Conservation Action Committee

Conservation Action Committee

The following abbreviations are used in this report:

CA = Conservation Authority
CAC = Conservation Action Committee
CMP = Conservation Master Plan
CWC = Civic Works Committee
EMG = Environmental Management Guidelines
ESA = Environmentally Significant Area
MECP = Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks MVHF = Medway Valley Heritage Forest ESA
NL = Nature London
TAG = Trails Advisory Group
TVP = Thames Valley Pathway
UTRCA = Upper Thames River Conservation Authority

This year’s Conservation Action Committee consisted of seven Nature London members: Sandy Levin (Chair), Anita Caveney, Margo Does, Bill Maddeford, Roslyn Moorhead, Wayne Tingle, and Dave Wake. The CAC held no in-person or virtual meetings during the year. Two members of the CAC serve on the City’s Trails Advisory Group, which makes recommendations to City staff on trail locations and maintenance in London’s ESAs.

Work undertaken: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, CAC field trips to monitor ESAs were not held. The following Issues monitored or items addressed included:

Visits by Trails Advisory Group (TAG) to ESAs

1. Medway Valley Heritage Forest ESA: TAG members reviewed a trail proposed for a portion of the MVHF north of Valleyrun Boulevard. The City and UTRCA devised a plan that would close portions of the informal pathways while providing limited access by a specific loop trail. Informal biking trails were to be closed in the area, and a “Closed Trail” barricade and a fence were to be installed to the west, and a “Closed Trail” sign was to be installed to the east, of the proposed new trail. The intent was to dissuade mountain bike riders from using the area, and to allow hikers to use a clearly identified Level 1 (natural substrate) trail. At the suggestion of TAG, some minor adjustments were made to provide improved protection for woodland plants.

2. Medway Valley Heritage Forest ESA: In March 2022, Dave Wake represented NL at a TAG field review of a wooden bridge that crosses a tributary of the Medway Creek in the MVHF ESA near the Wychwood Park and Metamora entrances. The bridge was to be repaired in 2022 and, at the same time, the ESA Team of the UTRCA planned to relocate the trail west of the bridge to a location farther from the eroding bank of the Medway Creek. TAG members reviewed options in the field and agreed on a suitable location that would have little impact on vegetation. The NL TAG member asked about two species of rare plants that had been reported in the general vicinity, both of them known to the ESA Team. The Team confirmed that these plants would not be affected by the new trail.

3. Kilally Meadows ESA: Early in September, TAG convened to review two short trails connecting the new Northridge Fields recreation complex to existing trails in in Kilally Meadows ESA. The reviewed trails were to follow existing informal access routes. The first of these would be reached from a trail that enters the ESA via a stairway from Glenora Drive, with a short branch from this trail formalized as a Level 1 trail. The second trail would lead visitors from the Northridge Fields to connect to an existing Level 1 trail in the ESA, immediately south of the fields. City staff and TAG members reviewed the options in the field and agreed upon acceptable routes for both trails.

4. Kelly Stanton ESA: In December 2021, TAG members were invited by City staff to a field meeting to review proposals for emergency replacement of a culvert under the path leading into the ESA from the London Hyde Park Rotary Trail west of Hyde Park Road. The old culvert was in poor condition. The City and ESA Team proposed installation of a larger replacement culvert at the same location. TAG members supported the proposed culvert replacement.

5. Lower Dingman ESA: TAG members provided email comments about a small modification to the trail in the Lower Dingman ESA. A dead-end section of trail has been closed to reduce the temptation of visitors to enter private property.

City Hall Updates

1. The Coves ESA: In September 2021, City Council approved zoning amendments that allow construction of two 15-storey apartment towers at 250-272 Springbank Drive, adjacent to The Coves ESA, immediately west of the West Pond. Approval was granted by the Ontario Municipal Board in 2015. The apartment buildings will tower over the slope on the west side of the West Pond, which has long been a roosting/feeding area for heron species that live at the Coves. The CAC is concerned about possible detrimental effects of light pollution and increased human presence on the birds there. The Coves continues to be a city gem that must be protected for migrating birds and to provide habitat for many species.

2. Environmental Management Guidelines: In December 2021, City Council unanimously passed an update to the EMG. It provides technical guidance in implementing policies of The London Plan as they relate to identification, delineation, and protection of the natural heritage features and areas that form the City of London’s Natural Heritage System, including features such as ESAs, Significant Woodlands and Wetlands. The EMG provides consistency with The London Plan and Provincial policies. Dave Wake was NL’s representative to the City’s stakeholder group for the EMG review.

3. Medway Valley Heritage Forest ESA — Conservation Master Plan: City Council approved the CMP for this ESA at its August 10, 2021 meeting. The Plan provides protection as well as improved accessibility for persons with disabilities.

4. Kains Woods ESA and Thames Valley Parkway: City staff worked with the developer of residential lands in the River Bend area to determine the location of an extension to the TVP. The CAC questioned how the path will connect to the north when the subdivision builds out westwards and adjacent to the ESA, and what impact it will have on the ESA.

5. Meadowlily Woods ESA and Thames Valley Parkway: The City applied for funding for additional expansion of the TVP. At a meeting of the CWC, CAC members and Friends of Meadowlily Woods raised concerns about the extension of the TVP from Meadowlily Road and whether or not it would enter the ESA. The CWC raised questions at a Council meeting. A map with two TVP options, A and B, were presented to Council, both of which kept the TVP outside of the ESA. The CAC continued to monitor the process.

In May 2022, The CAC did a site visit to Meadowlily Road and made a recommendation to City staff that the proposed extension of the TVP be routed to the south towards Commissioners Road, rather than east and adjacent to the ESA on the south side. The CAC recommended Option B for the following reasons: 1) Due to topographic and drainage feature issues; 2) Construction would be simpler, with less grading, and could be built along a frontage road when the property at 168 Meadowlily Road South is developed; 3) The TVP extension would not encroach on the ESA or its buffer; and 4) It would not require crossing a tributary/drainage feature. However, an Environmental Assessment for sanitary servicing for future development on the west side of Meadowlily Road South, calls for a new sewer line just to the south of the ESA. The exact location will be established in the future when the detail design work is done for the project. This will likely not happen for about five years.

Bank Swallow Protection: In April 2022, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) published an updated Draft Recovery Strategy for the Bank Swallow. In 2020, NL had circulated an Action Alert to members regarding protection of the Bank Swallow colony at the Byron gravel pit. In response to comments received during the consultation period, some parts of the Draft Recovery Plan were revised. ECCC concluded that the creation of nesting habitat in pits and quarries is advantageous for the species.

Rondeau Provincial Park Update: As of April 2022, the province was no longer considering selling portions of Rondeau Provincial Park to the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, possibly because of strong opposition from nature activists. Chatham-Kent Municipality had offered to buy the leased cottages and land from the Province of Ontario at fair market value (estimated at $29 million in 2021). In turn, the Municipality proposed reselling the lots to current cottage leaseholders. In a letter to Ken Bell, a leading activist against such a proposal, part of the MECP’s reply in April stated, “The ministry is considering options regarding the continued leasing of private cottage lots in Rondeau Provincial Park. No decisions regarding the future of Rondeau cottage lots beyond 2022 have been made at this time. The ministry will consult with Indigenous communities, stakeholders and members of the public on any future proposals.”

Conservation Awards: Conservation Awards were presented virtually via Zoom club meetings in April 2022 to the following members: 1) Ric and Sandy Symmes in recognition of their many years of contributions to avian conservation, especially their work on behalf of London’s Ospreys and Chimney Swifts; and 2) Cathy Quinlan for her long-standing service to the Thames Talbot Land Trust, especially her efforts as chair of its Land Securement Committee.

Advocacy: The CAC and/or NL Board issued Action Alerts in connection with 1) UTRCA’s request in January for funding for its Southern Ontario At-Risk Reptiles research and recovery programs, following the province’s turning down of the UTRCA’s application for funding, after Ontario governments had funded the program for nearly 15 years; 2) ON’s Action Alert about Wetlands under threat; and 3) Ontario Government’s updates of the regulation of development for protection of people and property from natural hazards, while at the same time streamlining approvals under the Conservation Authorities Act to meet housing supply needs, by removing from C.A.s the issuance of some permits, and their role in protecting the health and safety of watersheds. 4) The Bill 23 measures to reduce environmental protection and changes to the Greenbelt. NL members submitted comments of concern about these issues to the Ontario Government.

The NL Board endorsed Ontario Nature letters to the Ontario Government in connection with the following matters:

  1. The proposed designation of the south shore of Prince Edward County as a Conservation Reserve.
  2. ON’s request that upcoming changes to Ontario’s Building Code incorporate provisions requiring bird-friendly construction.
  3. ON’s request that provincial party leaders be asked to address biodiversity loss and climate change in their June 2022 election platforms.
  4. Comments to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing concerning the ministry’s violation of the public consultation requirements of The Environmental Bill of Rights 1993.

More detailed information on the some of the above items is recorded in the CAC meeting minutes. Selected details were published in the Conservation section of The Cardinal, flights 266, 267 and 268.

Anita Caveney, Conservation Action Committee