Windsor National Urban Park is close to a sure thing, Minister says

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Much work remains to be done before Windsor can boast of having a national urban park encompassing the Ojibway Prairie complex, but a federal minister said during a visit to the city on Monday that it was almost a done deal.

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“Today is to say that there is going to be a national urban park here,” Karina Gould (L – Burlington) told reporters after announcing that a “declaration of collaboration” had been signed between Parks Canada and the Municipality to initiate negotiations and the community and Indigenous Consultations. The Minister of International Development was in Windsor on behalf of John Wilkinson, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, who announced last week that similar discussions would be underway with several other Canadian cities.

“The good news is we have the money and we have a plan,” Gould said on a hot day in the shade of huge Carolinian trees outside the Ojibway Nature Center.

Canada currently has only one such offering, Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto, but as part of the Liberal government’s commitment to the climate crisis and to conserve and protect 25% of lands and inland waters of the country by 2025, it has pledged to spend $ 130 million over the next five years to create a national network of urban parks.

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It’s a very good day, a very good day

Mayor Drew Dilkens and others have emphasized how critical it is that Ojibway Shores, the forest link between existing protected areas and the Detroit River, be included in such a national park. In a press release Monday, Parks Canada only said that federal and municipal negotiators “will also be looking at possibilities of including adjacent properties.”

Irek Kusmiercyzk, Member of Parliament for Windsor-Tecumseh, speaks at a press conference announcing the signing of a declaration of collaboration to explore the potential of a national urban park in the Ojibway Prairie complex on Monday, August 9, 2021.
Irek Kusmiercyzk, Member of Parliament for Windsor-Tecumseh, speaks at a press conference announcing the signing of a declaration of collaboration to explore the potential of a national urban park in the Ojibway Prairie complex on Monday, August 9, 2021. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

Dilkens told reporters after Monday’s announcement that he was happy Wilkinson said “Ojibway Shores is definitely on the table.” The Windsor Port Authority, which owns the industrial zoned waterfront lands, is supporting the city’s efforts, but has said it needs compensation in the form of a property swap.

“Ojibway Shores is a crucial property that makes all of this work,” said MP Brian Masse (NDP – Windsor West), one of many local, provincial and federal politicians who joined environmentalists and others in the process. of the ad. “Charging city taxpayers for land already owned by taxpayers is ludicrous,” Masse said.

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But everyone in attendance seemed to agree with MP Irek Kuzmierczyk (L – Windsor-Tecumseh), who introduced the minister and other speakers and described it as a historic day for the city. He thanked a long list of groups, activists and leaders who made Monday’s announcement possible. On that list was Masse, who he said urged him in his first week as an MP (after the 2019 federal election) to get involved in the Ojibway Shores case.

“It’s a game changer… we’re one step closer,” Kusmierczyk said of the “one-of-a-kind” national urban park that will be created.

“This is the best news in two decades,” said Nancy Pancheshan of Save Ojibway, among many who have fought for decades against the real and potential threats to Windsor’s largest natural expanse, home to rare and endangered plant and animal species found nowhere else in Canada. . She recalled some of those battles – and not so long ago – against the city’s proposal to bypass underground trucks via Ojibway, as well as against a developer’s city-approved plan for large-scale development. surface at Ojibway Gate.

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“It’s a very good day, a very good day,” said Paul Pratt, longtime former City of Windsor naturalist and leader of the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens speaks at a press conference announcing the signing of a declaration of collaboration to explore the potential of a national urban park in the Ojibway Prairie complex on Monday, August 9, 2021.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens speaks at a press conference announcing the signing of a declaration of collaboration to explore the potential of a national urban park in the Ojibway Prairie complex on Monday, August 9, 2021. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

Ottawa’s participation opens up new opportunities, according to those who participated in the announcement. Parts of Ojibway Parkway are still separated from other parts of the complex, but Dilkens called a consultant’s recent proposal to cross motorized traffic lanes with a wildlife bridge “nonsense,” but which would lead to at a fenced train station.

“No one in city council would approve of… letting animals fall on the tracks,” he told The Star. Such an overpass is important, he said, but the current “preferred” option, set at $ 13 million, is a no-starter. Such a viaduct could be part of the upcoming negotiations.

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  1. A sign indicating the Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve at the west end of Windsor is posted on June 29, 2021.

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

  2. MP Brian Masse speaks at a press conference outside a property connected to the Ojibway Shores on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. He is concerned about the potential sale of the land.

    MP protests as land near Ojibway Shores goes up for industrial sale

  3. Michelle Mainwaring provided an update to David Cree, President and CEO of the Windsor Port Authority on the issue of Ojibway Shores development at Mackenzie Hall on Wednesday July 3, 2013. Mainwaring drew a partial standing ovation from the crowd. more than 200 people.  (NICK BRANCACCIO / The Windsor Star)

    The future of Ojibway Shores is no longer so clear (with video)

  4. Nancy Pancheshan, of the Save Ojibway organization, speaks at a city council meeting on Monday, June 17, 2013 regarding a big-box development next to the Ojibway prairie.  (DAN JANISSE / The Windsor Star)

    City reaffirms support for Ojibway superstore proposal

  5. An aerial view of the Ojibway Parkway where a wildlife crossing project is under consideration, Wednesday April 28, 2021.

    Wildlife ‘favorite’ crossing on Ojibway Parkway reportedly cost $ 13 million, stopping at rail tracks

Essex Region Conservation Authority CAO Tim Byrne told Star Monday he looks forward to community engagement and his organization is already considering the potential to restore and protect even more of adjacent lands. The Ojibway Prairie Complex currently comprises a patchwork of locally and provincially protected plots totaling approximately 350 hectares (865 acres).

“We are pursuing this now and actively discussing this,” Byrne said of the talks. with neighbors, including the owner of another waterfront property immediately east of Ojibway Shores.

Unlike Point Pelee and other Parks Canada assets, National Urban Parks will not have entry fees, but will be open to all and will serve nature, education and “community well-being.” Gould said. A “key element” of this type of collaboration, she added, is that the lands contained in such a federal designation are protected forever.

dschmidt@postmedia.com

twitter.com/schmidtcity

Map of the Ojibway complex.
Map of the Ojibway complex. Photo of the city of Windsor /Windsor Star

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