the end of 2018.
The fourth quarter report shows the administration department 19 per cent over budget, partly because better tax collection reduced income from penalties and interest.
Administration expenses were also higher than expected by 14 per cent, with an extra $90,000 in labour costs due to staff changes, and an extra $28,000 for temporary administrative support. Insurance and deductibles were higher by $52,000 due to “ongoing corporate matters”.
The planning budget took a hit of $64,665 in legal fees for the successful defense of the Angelstone Farms zoning bylaw at an Ontario Municipal Board hearing.
Planning revenue of $18,100 was just 53 per cent of the budget projection, while labour costs were 21 per cent over budget at $37,214. On the positive side, consulting services cost only $5,600, instead of the expected $39,900.
For bylaw enforcement and crossing guards, there was an extra $5,000 for labour costs and an extra $7,982 (100 per cent over budget) for legal fees. Revenue was only $950 (43 per cent of budget).
There were many positive and negative variances in the recreation department, including an extra $103,000 in labour costs due to staff changes. Facility rental income was down by $15,000 at the Erin Community Centre due to lower activity, and revenue from baseball diamond and soccer field rentals was lower due to rain-outs. 
Council has voted in favour of doubling its general liability insurance coverage from $25 million to $50 million, for a premium increase of $1,500 annually. The full insurance contract with Jardine Lloyd Thompson Canada Inc. has an annual premium of $127,862.

LOOKING BACK – Erin soldier gassed

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1918)
Erin soldier gassed
The Toronto Star of Wednesday last contains the photo of R.E. Speers, who has been gassed. He is the son of Mrs. J. Speers, 10th Line, and their many friends join in the hope that he may fully recover. Mrs. Speers also has another son at the Front.
Part of Category B men of Class 1 under the Military Service Act in this No. 1 Military District, have been notified by the Deputy Registrar to report for service on April 15th.
During the past week, Mrs. Justice received a letter from her husband, Major Justice, in Belgium. He speaks of not being far from the cemetery in which the late Pte. G. Sutton was buried and that he intends to go and see the grave. 
Referring to Mrs. Tarzwell, he hopes that the citizens of Erin will take an interest in her welfare and see that she does not want for anything, through the loss of her son. He also thanks the Women's Institute for the Xmas boxes sent to the Boys from this vicinity.
From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1983)
New grant for non-profit housing
Erin Township is receiving a $20,102 interest free provincial loan for the 29-unit senior citizen non-profit rental building planned for Hillsburgh. The announcement was made by MPP Jack Johnson. The Non-Profit Housing Corporation has already received a $4,000 grant and a $7,000 interest-free loan. Rent-geared-to-income units can be up to 50 per cent of the building.
New plan to save soil
A new soil conservation and environmental assistance program begins this month, according to Mel Chamberlain, Wellington County agricultural representative. Farmers can get grants of up to 50 per cent of construction costs to a maximum of $7,500 for erosion control devices and up to $5,000 for one third of the cost of manure storage facilities.
From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1993)
Erin Public officially “Green”
Erin Public School has joined an elite group of less than 300 schools across Canada in being declared “Green” by a group called SEEDS (Society, Environment and Energy Development Studies). Students had to initiate and participate in 100 action projects related to the environment. Teacher Librarian Barb McKinnon said this would influence them for a lifetime. SEEDS has donated $135 for planting trees, and provided a Green banner and trophy.
Village needs a vision
An open invitation is extended to all 1,500 eligible voters to attend an upcoming meeting on updating the Erin Village Official Plan. Reeve Terry Mundell is calling it the Vision Meeting. “We’re trying to determine what the people in our community feel the municipality should look like in the next 10, 15 to 20 years,” he said.
From the Advocate – 20 years ago (1998)
Bell’s Hardware closing
After operating for three generations at the same premises on Erin’s Main Street, Bell’s Hardware has closed. Dwight and Judy Bell, who have resided their entire married life in the apartment above the store, decided to retire. The business was started by R.M. (Robert) Bell and continued by Dwight’s father Donald – who was known for selling TVs starting in the early 1950s.

109 Main gets new lease on life
The old village office at 109 Main Street is likely to be preserved. The garage is to be demolished, and but the OPP will use two offices, and EWAG will take over the council chamber and two other offices. EWAG Executive Director Irene Smedley said one room would be a drop-in centre for healthy seniors over 55. The basement of the building could become a youth centre, with support from Erin Optimists.

Major expansion planned at Cheltenham Badlands

A long-term plan to expand trails and parking facilities at the Cheltenham Badlands could allow a high volume of tourists to safely view the dramatic landscape on Olde Baseline Road.
The final site concept was presented at the Caledon East Community Complex on April 5, the last of four public meetings in a Master Plan process. About 50 people attended.
The Badlands were closed to the public three years ago due to safety concerns caused by heavy visitor traffic. A parking lot for 33 cars and two school buses has been completed, along with a new sidewalk leading to a 200-foot viewing boardwalk on the east side of the attraction, but the site is not expected to re-open until August.
People will not be allowed to walk on the Queenston Shale hummocks, featuring red iron oxide with greenish banding. The area was exposed due to erosion caused by tree clearing and poor farming practices.
The site will be managed by Credit Valley Conservation, to eventually be open during daylight hours from April until the end of October. Parking fees are planned.
Located north of Cheltenham, about 2 km east of Winston Churchill Blvd., the property was very popular with tourists – especially during the fall colours season. It remains blocked by a security fence, and that section of Olde Baseline Road is a No Stopping – Tow Away zone.
Some area residents opposed construction of the parking lot, saying it would make the road more hazardous, but their appeal was rejected by the Niagara Escarpment Commission.
The Master Plan still needs approval by the Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT), which has owned the block of land containing the Badlands since 2002. 
OHT received about $1.2 million for the recent site improvements. The Region of Peel financed the parking lot, a Canada 150 grant helped with the accessible viewing boardwalk and TD Friends of the Environment contributed to signage that directs visitors and explains the history and geology of the Badlands. 
This year, a temporary trail will create a loop that links the existing Bruce Trail with the viewing area and the parking lot. More funding and donations are needed to build washrooms and a new wheelchair-accessible trail from the parking lot as part of Phase 1.
No timing has been set for Phase 2, which includes a trail of limestone screenings on the south side of the Main Badlands, and along the side of a Secondary Badlands feature running south. Staircase-style boardwalks will be built over narrow sections of the shale, and additional loops will be created using the west side, and the main and side trail routes of the Bruce Trail.
Phase 3, which is not expected for about 10 years, features a second parking lot in the far south corner of the property, on Creditview Road. It would accommodate 50 cars and could allow for a shuttle bus service “to be developed by external stakeholders as part of area-wide economic development and tourism opportunities”, according to a display at the public meeting.
 “The Trust will need to raise funds to support the implementation of each phase of the plan,” said OHT representative Catrina Colme.
Natural erosion of the hummocks will continue even without human foot traffic. The feature will gradually flatten out over many decades, according to Joe Desloges, professor of Geology and Earth Sciences at the University of Toronto. 
Drone surveying shows the height of the hummocks declining about 2.5 cm per year, and the gullies filling in with about half that amount.

April 05, 2018

Erin gets wastewater pep talk

The Town of Erin got an enthusiastic endorsement of the benefits of developing a wastewater system, from a similar community that is “now dealing with a growth explosion”.
The pep talk came from Jane Torrance, a councillor from Mississippi Mills, located about 20 minutes west of Ottawa. She was the guest speaker at the bi-annual Mayor’s Breakfast, March 28 at the Erin Legion, with about 100 business people and community members attending.
Mayor Allan Alls said the recent trend of allowing the severance of rural properties “has pretty well come to an end”, since the province has imposed a prime agricultural designation on most land previously classed as secondary agricultural.
“Our growth has to be in the urban areas, and we need wastewater to make that happen,” he said.
Torrance said her town’s 75-year-old sewer system had reached full capacity.
“Our challenge to growth was wastewater – we were saying no to development,” she said. With ten years of planning, one third funding each from the federal and provincial government, and the use of development charges, they were able to complete construction of a new state-of-the-art wastewater plant in 2012 for $28 million. It is operated by the Ontario Clean Water Agency.
 “There are more kids moving in – we’re focusing on a family population so we can be sustainable in the long term,” said Torrance. Their town banned estate lot subdivisions many years ago. “We can’t just build one type of housing. What type of housing is good for families? And bungalow townhouses are popular with seniors.”
More local employment means fewer commuters, and people who grew up in the town are more likely to move back.
Mississippi Mills has similarities to the Town of Erin, with a population of 13,500, including about 5,000 in Almonte, their largest urban area (and the only one with sewers). There are several other communities in their town including Pakenham, site of a major ski hill.
While Torrance described the growth as an explosion, it has meant only about 1,000 new residents since the new wastewater plant was completed. More significant, however, was the arrival of six substantial business developments including a mall, providing employment and revenue.
“Expanding the tax base means spreading the cost over more people,” she said. “All of the municipality is benefitting from Almonte’s growth.”
Mississippi Mills has been aggressive with social media and traditional promotion to attract visitors, and all of their materials stress the beauty of their river.
Unlike Erin, Almonte was starting with an existing sewer system, so did not have to install collection pipes or house hook-ups. Also unlike Erin, they had a hospital and a long-term care facility (now expanding). Being in a growth phase, their challenge is to keep up with demand for services such as childcare, and to add enough municipal staff to handle the activity.
There has been a library expansion, trail development, a downtown that promotes its charm, popularity with cyclists, a desire to protect a rural and mill heritage, and growth in home-based businesses.
“Councillor Torrance today showed our community what Erin could become if we build a sewage treatment facility – a healthy and vibrant community,” said Mayor Alls. “Her story is proof of the positive economic benefits that a facility could bring, including new jobs and diversified housing options.”
Alls said upcoming revisions to Erin’s Official Plan will determine exactly where new housing will be allowed, and define “what we want to be when we grow up”.

Lack of trust holding town back

As the Town of Erin prepares to embark on a major expansion, it needs to deal with a chronic lack of trust between the municipal corporation and the residents it currently serves.
Of course, people know that the roads will be plowed, the water supply will remain of high quality, the ice will be ready for hockey players and the tax bills will arrive without fail. 
But most people just don’t care about how local government works, and they are under no obligation to do so. Many feel it is an out-of-control system that takes a lot of their money and only gives a little in return.
As an independent observer, I don’t think the town is out of control. Local municipal projects are often very expensive, very slow moving and highly controlled by provincial regulations and funding. 
Yes, the town should be aggressive in finding ways to be more efficient and innovative. But it also needs to do better at communicating – regaining trust and building up its image.
I spoke recently with Garland Williamson, a farm owner and businessman. He has no specific objection to construction of a wastewater system, but is concerned about the town spending millions of dollars and lacking expertise.
He wonders how the town will manage a doubling of its population if it can’t properly manage what it has now.
Often it is what people actually see when they drive around town that affects their confidence in the municipality. Williamson brings up the example of the entrance to the medical centre and Tim Hortons from the intersection on County Road 124.
The county did not want traffic coming in from that intersection, but agreed to a compromise – a sharp curve in which two cars cannot pass by in opposite directions. And the number of parking spaces is inadequate.
People don’t care how much it was the county’s fault or the town’s fault, or the fact that it was a previous council. They just know it is a municipal failure, and that they are stuck with it for a long time.
He also raises the property standards bylaw. You can drive around town and see properties with old cars and other junk out front – apparent violations of the bylaw. There are various new homes where the landscaping is not completed until years after the house construction. There have also been many complaints about improper dumping of soil fill. There’s a general feeling that nothing is being done.
Mayor Allan Alls said the Town has to pick its battles, since bylaw cases often get bogged down in expensive court battles. Just recently, council agreed to upgrade the Bylaw Enforcement Officer position from part-time to full-time on a contract basis.
CAO Nathan Hyde and the mayor acknowledged that the town has an image problem.
“We do need to communicate a lot better with the public – we need to have positive outreach with the community,” said Hyde, who has been CAO for just over a year.
He is hoping that the recent hiring of Jessica Spina as Communications and Special Projects Officer will help with that process. There will be a Citizen Engagement Charter coming out later this year, and development of a new Strategic Plan. 
He said the staff reorganization last year was designed to improve delivery of core services, and that performance standards are in place to measure how well they succeed.
“My mission is to make Erin a future-ready community, which means ready for growth and ready for investment,” he said. “That’s us being ready for wastewater down the road. Council has bought into that vision and that’s the direction we’re going.”
All of the department heads are new in the last two years, and staff are under a customer service mandate, so let’s give them a chance to deliver.
“We want the public to have over time a level of comfort in what we’re doing, because we exist to serve them,” said Hyde.