What is your ultimate goal?
To create connected corridors of park and protected land systems that run along the Niagara Escarpment from Devil’s Glen, through Blue Mountain to Georgian Peaks and from Castle Glen across to, and up and down, the Beaver Valley. Check out our map to see our vision for protected corridors!
How will the proceeds of your fundraising be used?
Funding is required for a variety of mission critical and interconnected purposes:
- Grassroots awareness building
- Media exposure
- Scientific research and studies
- GIS mapping
- Government lobbying
- Legal and professional services
All board members serve as volunteers and receive no compensation.
Who is on your board?
Our board is comprised of some exceptionally talented, committed and passionate people from across the ECA geography. Our board members are well known and respected in their communities and by major land conservancies. They have held top corporate Canada financial, entrepreneurial and governance roles. The board is structured into more than a dozen ‘portfolios’ with each Director assuming clear mandates.
Some highlights from our founding board:
- The two principals who led the 2004 OMB battle against Castle Glen
- The CEO of the organization that led the buyout of the “Mega Quarry” lands in Dufferin County in 2013 – 6,500 acres of prime farmland that had been under threat of development as an aggregate quarry
- Former leader of marketing & economic development for the Town of Collingwood
- Founding Chairperson / Director of the Georgian Bay Land Trust
- Immediate past Chair of CREST, the Center for Responsible Travel, a unique non-profit with the mission to promote responsible tourism policies and practices so that local communities may thrive and steward their cultural resources and biodiversity
Are you looking for others to join your board?
Yes! We are looking for others passionate and talented individuals to fill a variety of roles including:
- Environmental and Scientific Affairs
- Political Action
- Events and Education
- Director at Large – open portfolio
Please contact us if you are interested and/or know someone who would be a good fit.
How do I learn more about specific board members?
Please contact us and we would be pleased to reach out to you.
How does the work that ECA is doing fit in with other the organizations?
We recognize that there are dozens of not-for-profit organizations dedicated to incredible work - research, conservation, education, recreation and much more - all across the escarpment. While there is much that binds us together the ECA is also unique in several ways:
- Our geographic focus extends beyond local ‘battles’ but is not province-wide or beyond. We are focused on the escarpment and surrounding green space across the greater Southern Georgian Bay area.
- Our mission to “protect” our unique escarpment lands involves a unique mix of education, awareness, political action and strong conservation principles
- Our stakeholder group is being built to create strength in numbers, in diversity and in political and financial clout
Three early examples of collaboration with partner organizations includes:
- Protect Talisman, Friends of The Beaver Valley and the Niagara Escarpment Foundation where the ECA has become an active supporter for the local community’s fight to stop inappropriate development on the escarpment above Talisman and along the floodplains of the Beaver River.
- The Escarpment Biosophere Conservancy where the ECA has already launched discussions with many private landowners about conservation agreement options for their properties.
- The Blue Mountain Watershed Trust – where the ECA will help disseminate their excellent and rigorous scientific work on the ‘environmental disaster’ that could befall Castle Glen to a much broader audience.
We encourage our supporters to recognize the contributions and interconnected value that all these organizations offer and be generous in your support.
Are donations eligible for tax receipts?
Yes! Through out new partnership with the Small Change Fund, donations to ECA are now eligible for a tax receipt. Please ensure to donate to the "Protecting Niagara Escarpment Corridor" project through the Small Change Fund website.
How can I learn more about your work?
Please add your name to our Newsletter and mailing list to receive regular updates.
How can I help?
Please explain how I can become involved in supporting this important cause?
Please Contact Us and let us know how you would like to help? Even ‘spreading the word’ to friends, family and community members you work and play alongside can make a huge difference! Got an idea? Please get in touch … many hands make light work!
I would like to offer financial support. Where can I donate?
We are asking donors to support us through our Go Fund Me page. Every bit of support helps
Donors who wish to speak with a board member directly or who wish to discuss larger donations are asked to Contact Us and our President or ECA Board member in charge of Fundraising would be delighted to meet with you.
The Castle Glen Development
What is the history of the Castle Glen Development?
- 1969 - 87 lots approved for Thunder Hill subdivision
- 1973 – OPA #7 approved with seasonal use only residential development
- 1985 – Niagara Escarpment Plan enacted – OPA #7 grandfathered in
- 2001 – Application for OP amendment
- 2002 – pushed to OMB by Castle Glen Ratepayers and others
- 2004 – OMB decision – Phase 1 (lower half of property) approved
- 2006 (December) – OMB decision – Phase 2 allowed
- 2021 - Castle Glen Development Corporation is sold to Great Gulf Homes, one of Canada’s largest builders
For a more detailed history of Castle Glen click here.
What does the Official Plan permit for the Castle Glen property?
The Blue Mountains Secondary Plan for Castle Glen would allow Great Gulf to develop a resort town encompassing 1600 residential units, a four storey / 300 unit hotel and conference centre, 3 golf courses, 2 resort village centres, 54,000 sq. ft. of retail commercial space, a gas station, a spa and civic, institutional and office space – all in the heart of prime Niagara Escarpment Plan lands.
What makes the Castle Glen property so critical to the integrity of the escarpment corridor?
The Castle Glen property is unique both because of its size – over 1500 acres – and it’s location. Development of the property would create an instant mini city in the heart of a UNESCO Biosphere. The development would irreparably sever the south-north axis of the escarpment going from Devil’s Glen to Georgian Peaks as well as eliminate the western point of the east-west axis between the Beaver Valley and Castle Glen (through Duncan Reserve and Kolopore). The scale, scope and high visibility of this planned urban style development on the brow of the escarpment puts at risk the following provincially significant features and natural assets:
- Contiguous forest cover (70% of the property is still forested)
- Critical wildlife corridors
- Home to many species at risk
- Headwaters of two of the last remaining cold water fisheries on Georgian Bay
- Karst topography (highly porous) overlaying the highly sensitive and threated Amabel aquifer
- Provincially and locally significant wetlands
- Dark skies
- Unknown cultural heritage resources in a section of the escarpment with a rich Indigenous and pioneer history
There is already an Official Plan for Castle Glen. Isn’t it a “done deal”?
Absolutely not. We want to see the Castle Glen development measured against 2022 land use policy not what we knew back in the 1970’s or even in the early 2000’s. Putting a mini-city, golf courses and commercial villages in the heart of sensitive and highly visible NEC lands makes no sense. We can say with certainty that there is absolutely no precedent for such development on the environmentally fragile Niagara Escarpment.
We believe that The Blue Mountains, Grey County, the Niagara Escarpment Commission and the Provincial Government need to revisit this before it is too late and it is lost forever.
The Talisman Development
What is the history of the Talisman development?
The Talisman property initially thrived as a ski resort for many years but has fallen into abandonment and disrepair. The three key parcels of Talisman lands have been through continuous financial struggles and bankruptcies. Ownership of the upper (59 acre) parcel and the lower (75 acre) parcels were assumed by the Municipality of Grey Highlands almost 10 years ago. The fact that repeated efforts to develop and operate the lands at a profit over many years have all failed begs the question; is not the best use of these lands to be integrated into the natural environment with properly scaled improvements of minimal environmental impact?
What makes the Talisman properties so critical to the integrity of the escarpment corridor?
The Talisman property frames the brow of the escarpment and drains into the Beaver River, a treasured natural resource and salmon spawning ground fed by numerous streams on the escarpment hillside. Irresponsible development on these lands would set a dangerous precedent for desecration of similar properties along the entire extent of the escarpment corridor. The importance of continuous, healthy corridors to sustainable biodiverse habitats is now widely accepted. The brow of Talisman is a critical connector piece along the north-south axis of the Beaver Valley and also forms the western end of the east-west axis the ECA is advocating for from Talisman/Beaver Valley through Duncan, Kolopore and ending at Castle Glen. The upper 59 acre parcel is home to the Bruce Trail. Conserving this incredible ‘brow of the escarpment’ parcel contrasts the stark options available: create a permanent home for the Bruce Trail OR hike through a subdivision.
There is a municipal sale agreement in place for the Talisman lands. Isn't this a "done deal"?
We don’t believe so. On February 2, 2022 Grey Highlands council did agree to sell two properties at the top and bottom of the hill to an little known Toronto developer at prices below market value and below a competing offer from The Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy. The parties have an extended closing period and the Protect Talisman lands Association has initiated legal action. We believe that the substantial abuse of public process in this sale continues to leave the door open for the conservation of these incredibly important escarpment lands. The ECA will support and work with the Talisman and Beaver Valley groups to mobilize and make sure that critical public information which has been withheld is made public and subject to full public, planning and environmental scrutiny.
Are there actual examples where developments have been stopped /overturned?
Far too many people believe that nothing can be done to stop inappropriate development. Not us! And not lots of others as well. Want to get inspired? Read a few of the Ontario “success stories” that we plan to emulate.
- Mega Quarry
About Private Land Conservation
Can you help me better understand the private land conservancy part of your vision?
Many private landowners have larger acreage properties that remain mostly undeveloped. In many cases these owners have no intention of ever seeing development occur, preferring their fields and forests to remain healthy natural habitats.
The Escarpment Corridor Alliance has partnered with the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy, the largest Ontario-focused land trust with almost 19,000 acres of protected land over 190 nature reserves (as of Jan 2021) all along the Niagara Escarpment. The ECA is also working to support the excellent work of the Bruce Trail Conservancy as it looks to add properties alongside and adjacent to the Bruce Trail and expand its protected land in perpetuity.
Conservation agreements on these private land holdings could mean the difference between “connected corridors” of natural habitat and isolated pockets of green space. The ECA believes that many landowners have limited awareness of the different conservation options and would love to leave a lasting natural legacy.
What are some actual examples of private landowner land conservation agreements?
Private landowner conservation agreements can take many forms – easements, donations, ecological gifts, sale, partial sale, and many others. It can be done for many different reasons including protection of natural heritage, estate planning and/or addressing potential tax challenges. The Escarpment Corridor Alliance would be pleased to help private landowners understand these options, assess their situations and partner with the land trust of their choice.
Some recent examples: the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy has just announced that it has taken full protection of Springer Congers, a 51 acre parcel that includes Provincially Significant Wetlands in the Grey Highlands that had been under a simple Conservation Agreement since 2010. The Bruce Trail Conservancy has just announced two new Nature Reserves – Eugenia Woods and Balsam Wetlands in the greater Southern Georgian Bay area. Both EBC and BTC are registered environmental charities and are qualified recipients to receive ecological gifts through the eco-gifts program of Environment and Climate Change Canada.
About the UNESCO World Biosphere Designation
What is a UNESCO World Biosphere?
Biosphere reserves represent the world’s important ecosystems and are divided into three zones: a protected core, a buffer zone and a transition zone that sustains sustainable economic and cultural activity. Biospheres are designated by UNESCO to help conserve biodiversity, demonstrate sustainable development and build the local community’s capacity to deal with human and environmental issues. There are 686 UNESCO World Biosphere’s of which 18 are in Canada and 4 in Ontario.
Is the area the ECA is trying to protect part of the UNESCO World Biosphere?
Yes! The area that ECA is focused on is among the most conspicuous and most visited parts of the Niagara Escarpment which was designated as a UNESCO World Biosphere in 1990. The Niagara Escarpment Commission maintains responsibility for the biosphere.
Why does the Niagara Escarpment have the UNESCO World Biosphere designation?
The Niagara Escarpment is the most prominent topographical feature in the province of Ontario. It is the longest continuous natural corridor in densely populated south-central Ontario and boasts spectacular scenery and unparalleled hiking and recreation experiences along the Bruce Trail. The Niagara Escarpment is home to the oldest ecosystem and trees in eastern North America and has some of the greatest biodiversity and highest numbers of species at risk.
Can a UNESCO World Biosphere designation be removed?
Yes. The UNESCO framework provides for reviews* every 10 years. According to UNESCO, 45 sites across 9 countries have been withdrawn from the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (up until July 2018). None have been in Canada.
*The periodic review is an important event in the life of a biosphere reserve. It enables a review, every ten years, of the functioning, zoning, scale of the biosphere reserve as well as the involvement of the populations living in the site. The periodic review represents an opportunity to carry out a qualitative survey of the actions implemented, their results. It’s a time to take stock of progress made by the biosphere reserve, especially as concerns the updating of knowledge, skills and expertise in resource and ecosystem management. It also provides an opportunity to discuss the updating of the zonation system and assess its relevance, question the objectives and means of management policies and examine the issues and problems tied to implementation. It is also a time to discuss weak points. Its objective is to improve the quality of the biosphere reserves and their functioning as sites for testing and demonstrating approaches to sustainable development.
About the Niagara Escarpment & Bruce Trail
Doesn’t the Niagara Escarpment Commission regulate all of this?
Yes they do. However, the ECA believes that some historical decisions, including the NEC’s decision to support the Castle Glen development back in 2004 at the Ontario Municipal Board hearings was a serious missed opportunity to protect a key ‘connector’ piece of NEC lands that, without prior Zoning approval, would never be considered for approval today.
Doesn’t the Bruce Trail already cover the area you are focused on?
The Escarpment Corridor Alliance’s mission is completely aligned and supportive of the Bruce Trails mission of “Preserving a ribbon of wilderness, for everyone, forever’. Moreover, we actively encourage every one of ECA’s supporters to become a paid member of the Bruce Trail Conservancy and support their remarkable work. Two areas where ECA’s work differs from the BTC are (i) our willingness to engage in debate regarding what we believe to be inappropriate developments across sensitive escarpment lands and (ii) our geographic focus which seeks to connect many natural habitats that are not in proximity to, and therefore not a primary focus of, the BTC.