On Friday, March 24th, 2023, a Board of Directors member delegation from Baxter Creek Watershed Alliance (BCWA) met with the Honorable David Piccini, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks along with his staff Sebastian Bonham-Carter, Manager of Appointments and Stakeholder Relations from the Minister’s Office.
Representing BCWA was Chris Grayson, Chair of the Board, along with fellow directors, Noel Kerin and Craig Onafrychuk, as well as BCWA technical advisor Brooke Ceci, Research Assistant and student placement with BCWA from Trent University, School of the Environment.
BCWA invited the mayor of Cavan Monaghan and staff from Walkerton Clean Water Centre (WCWC) to participate in the meeting and were pleased to have Mayor Graham supported by Yvette Hurley, CAO as well as Brian Bates, Executive Director of WCWC join in the meeting.
The purpose of the delegation was to update Minister Piccini on BCWA’s progress on several conservation and natural heritage initiatives since last meeting with the Minister on August 19, 2022.
In opening, BCWA congratulated the Minister on the supporting conservation efforts of the Minister, in particular the announcements through the 2023 Ontario Budget. BCWA highlighted the Minister’s efforts under the budget in protecting Ontario’s natural areas through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership, protecting boreal caribou in North Ontario, investing in Ontario’s soil strategy to support agriculture, and creating new provincial green spaces such as the new protected area in the Township of Uxbridge. The Minister highlighted that his Ministry is currently exploring considerations to add a new “urban park” class of protected areas to the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act.
After a discussion focused on the Growth Management Strategy for the Township, current residential unit numbers under development and active plans of subdivision, the discussion highlighted the engagement of BCWA with our municipality headed by Mayor Graham. BCWA made a formal delegation to the previous council and have been engaged in discussions with staff and current council on several local environmental topics.
BCWA highlighted their activities supporting environmental education and public awareness for Baxter Creek watershed. BCWA suggested this activity supports WCWC locally by providing public education on environmental issues related to drinking water and associated issues related to wastewater management. There was focused discussion on the importance of Indigenous engagement and learning to inform conservation initiatives. BCWA advised the Minister of efforts over the last year in engaging with some members and staff from local First Nations and that this engagement effort will continue under the spirit of reconciliation, collaboration, and knowledge sharing.
BCWA showcased a series of maps to the Minister which are accessible to the community through BCWA’s public website developed using an innovative and collaborative online geographic information system (GIS). Also of interest was the initiation of coordinated and cooperative watershed research studies in partnership with Fleming College and Trent University programs. Brooke Ceci highlighted her water quality research project for Baxter Creek, which leveraged data from the Ministry’s Provincial Water Quality Monitoring Network sampled and processed through the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks monitoring programs and laboratory services. BCWA outlined how over the long-term these activities will inform in the development of a school-of-ecology outreach program.
The final focus of the meeting was to provide background information to address the Minister’s question to BCWA if the property of the former Millbrook Correctional Centre has been considered under the policy framework of a conservation reserve or other regulatory mechanism under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act. BCWA is actively finishing this report to the Minister to highlight the significant ecosystem values as well as the cultural and natural heritage areas of the property.
By Craig Onafrychuk, Baxter Creek Watershed Alliance