The St. Clair Region Conservation Authority held their 2016 Annual General Meeting in Coldstream on Thursday. In his opening remarks, Chair, Steve Arnold, highlighted the many funding partners that support conservation programs in our region. “These funding partners help us gather the data we need to produce watershed report cards, they help us engage our youth and the public into participating in making our watershed healthier, and they help us bring the public out to enjoy our amazing variety of natural areas and recreation facilities – this brings tremendous added value to our region,” Arnold said.
“The St. Clair Region Conservation Authority prides itself on being a local, grassroots, municipally-driven organization,” said Brian McDougall, SCRCA General Manager. “We welcome new and returning members to the Board of Directors and look forward to working together to reflect the needs of our member municipalities.”
For 54 years SCRCA, along with its many volunteers and partners, has been working to protect and enhance our local environment. Year after year, conservation authority staff, municipalities and partners continue to have a positive impact on the health and resilience of our watershed. Today’s investment in local watershed health will ensure a sustainable future that supports local communities, economies, tourism and recreation.
Steve Arnold representing St. Clair Township was re-elected Chair and Andy Bruziewicz representing the City of Sarnia was elected Vice-Chair for 2016. The Board voted at an earlier meeting to accept the 2016 budget of $5,189,355. The General Levy, which is the part of budget funded by municipalities, was $701,455 or about 12% of the total budget. This represents a zero percent increase in levy over last year. The remaining funds come from self-generated revenue, government grants and fundraised dollars.
Highlights for 2015 include:
– $180,000 in grants distributed to landowners who undertook stewardship projects
– 54,000 trees planted (3.5 million planted since 1980)
– 200,000 visitors to conservation lands
– 40 kilometres of trails maintained for public use at local conservation areas
– 12,000 students experienced Outdoor Education Programs
– 34 stream sites sampled to monitor water quality (biology and chemistry)
– 40 different fish species identified in 9 subwatersheds in the region
– $132,000 in Water and Erosion Control Infrastructure grants to help support flood control initiatives
– Completion of Lambton Area Water Supply System and Cathcart Park Shoreline Protection Projects
Four conservation awards were presented at the meeting:
Mary-Ellen and John King
Mary-Ellen and John King jointly own approximately 1,100 acres located in the Sydenham River Watershed in Lambton County. They are excellent stewards of their land and have led by example completing numerous environmental projects working with the SCRCA, Ducks Unlimited and the Rural Lambton Stewardship Network. Since 2005, they have retired a total of 47 hectares of marginal or fragile land on their properties including buffers along watercourses, shelter belts and plantation planting, and establishing tallgrass prairie. In addition, they undertook a project to divert tile outlets into a series of wetlands to filter runoff from the farm and they have established sediment traps and grass waterways to protect against erosion on steep slopes.
Strathroy Community Christian School
The Strathroy Community Christian School has been very active in using its resources to promote conservation. Several years ago, they constructed a boardwalk into an adjacent wetland and they use this to include an outdoor education component to their science curriculum. They engage their youngest students by having them prepare and plant flower boxes each year. They actively recycle each day and try, as much as possible, to be a garbage free school by having their students bring their garbage home. Not only are the students involved in environmental learning, they also learn about social responsibility by planting garden vegetables which are harvested and donated to the Women’s Rural Resource Centre. The Strathroy Community Christian School is doing an excellent job of including hands-on opportunities for their students to become good stewards of our land and creating responsible citizens.
Mr. Doug Rogers farms in Lambton Shores and, for the last 19 years, has been a leader in the farming community using innovative stewardship methods to protect the environment. Mr. Rogers utilizes strip farming with corn, beans, and wheat. He also uses grassed waterways, which are strips of grassland within cultivated fields, to slow down and filter runoff. After doing much research and attending many conferences in the United States, Mr. Rogers plants multi-species cover crops after his crops come off to ensure there is a living cover on his ground year round. This further helps reduce erosion and keeps the organic matter and nutrients on the field, where the crops benefit. Mr. Rogers has been working with SCRCA staff to promote conservation by hosting tours of his property and acting as a spokesperson for soil conservation. For the past two years he has collected water samples from his tile outlets because he is concerned about phosphorus levels in the Great Lakes and wants to know how farmers can reduce their impact.
Enviro-Friends of Coldstream
The Enviro-Friends of Coldstream is a remarkable group of volunteers that has been running the Coldstream Conservation Area since 1994 in order to keep this beautiful park a part of the community. In addition to the day-to-day operation, they actively raise funds to continually improve the Conservation Area for the enjoyment of the community. Each year they hold a Gala that, this year, raised over $10,000. That is an amazing show of support from the community. They used these funds to offer free summer day camp for local families; to hire 2 summer students; they were able to offer a Junior Councillor Program for 13 local teens; they undertook trail and boardwalk improvements; and painted the washrooms. The Enviro-Friends of Coldstream exemplifies the meaning of volunteerism.
The SCRCA is one of Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities created under the Conservation Authorities Act of Ontario to deliver a range of programs in watershed management and natural resource conservation. SCRCA works with local municipalities, government agencies, special interest groups and the general public to protect watershed resources – working towards clean water, natural shorelines and sustainable land use throughout the St. Clair Region watersheds.
– Submitted photo: John King, Mary-Ellen King and Steve Arnold.