Round Two: University 3 – Environmentalists 0

On April 23 city council reconsidered the sports field environmental assessment (EA) and voted six to one, to approve the EA. Obviously councilors had been lobbied extensively by the university. A few councilors justified their vote by trying to separate their approval of the EA from the final approval of the sports field deal which will come later.

Councilors did not hear the arguments that the EA process and its conclusions were flawed.

The original 2003 EA, on which I was a community representative, was designed to minimize human/ecological interactions by keeping people to the periphery of the reserve through limited access and a perimeter trail system. The sports fields will accommodate a 180 space parking lot in the middle of the reserve. Staff and consultants are naïve enough to conclude that dense vegetation along the borders will keep out dogs and people after you build a huge parking lot!!

Under the original EA, the cornfield was to be converted into a large meadow attracting area-sensitive species. It would be one of the largest meadow environments in the region. Meadow environments are in decline in the region and throughout southern Ontario as most open areas are converted to housing or remain as farmed land. This new EA proposes that the loss of this meadow habitat be mitigated by additional “thicket habitat” in the other areas of the reserve. This is like trading apples for oranges as meadow habitats are unique in supporting area-sensitive species and we already have sufficient thicket habitats. Removing the meadow means a huge loss of ecological diversity.

Staff and the EA consultant are now finally making recommendations about ecological linkages – three years after we fought for such linkages with the bridge over the creek. However they fail to understand that ecological linkages only work if there are large blocks of habitat which can be linked. Removing the meadow and replacing it by a sports field takes out the southern habitat leaving only a narrow strip along the creek which doesn’t go anywhere. A fatal flaw.

This EA process is a blatant case of paying enough to your hired guns to get the expert report you want.

The only remaining legal avenue to preserve the environmental reserve is an appeal to the provincial ministry of the environment. We could certainly use some help in developing such an appeal. If you can assist, please give me a call.