By Doug Draper, publisher, NAL
Posted August 22nd, 2016 on Niagara At Large
(A NOTE from Doug Draper – An earlier version of this story stated that an “encouraging message” about new developments in the review/approval process for the controversial Thundering Waters Forest development proposal came from Niagara resident Ed Smith.
As it turns out, Ed Smith did circulate this message to numerous other residents across the region, including this journalist, but it was originally composed and sent out to people by John Bacher, a Niagara resident and conversationist who has been engaged in protecting natural heritage lands in this same area of Niagara Falls for at least two decades now. My apologies to John and to our readers at large for screwing up the original source of the message.)
One of the very few political heroes I’ve ever had – the late U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy – had some inspiring words that are relevant to the way growing number of residents in Niagara, Ontario – now numbering in the many thousands – are standing up against plans for sprawling urban development onto hundreds of acres of green lands known as the Thundering Waters Forest in the southwest corner as Niagara Falls.
Robert Kennedy once said, and I paraphrase, that ‘every time a person stands up against something that is wrong or not in the best interests of present and future generations, they send forward a “tiny ripple of hope.” And if enough people stand up, those ripples can form a wave that can wash away the mightiest walls of destructive resistance.’
That is most surely a paraphrase of Kennedy’s more eloquently spoken words but it captures the essence of what he said during a trip to South Africa in the 1960s when future Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela had been jailed for life for opposing a racist system called apartheid that was still plaguing that country.
And I believe that it also most surely speaks to the spirit of what is happening here where we have an impressive coalition of people unlike almost any I have seen in my three and a half decades of reporting on issues here – a coalition of youth, seniors and everyone in between, and of representatives of environmental groups, landowners groups, of the Aboriginal community and many others – standing up and saying “no” to any more destruction of what is left of Niagara’s woodlands, wetlands and savannah lands that have routinely been wiped out for development in past years.
It is not a stand against development, as too many of our current municipal leaders attempt to portray it. It is a stand against development that is destructive and is not environmentally or even economically sustainable for our future.
It is a stand that says there are plenty of other places in this region for development that are inside our existing urban boundaries and do not involve the wholesale ravaging of large tracts of our natural heritage. So stop giving us this wrong-headed and backward-thinking bull about how we, the people, have to be prepared to “strike a balance” and get behind the Caslin regional government regime’s pitch that we have to support development plans like the one for Thundering Waters Forest to show that Niagara is “open for business … no matter what.”
So how heartening and hopeful it was to receive a message circulating in cyberspace this August 20th weekend by Niagara resident and conservationist John Bacher saying that the Planning Department for the City of Niagara Falls is now showing, in a very significant way, that it is taking the concerns of Niagara residents into account on the Thundering Waters issue.
This is a tribute to the continued efforts of Niagara residents to speak out for this significant piece of our region’s natural heritage – something that we must continue to do for what little remains of our natural places across this region.
It is also a tribute John Barnsley, manager of policy planning, and to other staff in Niagara Falls’ Planning Department for tabling recommendations, in front of a key Public Meeting this coming Tuesday, August 23rd, calling for more public consultation and more information and review before these development plans move forward, if they move forward at all.
Barnsley and others on city planners have shown a willingness to listen, to be open minded and to ensure that the questions and concerns of residents that he, as a public official, is entrusted to serve in a manner that is virtually non-existent at Niagara’s regional government level and at a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority that no longer plans a production role as a “conservation body” in this region.
Barnsley and his colleagues is a reminder to us all that there are people of integrity in government – public servants who don’t just mouth slogans about working in an open, democratic manner with members of the public, but who demonstrate through action that they take these responsibilities as public servants serious.
Now here is John Bacher’s encouraging message make the rounds on the internet this weekend, edited and posted here with his permission –
This past Friday, August 19th, an important victory was won when the Niagara Falls Planning Department released its recommendations on Thundering Waters.
In essence, the report recommends against proceeding with the zoning changes needed to destroy the forest until five conditions are met. Of these conditions, the most important and difficult one to meet is consultation with Native peoples.
I believe the Planning Act would allow the developer the right to appeal a non-decision on their application to the Ontario Municipal Board. However, if they do this, they would have a lot of trouble since the OMB would be quite aware of the brave nature of the Niagara Falls Planning Department standing up to this developer and would respect the department for it.
After reading the Planning Department report, I came to the conclusion that the best way to win the struggle would be for the land to be purchased by both the federal and provincial governments as part of the resolution of a Native land claim, so that the site could essentially become a tribal park.
This could be the first stage of a much needed national Carolinian park, whose goal would be to protect the wonderful wetlands created in our region of the world by Lake Tonawanda, which vanished about 3,400 years ago.
Many thanks to you all for what we have achieved so far, which I think can be enhanced if we talk at the public meeting (this coming Tuesday, August 23rd at 6:30 p.m. at Niagara Falls City Hall about the Native managed Carolinian park concept, which will help ensure that both the wonders of creation and Native care for it are perpetuated for generations to come.
Many thanks, Hope to see you all in Niagara Falls in a few days – John Bacher.
For information from the City of Niagara Falls on the August 23rd Public Meeting click on – https://www.niagarafalls.ca/pdf/public-notices/1560/public-meeting-notice.pdf .
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