Saturday, October 31, 2009

Kids get right to the point: 533+ Facebook page members

Well, last June, when all this absurdity finally became public, I put together a Facebook page called "Save Elmira's Victoria Glen Park" the same time I started this blog. There are 54 members of that group, with some polite reminiscences by people who had grown up nearby.

I guess I'm old and not near forceful enough: one of the high school students who lives on the east side of the Victoria Glen Park forest started another Facebook page this week, this one called "THEY'RE TEARING DOWN ELMIRA'S FOREST ANYWAY! STOP THEM!!"

He's already got 533 members and has had a pretty passionate online discussion going since last Tuesday - with lots of posts expressing young people's appreciation and valuing of the woods.

Go visit if you can!
Sounds like more than a few of them plan to come to the meeting too.

(Sample discussion posts:

"that land is full of animals and walking trails. in the swinter you can skate on the creek. you can take a friend on date to the big white rock or watch the fish eat bugs. please dont take this from us."

I talk to these guys and they're most courteous about listening. The trees, that is, not the people tearing them down.

Nooo not the forest too many memories")

New sets of photographs

I just added links (over in the right margin - scroll down to the "Links" section) to three new sets of photographs. The October photos I took this past week, walking through the woods. The September picnic ones are by Laurie Jonkman, and the July "It's not easy being green" blog entry, full of photographs, is from the "In the Wind" blog by Laurel Russwurm.

I thought those of you who know the woods would enjoy these and appreciate the reminder of what we're fighting for. And those visitors, just stopping by to check us out, can see that this isn't just a bit of fairly new plantation woods, but a precious natural space loved by many.

(The photo at the top of this post is from Laurie's photos from the September picnic. It really is too bad none of the township councillors who were invited to join us could attend - it was a beautiful day in the woods.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Elmira Newspapers: "it is our hope that Woolwich councillors will do what is right, not what can be justified"

Both Elmira newspapers -- the Elmira Independent and the Woolwich Observer -- feature both news stories and editorials relating to the fight over the fate of Victoria Glen Park and the upcoming Tuesday council meeting (at 6 at the Woolwich Township Hall).

The stories are clear on the issues and on the passion of Elmira and area citizens on the unacceptability of developing one of the few remaining pieces of real natural space in the town of Elmira.

The editorials, while giving a nod to the difficult position staff was in preparing the report, recognize that council can still act in wisdom and on the wishes of the citizens they were elected to represent and decline the recommendations for development.

The Independent editor writes that, if they do decide to reject development, it's true they'll have to find another way to pay for the capital expenditures, "Yet, that seems like a small price to pay in exchange for keeping something that cannot ever be replaced, once it is gone."

And the Observer observes that "If councillors are tuned in to the public sentiment, the proposal is dead in the water, but governments aren’t always responsive to community demands."

Here are the links:
"Staff report supports development of park" (Independent news story)
"Victoria Glen Park must be preserved" (Independent editorial)
"Showdown looms over Victoria Glen development plan" (Observer news story)
"Park debate shape of things to come" (Observer editorial)

The Observer cartoon, "The View From Here", reproduced above, has the caption: "The ax-or-tax dilemma: Victoria Glen supporters face $1.5-million “treat: or a level-the-park “trick.”" Note the lumberjack's nametag - and his "Tricks for you, treats for me" balloon. Sounds about right to me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Decisions on Victoria Glen Park due at BOTH council meetings: BE THERE

I received an email today from Laurel Davies-Snyder, Woolwich Township Economic Development & Tourism Officer and author of the report recommending development in the Victoria Glen Park woods.

She clarified that there would actually be decisions made BOTH on November 3rd and November 10th:
"I was reviewing the Victoria Glen blog and noticed that it states that only discussion will take place on November 3rd, and the vote will take place on November 10th. This is not accurate and I wanted to make sure that you had the correct information prior to the November 3rd, 2009 meeting, as follows:
* At this point there may be votes on November 3rd, 2009 (Committee of the Whole voting on the recommendations to bring the decisions forward to Council) AND on November 10th, 2009 (Council voting on Committee of the Whole recommendations)."

This is important to know -- as well as the fact that the public is welcome to both meetings (and, in each case, delegations must register by the Thursday before the meeting - which is tomorrow -- the 29th of October -- for the first meeting).

We need to see you there to bring a very, very clear response to the report that is being presented to Council: there is not enough fact or moral rationale presented to justify destroying any of that woods for development when hundreds and hundreds of residential lots have already been approved just west of town.

And paying for the already-built hockey rink by destroying just as valuable a resource for "healthy community" living -- another supposed township "priority" -- is NOT representing the "spirit of hockeyville" the council endorsed last year.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Read the township report! (available in many formats)

Woolwich Township staff released their report today, recommending that nearly 3 acres of the most accessible and most used section of Victoria Glen Park be surplussed and sold for residential development.

The report is available from the Township office in print, as a pdf copy on the township website, and now, one of our loyal Friends of the Park has posted the text online (in case you have trouble with the pdf file) on (she also has photographs from our September picnic posted at the end of the page, as well).

Make sure everyone you know has access to a copy, reads it, and lets the Township know this just isn't acceptable!

Here it is: report recommends development

At 9:13 a.m., the email from Woolwich Township's Economic Development & Tourism Officer, Laurel Davies-Snyder, came through with the staff report on surplussing Victoria Glen Park attached.

Here's the report in pdf format:
Here's the link to the Township page, with the meeting announcements and other links:

In my naive optimism, I had thought they were listening to the community. In fact, the report recommends what they call "balanced development" - which looks like it means they're going to put big houses on both sides of the trail at the top of the woods and leave the rest. (the rest?)

I urge everyone to read the whole report, contact the Township Council with your reactions (the link to the right has their email addresses and telephone numbers, as well as the town hall address to which you can send letters.) and get ready to work together to stop this.

Also consider writing to the local newspapers -- the Elmira Independent, the Woolwich Observer, even the Record. Next weekend's papers would be the only local ones before the meeting, so letters should be in by midweek.

Note on the procedure:
They will be considering this report at the November 3rd council meeting (starts at 6 pm), but won't be voting until the next week, on November 10th (that meeting starts at 7 pm).

PLEASE attend both meetings.
And if you want to speak, remember to register by the Thursday before the meeting.

More later.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Alert: Report & Meeting Coming

I got two emails yesterday from Laurel Davies-Snyder, the Township Economic Development & Tourism Officer (in the CAO's office) who's in charge of the Victoria Glen surplus project.

#1, concerning the staff report on the surplussing of Victoria Glen Park:
"The Staff Report will be complete late this week and will be posted on the Township's website as soon as it is ready. In addition, I will send it to you in a PDF format. There will also be copies of the report at the Township Administration Building."

As soon as it's available, we need to spread the word to people without email to go pick up a copy. If you have email and haven't heard from her, email her at to request a pdf copy of the report when it comes out. I'll make sure and post the report and/or a link to the township webpage when it's available.

#2, I emailed her last evening about details for the Council meeting to discuss the report, and received this reply this morning:
"The meeting is on November 3rd, 6pm. Council will be considering Township Staff's recommendations and will vote. Yes, there are opportunities to speak as a delegation."

So: we need to make sure we pack that hall like we did last time, and everyone who wants to say something, be sure to register with the township to speak (from the township website: "Your request to appear as a delegation at any Committee or Council Meeting should be received by the Clerk by 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday before the meeting [that would be Thursday, October 29th] so that you may be listed on the agenda. To register as a delegation call 519-669-1647 Extension 6009 or 6005." Each individual speaker is considered a "delegation".)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Our moral responsibility: to protect natural spaces

This email came from a concerned Elmira friend - one with much experience (and advanced degrees) in environmental matters:

"This is not just 'greenspace' we are trying to save but an even rarer bird 'natural space', and there is not much left of it around here. Along with freshwater, it is our societal/moral responsibility to protect these spaces. Surplus greenspace is an oxymoron; surplussing natural space is just moronic!"

An important factual point.
A pointed observation!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Report Due at November 3 Council Meeting: Scary procedures in place

OK, so we finally have a date for the council meeting at which the Report on surplussing Victoria Glen Park for development will be considered: November 3.

Concerned neighbours have been pushing township staff to let us know both details about the meeting and about when the report itself will be available. Here is some of that information, from one of the very involved Victoria Glen Park neighbours:

"At this point we have now been told that the report will NOT be mailed out. We have to pick it up. It is 30 pages long. It looks like they have contacted various groups (i.e., GRCA, etc.) to get their input. It should be ready the Tuesday before. [that would be October 27th - two weeks from today]

I certainly hope that the township office will follow through by advertising this in the local papers or phoning all who requested it. Perhaps if you were one who wanted the report, it would not hurt to start bugging Laurel Davies-Snyder about how you are going to get it!

Here is the cruncher...Apparently if we do have the meeting on Nov. 3 it is OUR LAST CHANCE TO TALK. Unless deferred, they will vote that night. (At least this is what Laurel says.) Sometimes I get several versions of how the council process is supposed depending on who I talk to up there. I might email councillors to see how they think it is supposed to go.

This means we have one week from when we get the report to deciding what we are going to say. I just wanted to update you all so you can start thinking about our next strategies.

I would like to still think that despite the fact that it might look good (worst case) as a development on paper, the PEOPLE OF ELMIRA HAVE SAID NO! It worked for Kitchener!!!
Trees forever folks!!!"

I'll keep people updated: in the meantime, do get in contact with your township councillors (contact information is available in the links in the right-hand column) and with Laurel Davies-Snyder, the township's Economic Development & Tourism Officer, at 519-669-1647, extension 6020 or 519-669-2030.

The difficulty in getting the report and the possible finality of a decision only a week after it's made public are just plain frightening. (Interesting detail, looking at the Council meeting calendar on the website: this is NOT one of their televised council meetings...)

What else can we do to ensure that Victoria Glen Park is re-zoned park/greenspace forever?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Earlier this week, I noticed that one of the agenda item's for the recent Woolwich council meeting was to approve borrowing $3.72 million to pay for the outstanding balance on the new community centre and the townhall renovations. A little voice in my head whispered, "hooray," hoping this meant the Township had decided to look elsewhere than the destruction of our woods for the funds it needed.

Well, not quite. The Observer reports that, while they did approve this debenture through the Region,
"There is, however, one remaining issue: the township is depending on $1.6 million from the sale of surplus properties as part of the financing package. The larger assets include the old township halls and the former Elmira pool property, but most contentious is a plan to sell part of Victoria Glen Park as a site for residential development in Elmira’s north end. In the wake of strong public opposition, the township is now looking at alternatives for replacing funds expected from that development. A report is due later this month."

So, we still have to convince the Township councillors that cutting down those trees for development, and thereby rendering the rest of the woods virtually inaccessible for use by the public, is not acceptable. They have to know that there are huge community, environmental, economic, aesthetic, heritage reasons to re-zone the woods as permanent parkland - and not to sacrifice it for their building projects after the fact.

(Township Council contact information is available in the links on the right.)