Fighting To Save a Treasured Tract of Niagara’s Historical and Natural Heritage from Developers in Fort Erie

This April 25th an Ontario Land Tribunal Hearing Begins that May Decide the Fate of a Popular Green Place Known As Waverly Woods

A Commentary by Maria Featherston, a Fort Erie resident and member of Community Voices of Fort Erie, a citizen’s group now fighting a David vs. Goliath battle to save Waverly Woods

Posted April 23rd, 2022 on Niagara At Large

Inside the tree canopy of Waverly Woods, a beautiful green area along the shores of Lake Erie in Fort Erie, Niagara, and a much beloved destination for people on both sides of the Niagara River. File photo by Doug Draper, Niagara At Large

Four years ago, a small group named Community Voices of Fort Erie was formed to do battle over a beautiful piece of property named Waverly Woods.

They do not have great amounts of money or power; they are just ordinary citizens, like your neighbours, but they have a strong sense of purpose.

Starting Monday morning, April 25, their lawyer and team of experts will attempt to convince an LPAT (Ontario Land Tribunal) hearing that the planned subdivision with its condo should not go ahead.

What makes Waverly Woods so special?

It is a microcosm of Canadian history, beginning with indigenous history thousands of years ago on the site. During the War of 1812, Erie Beach/ Waverly Woods played a significant role, especially during the Siege of Fort Erie August 14-15, 1814, which was described by an American officer as “a great slaughter.”

 All of the bodies of the British and their indigenous, Swiss and German allies have never been found; American bodies are missing as well. Some of them may be buried in the woods.

This treasured piece of our history and natural heritage is now a target of developers. The citizen’s struggle to save Waverly Woods unfolds at provincial hearings starting this April 25th.

There was a black settlement, “the Snake Hill Settlement”, as well as the first meeting of the Niagara Movement (forerunner of the NAACP) all in this area. The Erie Beach Amusement Park 1896-1930 became Buffalo’s Million Dollar Playground. Remnants of the rides exist and are threatened.

Attached to this letter you will find the Triggs Recommendations and Report. Dr  John Triggs, a renowned archaeologist, has examined the archaeological evidence for the history described above and has come to the conclusion that the proposed Harbourtown Village Development should receive” a heritage designation, specifically a cultural heritage landscape”

He recommends that “the Town of Fort Erie seek National Historic Site and world UNESCO designation for the site.” (A link to a report by Dr. Triggs on the Waverly site is included below this commentary.)

A recent book on the history and the natrural life and beauty of the Waverly Woods and Erie Beach area. The book did so well it is currently sold out. Niagara At LargL will let you know when copies return..

Waverly also contains Old Growth Trees which are estimated between 150-200 years old and have witnessed the history described above. Endangered birds such as the Red-headed Woodpecker, the Eastern Wood-Peewee forage and breed here. It is also home to the infamous Fowler’s toad.

A red-headed woodpecker – one of the many feathery and furry residents of Waverly Woods.

Birders from all over Ontario and western New York come to encounter the migratory birds passing through, particularly a wide variety of warblers. Window collisions with the multi-storey condo in the woods provide a significant danger to these birds, some of whom are already at risk. During COVID these woods provided a sanctuary for people needing a dose of nature; this need continues.

In light of the Triggs Report and Recommendations, Community Voices and its 9277 petition supporters, 840 Facebook followers as well as numerous additional community members (not online) are convinced more than ever that Waverly Woods/Erie Beach needs to be saved.

History should not be for sale.

  • Maria Featherston, the author of the above commentary is a Fort Erie resident, retired secondary school teacher and a member of Community Voices of Fort Erie

  • To learn more about Community Voices of Fort Erie, click onhttps://www.forterievoices.org

For information on Dr. John Triggs and his ex0ertise in the field, click on – https://www.triggsheritageconsulting.com/about .

To read Dr. Triggs’ report on  the Waverly Woods site, cllick on – https://sites.google.com/view/communityvoicesfe/media-articles-and-links?authuser=0 .

To add your name to a petition to our government leaders, already signed by more than 9,000 people across Niagara and beyond, to Save Waverly Woods, click on – https://www.change.org/p/ten-story-condo-going-up-in-waverly-woods

For more on the book Moments in Time – Storiies of Waverly and Erie Beach and the history of the Waverly Woods area click on –https://niagaraatlarge.com/2019/12/11/new-book-highlights-the-best-of-fort-erie-ontarios-historic-waverly-and-erie-beach-area/

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

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