By John Bacher of Greening Niagara
Posted July 25th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – In his recent statement on the environment, Laudato Si, Pope Francis warned that, “The Earth, our home is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”
In this statement, Francis was in agreement with some of the warnings of the draft Environmental Impact Study for the Thundering Waters development proposal in Niagara Falls, Ontario. It describes how vernal pools which provide important breeding habitat for frogs and the regionally rare Blue Spotted Salamander have been trashed by “numerous canisters, fuel drums or other forms of debris.” It also laments how the site is marred by “piles of garbage.”
This past Saturday July 23rd, about 30 volunteers, including two families with children, joined organizer of Greening Niagara in removing trash from a vernal pool which provides breeding habitat for amphibians. In coming out on this very hot and humid day to help remove this garbage, these volunteers responded not only to Papal directives, but to the teachings of this continent’s Native elders, who decry our planet being turned into a trash pile against the authority of sacred treaties.
The area targeted for the cleanup was a vernal pool beneath a bridge built in 1934 on Ramsey Road and near the lands a China-based corporation is hoping to build a sprawling residential and commercial development complex with the support members of local and regional government bodies, including the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.
Volunteers were careful not to dig down into the soil, lest they disrupt amphibian habitat. Collecting trash on place like the branches of trees and other safe areas however, caused eight large garbage bags of litter to be removed.
The highlight of the day was the removal of ten large truck tires. This was achieved by tying the tires to a rope and pulling them up onto the top of the Ramsey Road bridge. People later carried the heavy tires about a quarter of a mile to cars parked on Dorchester Road. The tires were subsequently driven to the Niagara Region’s disposal facility where staff were also impressed by the sheer volume of toxic material removed.
Following the successful completion of the clean up mission, most participants journeyed down Ramsey Road into the heart of a large block of forested, provincially significant wetland.
Although no commercial or urban development is planned in this particular wetland, this forest is still threatened by a proposal of the developer for a new road. This seeks to turn Ramsey Road into a major arterial highway between Dorchester and Stanley.
When inside the protected wetland volunteers became awed at the size of the giant ancient hickories and oaks. This confirmed the findings of a recent respected native elder who recently visited the wetland. He exclaimed how, “I have not seen trees that size in southern Ontario for a long time, perhaps, never large as the big white oak.” He told us that “as an old timer, I have been in a lot of swamp and forest.”
One of the most significant aspect of the event was that some of the participants who were so awed by the forest admitted that before joining in they had not been aware that the Thundering Waters forest was actually threatened by urban development.
They vowed to contact their councillors to urge them to protect this sacred place.
John Bacher is a veteran conservationist in Niagara, Ontario and is the Chair of Greening Niagara
For more on Greening Niagara click on – http://www.greeningniagara.ca/
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