Environmentally and Historically Rich Lands in Fort Erie are now in Developer’s Crosshairs

Future of long-popular Waverly Beach Area, along  Lake Erie shores , is on the ropes

A Commentary by Fort Erie, Ontario resident Linda McKellar

Posted March 15, 2018 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – Many from Fort Erie, Western NY and elsewhere have concerns about the Harbourtown development proposed for the Waverly Beach and Woods area.

Development is inevitable in Ontario but residents want and need to be heard and their concerns not made inconsequential for profit. Cooperation is essential.

1 – Environmental This area has been given status as an Environmental  area by the Niagara Region and is a vital, high quality spring migratory stop for thousands of birds, some rare and endangered,  on route from Central and South America. If this disappears, many will die, including by collision with the proposed ten story condo, regardless of precautions, particularly if kept as proposed on the lakeshore side.

In addition, there will be numerous pets brought in by new residents and these can kill resident species.

Wildlife movement of many other species, deer, foxes, frogs, rare Fowler’s toads, etc. between the lake and Kraft Provincially Significant Wetlands will be impacted. Nature’s Greenway Guide stresses the need for AMPLE corridors and buffers for connectivity. Those proposed are terribly inadequate and designed for humans, not wildlife. Resident creatures like frogs and bats are vital for control of insect pests, some of which can carry diseases.

Last year the site was reported to the Wildlife Research Center at Carlton University as a migratory feeding station for Monarchs. The population of these vital and beautiful pollinators has plummeted 90% to its lowest level in history.

A huge concern is the forest itself. Many trees are in excess of 100 years old, like the Shumard Oak that can live 400 years. Many will go and many other of these giants will die, disturbed by construction. With the condo placed where it is proposed, it will be just a matter of time until residents complain the rest block their view and want them gone. There are also several types of rare plants.

Scientific studies show interaction with nature improves mental and psychological health and doctors now are actually prescribing nature time over drugs. The resultant human and vehicular traffic and noise pollution will destroy this oasis.

2 – Historical – Waverly was the site where the Niagara Assembly met, the precursor of the NAACP and a site often visited by those of African heritage.

Aboriginal history abounds as the major crossing point on the Niagara River.

The Erie Beach Amusement Park was a mecca for tourists from both sides of the border and the ruins are part of local history.

The former Erie Beach Amusement Park in the Waverly Beach area, a popular summer playground for people in the Niagara, Ontario and Buffalo, New York areas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this photo, the Buffalo harbour area is barely visible through the haze in the background.

 Niagara was the main flashpoint of the War of 1812, the major historical event in Canada prior to WW1.  The DeWatteville Regiment assembled in and fled through the area of Waverly (Baxter’s Farm) during the 1814 siege of Fort Erie, the site of the greatest number of military deaths on Canadian soil in our history. The dead were buried in unmarked, mass graves where they fell.  According to the death toll, many are still unaccounted for. Such a place should be protected and immortalized for its national significance, not paved over for short term gain. Thorough independent archaeological studies need to be done and the results made public.

In the past, some of these sites were desecrated. To quote “Death at Snake Hill”, one contractor said “There’s at least a couple of bodies in the garage”, explaining that the concrete floor had to be poured quickly – before the word got out.” Another quote in the book – “bones were dumped aside, artefacts pocketed and skulls smuggled home as curios.”

3 – Poor planning and design – Towns all over the Golden Horseshoe are trying to moderate development that is destroying prime farmland and environmentally and historically sensitive sites. These are designed to satiate the hunger of urbanites who, ironically, are destroying that to which they wish to escape.

Designed environments can be harmful or helpful. Many aspects of Harbourtown appear to be harmful and flawed. The developer wants to make money and build a reputation but many residents feel  this will ruin one of the town’s unique assets, replacing it with what may be considered by many to be another enclave of nondescript housing, much of it potentially beyond the financial reach of locals. How can that help their reputation?

Wouldn’t a planner think it illogical to put a ten story condo, very much out of context with the area, next to the remaining woods and on the south side of the development where it will cast a shadow over the new homes, block their lake view and decrease their privacy?

Any condo should be on the north side of the development beside the highway for easier access and less impact and traffic through the rest of the development, or preferably somewhere else altogether.

There are boarded up industries and businesses all over Fort Erie, some with river views, already serviced and close to amenities with no forests to uproot or history to destroy.

Can some compromise be reached?

Linda McKellar is a Town of Fort Erie resident and retired nurse who has frequently shared commentary with Niagara At Large. The views she shares in this commentary are her own and are not necessarily shared by other individuals or groups in the town.

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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders


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