Re: “Unfinished Business” [Spring 2010]

The Guelph Field Naturalists (GFN) would like to express our disappointment with your article “Risky Business” [Autumn 2009], which reported on the proposed Hanlon Creek Business Park (HCBP) development in Guelph.

The article is riddled with misinformation and was written in a biased manner. In addition, neither City of Guelph officials, Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) staff, the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee nor the environmental consulting firm that studied the site were cited. We suggest that, in future, your articles should be fact checked and that local affiliated members of Ontario Nature should always be contacted to provide local information.

The GFN has contributed input to the proposed HCBP for more than five years. We support the proposed HCBP development, both for its protection of natural heritage features and for one of its goals – providing local employment for Guelph citizens, [and] thereby reducing the need for commuting to other cities.

The City of Guelph has recently completed its Natural Heritage System study, which will become part of the city’s official plan. All the significant natural heritage features located on HCBP lands that were identified in that study will be retained and protected. The city has done all the necessary environmental and planning studies for the HCBP, which were reviewed and accepted by the GRCA and the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee. Further, the HCBP was subjected to an Ontario Municipal Board process that added further environmental restrictions and conditions to the proposed development. A thorough environmental review has been undertaken.

Contrary to your article, the HCBP is opposed by a relatively small group. The article refers to an old hop-hornbeam tree reputed to be one of the oldest of its kind in the province. Experts we consulted at the University of Guelph disagree on the basis of the lack of supporting evidence. The tree is located in an area that has been heavily grazed in the past, and little native understorey and ground flora now exist. The area is completely infested with common buckthorn.

The HCBP is located entirely within the city boundary and is therefore not contributing to sprawl. It is being developed in response to the province’s Places to Grow legislation. The HCBP will be protecting all natural forests and wetlands within its boundaries, which constitute approximately 24 percent of the site. The only trees being removed are those in hedgerows and a small edge area. Many trees will be planted to substantially increase canopy cover. Development will only occur on previously farmed lands. The Storm Water Management system is designed to match pre-development conditions. Laird Road, the main road now bisecting the large central forest/wetland complex, will be closed as part of the development, essentially rejoining the two forested halves. This is where a dead hybrid salamander of the Jefferson salamander complex was found and where substantial frog and toad mortality is now occurring. Closing of the road will have a significant positive effect on the natural environment.

Your article mentions a potential threat to Guelph’s drinking water from the HCBP. Guelph draws its drinking water from a deep regional aquifer, whereas the HCBP contributes to the shallow aquifer that feeds Hanlon Creek. Hanlon Creek itself is not located on HCBP lands, but rather a small tributary of it. Only a small portion of the HCBP lands is actually on the Paris-Galt Moraine.

As naturalists, we strive to protect nature in the city and elsewhere. We strongly support the city’s Natural Heritage System in protecting the city’s green spaces. We also support initiatives that will reduce our carbon footprint, such as provision of local employment to reduce commuting needs and contribute increased density to our city.

– Valerie Fieldwebster, President, Guelph Field Naturalists

Old plans

As a regular contributor to Ontario Nature, I am very pleased that you published Bob Gordon’s well-researched article on the Hanlon Creek watershed problems in Guelph. This is a very difficult situation for our city, managing old development plans for this site with sustainability for our future. But adherence to plans made many years ago is not appropriate these days, and many citizens want to have the situation re-examined in light of current facts, such as diminishing species and climate uncertainties ahead.

Many believe that any development there must be within the natural moraine attributes of hedgerows, mature trees, soil integrity and wetlands.

Last September, a group of citizens went out to Laird Road [which] dissects the Hanlon Creek Business Park, to see if the migration of amphibians had started. It was well under way. We saw them crossing from one side to the other of this road to get to their wintering ponds.

Many of the animals did not make it, although we were able to aid some in crossings.

We asked the city to close the road to general traffic from dusk to dawn (or dusk to midnight) for two to three weeks on evenings that are warm and wet. We first made this request in September 2008 and today are assured that, in April 2010, there will be a solution. We feel that this time lag is not appropriate.

Since amphibians are a diminishing species, we also feel that part of our duty as citizens is to alert others and our politicians to these problems. Thank you so much for your part in printing Bob Gordon’s article to raise awareness about this issue, which is common to all cities now.

Norah Chaloner, Guelph