Educating and Collaborating to Protect a Unique Wildlife Corridor

Educating and Collaborating to Protect a Unique Wildlife Corridor

By Bert Zonneveld, Save Our Ravines

In November 1998, it was learned that developers want to develop part of a river valley system that is a unique wildlife corridor along the Silver Creek. Save Our Ravines (SOR) organized to encourage the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) to deny development of Silver Creek in the valley, which is part of the Credit River Watershed. The closest town is Georgetown, part of Halton Hills in the region of Halton, approximately 45 minutes by car from Toronto.

Using the pressure of 1,700 signatures on a petition and credible professional consultants, we persuaded Town Council to fight alongside us against the developers at the OMB level. However, behind our backs, the town and developers came to a settlement, giving the town ownership of the floodplains (which was not suitable for development anyway) but which would allow houses to be built in the valley next to the river. After three-and-a-half years of fighting the system, we are glad to report that there is still not one house in the valley! Some of our long-term achievements include: a row of houses next to a sensitive fen will not be built; a cul-du-sac scheduled to be built on a very low terrace next to the river will not be built; and, if building occurs, lots will be required to have a 5m (16.5-foot) buffer if they are next to steep slopes. However, in April 2002, we were informed that the OMB has approved other components of the development. Save Our Ravines will not give up now in our efforts to protect this wonderful aquatic habitat. We have a good start through heightened awareness of the community and the collective environmental forces in the region (and nationwide). SOR and others will begin to look at other ways to secure the land.

What do you consider the key to your success?

Through working together and educating the public about the treasure that the valley and Silver Creek represent, we were able to levy significant public pressure to let the would-be developers and city hall know that they could not build along the river without opposition!

How would you outline the steps you took to organize your project in order to advise another group working on a similar project?

– Get political clout to influence the decision-makers (petitions, public needs)

– Utilize credible, knowledgeable consultants to work with the Town’s planning department

How has the project affected your community?

The community around the proposed development as well as directly near it has heightened environmental awareness and a readiness to pitch in if necessary.

What particular stumbling blocks, challenges, or defeats did you encounter?

Our challenge is to try to obtain, through grants or donations, another $150,000 (Canadian) to fight the OMB’s decision to allow development along the River.

How many people were involved?

Initially: One person who went to the local paper upon learning of the planned development

Finally: Working groups of about a dozen, but hundreds of supporters. Thousands of hours of volunteer work was put into this project, literally! And we haven’t given up yet!

How was public involvement motivated and facilitated?

We distributed door-to-door flyers, organized and held public meetings, placed newspaper ads, put up signs, used mail, phone, e-mail, faxes, whatever way we could find to communicate the danger to everyone we could reach.

How was public education a component of your program?

newspaper ads, info on our website, signs on roadways, public meetings, addressing gatherings of other bodies (private and governmental), newspaper coverage

What was your primary means of communication?

Telephone/Newspapers/Flyers (door-to-door)

What resources were available/acquired/tapped into?

All funds were raised from public donations except for two grants (one from the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund for $3,000).

Save Our Ravines
Bert Zonneveld
158 Rexway Drive Georgetown, ONT L7G 1S1
E-mail: 
bzonneveld@caledonlabs.com

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
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