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What’s happening at Fairview?

Simply put the current situation regarding the former Fairview Golf Course property (FFGP) is confusing.  The FFGP is an environmentally significant greenspace strategically situated between the Fairview Shopping Mall and both residential and high-density housing in north St. Catharines.  The property is an active heat sink, recognized wildlife corridor and open space for passive recreation.  It is a vast open greenspace of grass, trees and shrubs that filters and cools our air, absorbs heat and cleans and drains our rainwater. And because of its location it offsets the damaging environmental effects produced by the Fairview Mall Heat Island. And everyone seems to understand, appreciate, and acknowledge this — including our municipal council.  But this is where the confusion begins.

On April 12, 2021 three members of the St. Catharines Environmental Alliance engaged City Council regarding a proposed roadway through the former FFGP as part of the City’s new Transportation Master Plan (TMP). It was an engaging, validating experience in which understanding appeared to be conveyed. The message to Council was, if you construct a roadway through this property, its environmental benefits will become negligible; the heat and the greenhouse gases from the Mall will have the opportunity to travel – unabated – into the neighbouring properties and beyond.

The recommendation to not only reject the proposal for this roadway but to remove it completely from the TMP was accepted by Council.  We believed that this was a positive step in the fight against climate change and an affirmation of the Climate Change Emergency that Council had declared in 2019.  As a group we felt confident that City Council was moving in the right direction.

I am sure that you can then understand our surprise and disappointment when it came to our attention (only a few months later) that an asphalt pathway of considerable size was to be constructed through the heart of the park.  Did we miss something?  Was our understanding of Council’s decision mistaken?  It was quite simply, confusing.

It was our understanding that any works in the park would require a Master Plan, and that public input would be essential in that plan’s composition.  In fact, we were invited at the April Council meeting to be included in that process.

The Fairview property has for some time been identified for it’s unique and geographically important environmental assets.  Providing an alternative voice on issues such as this are a necessary element in a progressive and healthy community.

We understand that pathways, access and egress to the park is warranted.  This is not an accessibility issue.  We welcome and encourage accessibility to all public spaces.  At issue is the process and quite frankly the lack of public input that could have (should have) seen the pathway located along the park borders to avoid as little degradation as possible to the valuable inner park greenspace.

However, our disappointment in the process cannot precede our goal to be part of the solution.

Moving forward it is our hope is that Council will revisit the policy that allowed this process to take place and make the necessary changes to ensure that it does not repeat itself in the future.  We also encourage Council to make the necessary arrangements to begin formulating a Master Plan for this valuable greenspace. 

Put simply, we live in an era influenced by humans to the point that the Earth’s systems are now altered.  Soon, for the first time in history, the number of people with homes in cities will outnumber those living in the countryside. Greenspaces will become an even more vital component of urban life. We must respect them and protect them for the future.  To that end a crucial first step is to preserve and protect the ones we have.

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