Minister “very determined” to create a national urban park in Windsor

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The Canadian government signaled strongly on Wednesday that Windsor would get a national urban park, announcing a $ 131 million program to create a network of national urban parks across the country.

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“This is huge, this is a big step forward and it is ancient history,” said MP Irek Kusmierczyk (L – Windsor-Tecumseh) shortly after the announcement in Saskatoon by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson. Windsor was one of the seven communities listed.

Although still in the negotiation stage, the plan for Windsor calls for the consolidation of the various municipal, provincial and federal properties that make up the Ojibway Prairie complex of natural areas. A collaboration agreement was signed last week between the city of Windsor and the federal government. This shows the government’s “strong intention”, Wilkinson told The Star in a telephone interview.

“So we are certainly very determined to move forward towards the creation of a national urban park in Windsor,” he said.

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National urban park?  An aerial view of Ojibway Shores, Windsor's last natural shoreline along the Detroit River, is shown on May 16, 2019.
National urban park? An aerial view of Ojibway Shores, Windsor’s last natural shoreline along the Detroit River, is shown on May 16, 2019. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

He also said he was well aware of the debate over the future of Ojibway Shores, the waterfront land owned by the Windsor Port Authority that local environmentalists and politicians are trying to save from industrial development and retreat. in the Ojibway complex for years. Wilkinson said the collaboration agreement commits the federal government to exploring all options and opportunities in the Ojibway region, “including much of the land used by the port authority or controlled by the port authority.

“We certainly see Windsor as an interesting opportunity to consolidate federal lands (Ojibway Shores), with municipal lands (like Ojibway Park, Black Oak Heritage Park and Spring Garden Natural Area) with potential lands that are provincial (the Provincial Reserve des prairies Ojibway Prairie), as well as leveraging much of Parks Canada’s expertise, ”he said.

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“So (Ojibway Shores) is definitely on the table and it’s part of the conversation we have going forward.”

The Ojibway complex comprises approximately 800 acres of unspoiled land near industrial properties and the border crossing under construction, teeming with rare and endangered species, some not found anywhere else in Canada.

Drew Riach, 35, jogs in Black Oak Heritage Park near wooded Ojibway Shores in Windsor, Ont. On October 24, 2017.
Drew Riach, 35, jogs in Black Oak Heritage Park near wooded Ojibway Shores in Windsor, Ont. On October 24, 2017. Photo by Jason Kryk /Windsor Star

The government is developing these urban parks to address the fact that 72% of the Canadian population live in urban centers where access to nature and wildlife “may be limited”. Wilkinson said urban parks will also try to stem the decline in biodiversity. These parks will not be cookie cutters, he said. Windsor will be very different from Halifax and Saskatoon.

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“We are very flexible. Ultimately what we want is something that works, which will create additional opportunities for people to interact with nature, which will create opportunities to protect some of the biodiversity that exists near the centers. urban areas, but will also create opportunities for tourism.

Mayor Drew Dilkens said Wednesday’s announcement is “the strongest indication” that Parks Canada and the federal government recognize how special the Ojibway complex is as an urban forest. There are private properties nearby – like the old Windsor Raceway site and a property next to Ojibway Shores that is for sale potentially for industrial use – that could be purchased with federal money and added to the resort. . But as it stands, the existing complex with Ojibway Shores could turn into a very large national urban park “which would be absolutely incredible,” once fully developed with trail systems, he said.

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“I think having a national urban park takes the whole Ojibway Prairie complex to a different level.

He said he hopes that when the federal government comes together to reach a final deal, they can find a practical way to resolve the stalemate over Ojibway Shores. The city and port authorities had been involved in a land swap for the property, but it collapsed several months ago. The mayor suggested that the federal government could use a portion of the $ 131 million to compensate the port authority for the land, so that it can be added to the complex and clear the case for good.

MP Brian Masse (NDP – Windsor West), who has long campaigned for a national urban park, pointed out the absurdity of using taxpayer dollars to buy Ojibway Shores from the Port Authority, which is a federally controlled body. He argued that ownership could simply be transferred from one federal entity to another and become part of a new national urban park. He said Wednesday’s announcement was a good start, although he won’t be happy until everything is resolved.

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“This could be something we could talk to our grandchildren about and that’s what’s exciting about it,” he said.

“Obviously, the elephant in the room is still Ojibway Shores, because it’s a mainstay of the whole operation. “

  1. National urban park?  An aerial view of Ojibway Shores, Windsor's last natural shoreline along the Detroit River, is shown on May 16, 2019.

    Jarvis: Ojibway National Urban Park – Getting There

  2. The Detroit River is pictured from Ojibway Shores on Tuesday, August 7, 2018.

    Council Supports Mass Call for Federal Government to Save Ojibway Shores and Create National Urban Park

Who owns the new park, who operates it and what it will look like are still the subject of public discussion and consultation. Kusmierczyk said an important thing to know is that there will be no admission fees unlike conventional national parks.

“It’s an exciting day because it puts us on the right track to create a national urban park in Windsor, it’s huge,” he said.

“We have the lowest tree cover in all of Ontario and we almost lost Ojibway Shores. In just a few short years, seeing us not only creating a national urban park, but also protecting and expanding biodiversity, is great for this community.

bcross@postmedia.com

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