Will a third Lake Margaret master plan have us swimming in reports?


city_scope_logo-cmykThere are one or two members of council advocating for fishing and non-motorized boats to be permitted on Lake Margaret. Several of their peers have expressed an interest in whether this is even possible from an environmental point of view.
But, is council as a whole willing to authorize an expenditure of $50,000 to find out if such recreational activities are feasible?
That’s the question Monday night when members delve into a report from Ross Tucker and Adrienne Jefferson from the city’s parks, recreation and property management department.
For a sum of $49,245 plus HST, Ecosystem Recovery Inc. of Kitchener will undertake an environmental assessment of the Lake Margaret area.
The firm offers a diverse range of engineering services to help effectively assess, manage, and restore sensitive water resources infrastructure, according to their website.
Over the past 20 years, two master plans have been created for Lake Margaret, both were conservation-based and both recommended no activity on the lake including swimming, fishing, or recreational watercraft.

An environmental stewardship committee was struck and held its first meeting three years ago this month and has completed several initiatives including clean up, regenerative planting and goose control.
The environmental assessment plan undertaken in 2010 was based on the premise of no swimming, fishing, or recreational boating.

Lake Margatet water quality studyjpg

The parks and recreation report to council on Monday advises, “The existing plan reflects a largely historical use which may not be of today’s mindset.”
The report continues, “The recreational use of the lake has changed since this report was commissioned. The city should look to do a study that looks at the lake holistically.
“The new plan should evaluate the environmental features of the lake and if these features could provide recreation opportunities at minimal risk to the surrounding terrestrial lands and fish population.”

“Provided you follow some basic rules and respect the wildlife and places you visit, canoeing has a very low impact on the natural environment.”

As to permitting boating on Lake Margaret, “several points need to be considered, including what are the
environmental impacts of these activities. Canoeing is a generic term used to refer to any kind of human-powered paddle boating, including kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.
“Provided you follow some basic rules and respect the wildlife and places you visit, canoeing has a very
low impact on the natural environment. Unlike motorboats, paddleboats use no fuel and therefore cause no pollution.
“There is also no wash so they don’t contribute to shoreline erosion, and they’re silent so there’s no noise pollution either. As with any outdoor activity, canoeing encourages people of all ages to learn about nature by engaging with and experiencing it first-hand.”
Swimming has not been proposed and the report notes, “Swimming should not be permitted as regular water testing is required for public use. This includes collecting regular water samples to test for levels of E. coli bacteria.”

“Depending on the outcome of the report, council will then need to decide on recreational usage on Lake Margaret.”

Skating proved popular this past winter amid the pandemic and, no doubt, this will not be curbed no matter what the environmental assessment determines.
City staff have determined parking can be accommodated as “Lake Margaret Trail is a wide collector road built to accommodate parking on both sides. The west side of the collector is well suited to provide recreational access and viewing access to the natural area. There is a very large supply of on-street spaces versus potential demand for a passive use park.”
The environmental assessment proposed by Ecosystem Recovery would assess fish species and populations, water quality, biological conditions, amphibian and reptile populations and risk to birds and plants.
The city has worked with Ecosystem Recovery in the past “on the restoration of the Lily Ponds at Waterworks Park and is very confident that their proposal will bring a conclusion as to whether the Lake can sustain recreational activities.
“Depending on the outcome of the report, council will then need to decide on recreational usage on Lake
Margaret.”
But first, there is that small matter of authorizing a $50,000 expenditure for the environmental assessment to join the two previous master plans that did not recommend opening up the lake for recreational use.

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REMOVING BARRIERS TO TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS

Based on a minuscule response from 76 participants in an online survey, the city appears poised to eliminate its existing taxi bylaw.
The electronic survey indicated 78 per cent of respondents would prefer to see more ride-sharing options.
Sixty-six per cent felt opening up the market would provide more choices in transportation.
And, 67 per cent felt it would result in better value for money.

“Private transportation is a necessary part of city-wide accessible mobility and that by reducing bureaucracy and licensing fees this will remove barriers and result in greater choice and flexibility in meeting the needs of the public.”

In a report to council Monday from Justin Lawrence, director of environmental services he notes, “The increasing popularity of ride-sharing concepts has challenged the need for current policies across the world in favour of adopting a more open market philosophy.”
In Elgin county, only Aylmer has an existing taxi bylaw while the remaining municipalities in the county do not regulate private transportation.
As to some of the implications resulting from the elimination of the taxi bylaw, St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services noted “this change would give our department more transportation options and allow us to better manage the costs associated with the service.”
The St. Thomas Police Service expressed “no concerns at our end as long as public safety is not jeopardized.”
And the St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation indicated it “supports any initiative that facilitates mobility or potentially reduces the cost of transportation in and around the city.”
As expected, the two taxi operators in the city are opposed to the elimination of the taxi bylaw and their letters of disagreement have been presented in this corner (refer to the related posts links below).
Lawrence concludes, “Private transportation is a necessary part of city-wide accessible mobility and that by reducing bureaucracy and licensing fees this will remove barriers and result in greater choice and flexibility in meeting the needs of the public.”
By directing staff to prepare a new bylaw to be known as the Private Transportation Bylaw, city residents will be transported into the 21st-century reality of ride-sharing options.

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EFFECTIVE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR MUNICIPAL COUNCILS

Six weeks ago we advised the province is launching consultations with the municipal sector to strengthen accountability for council members. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing indicated, “The province wants to ensure that councillors and heads of council maintain a safe and respectful workplace and carry out their duties as elected officials in an ethical and responsible manner.”

“It’s critical that everyone knows there are accountability measures in place for members who violate municipal codes of conduct. Our consultation will help determine what changes, if any, are required to ensure everyone can feel safe and respected in the workplace.”

Well, on Wednesday (April 14) the province announced it has launched a 90-day consultation to obtain feedback on how to strengthen municipal codes of conduct. With the support of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), the province is working to better ensure that municipalities, councillors and heads of council maintain a safe and respectful workplace.
Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues stresses, “Our government has been absolutely clear that we will not tolerate workplace harassment or discrimination of any kind.
“It’s critical that everyone knows there are accountability measures in place for members who violate municipal codes of conduct. Our consultation will help determine what changes, if any, are required to ensure everyone can feel safe and respected in the workplace.”
In conjunction with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), the province is collecting feedback on AMO’s recommendations for holding municipal councillors accountable, including increased financial penalties, suspension for certain violations, removal from office in certain circumstances, and better training and standards for integrity commissioners.

“Where there are serious code of conduct violations, municipal councils need the authority to take actions that are measured, appropriate and effective.”

And not just a slap on the wrist as was the case at city hall two years ago when an unnamed member of council was the subject of a signed complaint from a city employee alleging an individual of the opposite sex removed a cell phone from a hip pocket, brushed their body against the complainant’s back and casually touched a forearm and elbow multiple times, making the employee feel very uncomfortable.
Mark McDonald, the city’s contracted integrity commissioner concluded, “There is no doubt that this encounter has caused emotional stress and violates council’s Code of Conduct.”
The punishment meted out: all members of council – not just the respondent – undertake sensitivity training.
Was this undertaken and documented?
AMO President Graydon Smith notes, “Where there are serious code of conduct violations, municipal councils need the authority to take actions that are measured, appropriate and effective.”
Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing encourages all residents of the province to participate in this process “and share their thoughts and comments on how to bring effective accountability to municipal governments.
“We must ensure that the right tools are available and that above all people feel safe and supported.”
To participate in the survey, visit https://www.ontario.ca/form/survey-strengthening-accountability-municipal-council-members

Related post:

Is the province interfering in or ensuring compliance with municipal codes of conduct?

PUTTING THE CHILDCARE BRAKES ON FULL STOP

While city council unanimously endorsed a motion Monday (April 12) from city manager Wendell Graves to kill the proposed 88-space childcare centre on St. Catharine Street, several members expressed disappointment at the turn of events.
Leading the charge was Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands who, in expressing her disapproval, said applying the brakes full stop on the childcare facility is disappointing in the least.
St. Thomas Child Care“What many of the pundits are saying is that toward economic prosperity, we are needing more and more childcare spaces so that people can become engaged back into the workforce. And, to see this come to such a stop is very disappointing.”
Once we get on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, continued Coun. Baldwin-Sands, the need for childcare spaces in St. Thomas will only become greater.
“I, too, am going to express my disappointment because of how far this project has gone and now before we are at the end of it, the brakes have been put on full stop. I believe once COVID-19 (is over) and we get on the other side of that, the demand for childcare spaces is going to increase.”
As to what will happen to the property across from the former Colin McGregor Justice Building, Graves indicated he will have an update for council shortly “with some alternate plans for that site because we think it is a prime site and we’d like to see it redeveloped as well with everything that is happening in that neighbourhood.”
Mayor Joe Preston loves to point to the city’s strategic plan as the way forward for St. Thomas however there appears to be no priority given to the provision of additional childcare spaces.
So, increased childcare spaces are not a critical component of a compassionate, vibrant and thriving community?

Related post:

Childcare spaces disappear as the result of a ‘soft’ business case

 

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