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
(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 –
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.