Now is The Time For More Education and a Fully Committed Community Involvement to Save This Natural Treasure

This Biodiverse Gem of a Place in Niagara – Now A Target of Corporate Developers – Has Now Been Identified by the Ontario Field Ornithologists (a group of foremost experts on birds) as a “Hotspot for Birds” in the Province

A Call-Out from Marcie Jacklin and Community Voices of Fort Erie

Posted July 12th, 2020 on Niagara At Large

It is time for those who put up this sign in such an environmental rich place to call it a day and go away – Doug Draper, Niagara At Large

(A Brief Note from Doug Draper at Niagara At Large – Please read this piece by Marcie Jacklin and the citizens group and see what you can do to save this wonderful place for the sake of ours and future generations.

Post-pandemic, we can no longer afford – not that we ever could – this kind of destruction in the name of uncaring, narrow-minded and naked greed.

Let us all dedicate ourselves to saving what is left of rich places like Waverly Woods.)

Now here is the piece by Marcie Jacklin and Community Voices of Fort Erie in Niagara, Ontario 

This red-headed woodpecker is one of the many inhabitants of Waverly Woods

There are advanced plans for an extensive housing development in this location in Fort Erie, including a ten-storey condo tower. The woods will largely be destroyed if these plans are ultimately approved.

This property is too crucial during bird migration — and for hosting wildlife during breeding season — to see it disappear. According to eBird, 224 species have been recorded here.

The area is a high-quality migratory stop for many species, including wood-warblers. It is home to breeding Red-headed Woodpecker, Wood Thrush, Eastern Wood-Pewee and many other species. Waverly Woods is also significant historically.

As someone who has birded Ontario for 30 years, I have witnessed first-hand the destruction of habitat that not only supported migratory and breeding birds, but other important flora and fauna.

Stories often start: “Remember when such-and-such species used to breed here?” With nature slowly being chipped away almost everywhere, and more rapidly destroyed in some areas, there is a real sense of hopelessness among nature lovers.

Another resident of this great place

People can ask: Is there a way to have our voices heard? Yes, there is. According to Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan in their book, Why Civil Resistance Works, every non-violent campaign that generates active participation from at least 3.5% of the population affected will eventually succeed.

What does this mean for birders and naturalists? We have to organize and give a collective voice to our general concerns. Most importantly, we need to actively participate in the specific issue.

I found a way to do this. I am president and spokesperson for a group of 15 people in Fort Erie called Community Voices of Fort Erie (CVFE). The group was originally formed late in 2017 to collaboratively work on an appeal in front of what has become the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), the new provincial agency that replaced the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in 2018.

This appeal, of course, concerns the fate of Waverly Woods and the Harbourtown Village plan from Fruitbelt Development.

People today do care. A petition on change.org, objecting to the subdivision, has more than 5,600 signatures. Not everyone who signed is from Fort Erie; many birders and history buffs from out- side the Regional Municipality of Niagara are familiar with the significance of Waverly Woods.

Our first task at CVFE was to organize ourselves so that we could make informative presentations to Fort Erie Town Council about the property when the development was up for debate. A range of topics was covered, including endangered species and hydrology as well as historical significance. Despite our efforts, the town council approved the development. Subsequently, CVFE appealed this decision to the OMB/LPAT.

We learned a lot quickly. Whenever embarking on something like this, a community group should hire a lawyer and planner. We did not realize this at first. Perhaps developers count on the public’s ignorance.

The birds share Waverly Woods in Fort Erie/Niagara with other residents of the area like this.

Regardless, it took us three months to understand planning policies at the local, regional and provincial levels — and to write the appeal. In our case, we were fortunate that it was accepted for consideration. NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) appeals are usually rejected because the focus must solely be on planning policies.

Next, we hired experts in wetlands, hydrogeology and wildlife biology, as well as on military and cultural history, to substantiate our appeal. The costs have been considerable, so we have conducted several successful fundraising events and plan many more. This is the biggest stumbling block for citizen groups which mount appeals: Expert testimony is required and it costs money.

Besides the finances, another factor is the staggering amount of time CVFE members put into this. So we also count on individuals outside the group to help us by running and donating to our fundraising events. How many people have participated? A conservative estimate goes into the hundreds. This is crucial.

Do we often feel like this is a David and Goliath situation? Yes, we do. Only time will tell, but many of us are at least proclaiming: “I could not see this development go ahead without at least trying to stop it.”

The message is clear for concerned citizens facing the same kind of dilemma in your communities. If you see something that you think is inappropriate, mobilize and organize. Use the inherent strengths of participants. Spread the word about what you are doing. You may have better results than if you just complain to friends or politicians about what is happening. That is why education and community involvement are vital steps to possible success.

The good news today is that the LPAT hearing which was to begin May 25 was postponed (albeit not for a good-news reason during the current COVID-19 crisis). So the birds we so admire will have had Waverly Woods as a safe location for at least one more migration.

Red-headed Woodpeckers can breed again; so will the new stars, a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers. The area will continue to host Red Fox, small mammals such as Short-tailed Weasel and a variety of reptiles and amphibians.

After that, their continuing existence in Waverly Woods will depend on citizens, experts, planners, lawyers… and a wing and a prayer.

Marcie Jacklin is an avid, Fort Erie-based birder and president of the community group, Community Voices of Fort Erie(CVFE).

You can reach Marcie through the group’s email  att cvferie@gmail.com

To find out how you can support Community Voices of Fort Erie and to sign the petition to Save Waverly Foods from the destructive forces of chainsaws and bulldozers, click on – https://www.change.org/p/ten-story-condo-going-up-in-waverly-woods/u/27241837?cs_tk=ApovZJ9Y7I_GMjsdC18AAXicyyvNyQEABF8BvHeI2KxaGXfxFyhLGkNeZtM%3D&utm_campaign=aa7df131f19546b6a53a98720d02f2e5&utm_content=initial_v0_4_0&utm_medium=email&utm_source=petition_update&utm_term=cs

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

3 responses to “WAVERLY WOODS IS GOING, GOING … but it is not yet GONE!

  1. Linda McKellar

    Of course I wholeheartedly agree with Ms Jacklin. The environment and its inhabitants (including several rare and endangered species), the woods as a migratory site for birds and butterflies, the citizens of Fort Erie who treasure it as a peaceful oasis in an area being blighted by new subdivisions, are all vitally important but, to put it bluntly in my opinion, developers have repeatedly shown in Niagara…..THEY JUST DON’T CARE!

    Governments at many levels seem quite disinterested preferring unfettered growth and money. Environmental laws keep getting gutted for profit. It is we, THE CITIZENS, who have to stand up against such people.

    Many appeals are often based on NIMBYISM, environmental degradation or basically on one complaint. Waverly however is not a one trick pony. The environment is absolutely a HUGE factor but I feel I must add yet another, one that sets this appeal apart.

    This area was the site of the most battle deaths on Canadian soil in our history during the Siege of Fort Erie in 1814, more than Lundy’s Lane, Chippewa, Stony Creek and the many sites which are more familiar to most Canadians. It should be preserved as a National Historic Site.
    In 1987, twenty eight bodies of American War of 1812 soldiers were exhumed when a resident was having a house built…. within sight of the woods. The area of the exhumation was actually an American field hospital BEHIND the American lines. At the time, there was an attempt to cover up the discovery but the police were notified and everything hit the fan. The soldiers were repatriated to their homeland with all the respect they were due.

    Many of the British (who had no means to evacuate their dead) and even a few of the American soldiers have never been found. Bodies of young men, American, Aboriginal and British forces, which may likely be on the site according to several historians, all deserve respect. Remains were said to have been found in the area for decades, even when people were building cottages in the 20’s. Historical records confirm this was a battlefield. This is hallowed ground and should be respected as such. Far lesser sites have received much greater recognition and even most residents are unaware that this is a land with great history, land that helped Canada remain Canada and not be swallowed up by the US. Ironic that war cemeteries for our dead overseas are so revered but not at home.

    In addition, historically, this was a vital Aboriginal settlement and trading center. It was also a final destination and a settlement area for escaped slaves. The Erie Beach Amusement Park was in this forest from 1885 to 1930, one of the oldest parks in North America. Remnants of rides are still on the site and will be gone. The Niagara Movement which eventually became the NAACP, met at the Erie Beach Hotel in 1905. How many other little pieces of land in the area can claim this much history?

    Please speak up and protect both our environment and our history. The voting public can only be strong if we act together. Don’t complain after your towns are covered in asphalt.


  2. Linda McKellar

    Doug –

    As a post script – You mentioned this era of Covid. It has been stated by epidemiologists that there is a direct relationship between destruction of natural areas and pandemics. This can increase the frequency and spread of pandemics by at least two means:
    #1 – By increasing exposure to wild animals which could carry disease because they become displaced from their natural habitat and are forced into urban areas.
    #2 – The lack of green spaces has an effect on both the physical and psychological well being of us all and increases the stress levels to which humans are exposed in urbanized areas, thus our immune systems can be considerably compromised.
    Just a couple of years ago, a man in Russia came across an animal that had been frozen in permafrost for hundreds of years but thawed due to climate change (another consequence of deforestation). He died of anthrax due to the contact.


  3. Developers and corporations have had it their way for much too long.,
    It is a human tragedy that they cannot see beyond just making money.
    I hope that if we all voice our opinion to our so called representatives in the government, that we can initiate a change. How about Ontario Government working and listening to the people; not just the developers and corporations.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.