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Cootes to Escarpment alliance looks to future

 

Cootes to Escarpment alliance looks to future

John Best

The Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System, which includes large portions of north Aldershot, is seeking public input on its proposed new strategic plan. The public is invited to comment on the plan before December 19th. The seven-page document, which was recently released, can be viewed at cootestoescarpmentpark.ca/strategic-plan.

“It is essentially an update of our goals and objectives that we set out in 2009”, according to Coordinator Tomasz Wiercioch.

“It’s not a departure or change in direction for us. It’s really more of a plan for continuity and strengthening of the voluntary park alliance and the service of all the agencies in aid of the neighbourhoods that encompass the program”.

Once the public consultation is completed the draft plan will be sent to partner boards and councils for endorsement presumably by spring of 2021.

Cootes to Escarpment is a collaboration of local government and not-for-profit agencies that together own or manage almost 1,900 hectares (4,700 acres) of natural lands. It is dedicated to protecting the public open space and nature sanctuary between Cootes Paradise Marsh, Hamilton Harbour and the Niagara Escarpment. This includes the environmentally sensitive areas and species in north Aldershot.

Wiercioch reports that the biggest challenge the organization continues to face is “ecological connectivity” which is the need to strengthen the links between protected areas and wildlife corridors. That often requires the voluntary support of private land owners.

“North Aldershot is a unique community that lives, works and plays around the EcoPark system partner lands. Our priority is to inspire and share stewardship efforts in the community to make sure that folks who live in north Aldershot know that they can be part of this effort to increase ecological connectivity”, said Wiercioch.

The proposed new strategic plan, which followed a series of consultations and workshops with partner agencies, runs through 2030.

The plan contains five strategic priorities, each with a series of directives. These include: healthy ecosystems, human experience, innovation and discovery, thriving partnerships and financial sustainability.

Among the organization’s goals is the desire to strengthen its relationship with the senior levels of government. Wiercioch reports that partner agencies already receive some senior government support for individual projects and the EcoPark organization as a whole has “ongoing conversations with the Provincial and Federal government agencies about ways that they can contribute”.

The EcoPark program was started by the Bay Area Restoration Council in 2006 and currently has nine partners including the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Region of Halton, the City of Burlington and Conservation Halton.

In a recent report to Halton Council staff advised that “through the Regional Official Plan Review, the Region is considering policies to formalize its partnership with the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System”.

By Rick Craven

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