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Silver Creek Complex Provincially Significant Wetland (Posted On: Monday, September 18, 2006)

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We Need Your Support... Help us Save the Silver!

Where is this area?
The Silver Creek watershed has an area of approximately 2,700 hectares. The headwaters are located on the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Silver Creek rises in the Lake of the Clouds and flows into Georgian Bay. The Silver Creek Wetland Complex covers approximately 166 hectares and is located mostly north of Highway #26 in the western end of the Town of Collingwood. The Wetland extends to the shore of the Bay and spans the Creek's mouth.

The Town Line Creek (spring fed) rises north of the Lake of the Clouds by the Blue Mountain Ski Hills Southern Comfort chair, near the Scenic Caves. This creek flows down the ski hill, through the Monterra Golf Course and along the Grey-Simcoe county line and then easterly to West Black Bass Bay. The mouth has been relocated by landowners and it's bio mass removed.

What does it contain?
The watershed suffers from few erosion problems thanks to its heavy forest cover containing Eastern White Pine, Red Pine, Eastern Hemlock, Yellow Birch, Sugar Maple, Red Maple, Red Oak and Basswood. Silver Creek has an abundance of gravel beds and deep pools that are habitat for many species of fish, including Brook Trout, Chinook Salmon and Rainbow Trout. The Silver Creek Wetland Complex provides a variety of important biological, social and hydro geological functions i.e. flood control, water purification and sediment containment. A 1991 inventory of bird life made by expert ornithologists indicated 124 species, including provincially significant Caspian Terns, Great Egrets and Black Crowned Night Herons. The shoreline estuary creates favourable staging and feeding grounds for numerous waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds. Two biological inventories confirm that numerous species of plants, including "Great Lakes Endemics" grow in the Wetland.

How is it threatened?
In the late 1980's the Wetland was under considerable development pressure. The Nature League (formerly Senior League) lobbied the Town of Collingwood to purchase the land. In 1988 the Town passed a resolution calling for the retention of the Wetland as public access to Georgian Bay. The landowners were contacted, but were not interested in selling. The Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation (BMWTF) took up the cause in 1994. Again, attempts to move the land into public ownership were rebuffed.

The current owners purchased the land in May 2002, and promptly submitted an application to the Town for approval to develop a golf course and residential project. Thanks to the lobbying of the BMWTF, the Town had passed an Interim Control By-law (ICBL) in April 2002. The ICBL was necessary as the existing Town of Collingwood Official Plan (OP) did not prohibit golf course development in lands zoned Environmental Protection (EP) and Rural (RU). The new OP was to be more protective of natural heritage features, but was not yet approved.

The proponents appealed the ICBL to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), but the Board ruled that the Town's move was justified. The Decision of Mr. Grainger said in part "On all the circumstances of this case and considering the balancing of interests between the Town and applicant, the Board finds that it is most appropriate to permit what constitutes a temporary freeze of golf course development in the EP and RU designated areas to prevent any abrupt development action that might serve to undermine long-range planning objectives contrary to the public interest." The OMB decision was appealed to the courts, but the developer's appeals were dismissed. Costs were awarded to the Town.

In October of 2004 the Ministry of Natural Resources confirmed that, as a result of their re-evaluation, the Silver Creek Complex is a provincially significant coastal wetland. The borders were adjusted marginally.

Over the past 20 years, the Town of Collingwood, with the support of the BMWTF, the Nature League and concerned citizens, has been extremely dedicated in its mandate to preserve and protect the wetlands. In July of 2005, the Town took a courageous step, passing By-law 2005-45 which initiates the expropriation of the three western parcels of land comprising a large part of the Wetland. This was not an easy decision for the Town, but for its residents and all future generations, it is undoubtedly the right thing to do. The BMWTF has pledged to raise $100,000, as necessary, to defray part of the Town's costs.

BMWTF Director, Dr. Len Popp, said at the time, "The planning tools provided under the provincial government have not allowed municipalities to control the direction in which development occurs. The provincial planning approach was originally devised to promote development, and at that time Ontario was essentially an agricultural province attempting to expand its commercial and industrial potentials as it moved into the modern era." he said. "The planning processes were designed to promote the rapid transformation of the agricultural landscape into the hustle and bustle of today's economy. The natural environment did not play a large part in this, since there was not a lot of information or understanding of the complex interrelationships and fragility of nature." he said.

The BMWTF will be a "participant" at an OMB Hearing scheduled for April 10, 2007. They have retained North-South Environmental to review the Developer's EIS (Environmental Impact Study) and to assess the potential for harm to the wetland from residential development. North-South will be an "expert" witness at these proceedings and the BMWTF will be in attendance for the entire hearing.

Why should Ontarians be concerned?
82% of Southern Ontario's wetlands are already lost. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Silver Creek Wetland Complex is the last remaining coastal wetland on the shores of southern Georgian Bay from Midland to Tobermory. In the words of the president of the Georgian Triangle Anglers' Association, "Silver Creek is the best trout stream in Southern Ontario". The 2000 Watershed Health Monitoring Summary published by the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (Chris Jones & Paul Fry) under "Recommended Management Strategies" lists Silver Creek as: Status "Unimpaired"; Priority "Protect" and Management Strategies as "Implement Best Management Practices for sustainable development.", "Protect remaining wetlands near mouth.", "Investigate optimization of Lake of the Clouds dam to protect cold water habitat." and "Protect existing habitat and forest cover.".

The BMWTF is fundraising to support their efforts to conserve the Silver Creek Watershed and Wetland. They feel strongly that the Ontario government should assist the Town financially in the protection of this provincially significant coastal wetland. Otherwise, the term "provincially significant" would seem to lack any real meaning.

How can YOU help?

  • Become a Member of the BMWTF, your contribution will make a difference! They always need your support and a donation to the Silver Creek Fund would be most appreciated.
  • Contact our Municipality and Ontario Government:
    • Mayor Terry Geddes: 705-445-8451 or tgeddes@collingwood.ca
    • Premier McGuinty (416) 325-9895 webprem@gov.on.ca
    • Minister of Natural Resources (705) 567-4650 david_ramsay-mpp@ontla.ola.org
    • Jim Wilson, MPP Simcoe-Grey (705) 446-1090 jim_wilson@ontla.ola.org
    • Hon. John Gerretsen, Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing (416) 585-7000 asking that Ontario "step up to the plate" and contribute to the preservation of this last remaining coastal wetland on southern Georgian Bay for future generations of Ontarians.
  • Attend the upcoming Ontario Municipal Board Hearing scheduled for 2 weeks commencing TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 2007. (Venue to be confirmed)

For Future Updates? Watch their website: www.bmwt.ca

Memberships: Student $5.00; Senior $15.00; Individual $25.00; Family $50.00; Supporting $100.00; Patron $250.00, Lifetime Member $1,000.00

Membership and Donation cheques payable to:

Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation
P.O. Box 605
Collingwood, Ontario L9Y 4E8

(income tax receipts issued for all donations of $10.00 or more)

 

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