Now Offering Charitable Tax Receipts!

The Escarpment Corridor Alliance has come a remarkable distance since our formal launch on March 1st – public recognition, political awareness, and so much more. With critical municipal elections coming on October 24th we need your support more than ever.

And, BIG NEWS, we are now able to offer charitable tax receipts to any donors as of Tuesday September 13th! The ECA has just formalized a wonderful partnership with Small Change Fund to allow our donors, small and large, to stretch the value of their contributions.

Small Change Fund has helped 100’s of not-for-profits like the ECA, expand their reach to a broader donor base and into family foundations and other funding sources. This will mean an end to our GoFundMe page so, on behalf of all our great board members, I would like to offer a huge thank you for our GFM donors to date who have believed in our mission of a green escarpment forever. We hope that many of you will continue your financial support of the ECA as we move into the second phase of our work which will require major investments in professionals for scientific, planning, legal and educational work as well as in growing our supporter base through an expanding number of channels and strategies. We’ve had a great start … now it’s time to move into high gear!

Again, as of Tuesday September 13th all ECA donations will be eligible for charitable  tax receipts with all proceeds going directly to our work which is 100% volunteer driven. For our project, Small Change Fund is happy to accept on-line contributions, cheques and gifts of securities. Please reach out if you have any questions or want to discuss larger donations.

Every donation is appreciated and will be used to keep our escarpment green!

 Escarpment WILDHOOD Festival Sept. 24, 12-5 PM!

MEDIA RELEASE

 ESCARPMENT WILDHOOD FESTIVAL SEPT. 24 ,12 – 5 PM

Protecting the Future of the Escarpment in Southern Georgian Bay and Saluting Science Literary Week

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September 6, 2022, Kimberley, Town of the Blue Mountains…..The first annual Escarpment WILDHOOD Festival, inspired by The WILDHOOD Festival,  the U.K. multi award-winning festival for children and families, will bring together local environmental groups at Blue Mountain Wild School’s campus location on the Kimbercote Farm property.  The objective of the festival is to raise awareness of the many environmental issues threatening the Niagara Escarpment of South Georgian Bay and its catchment area.

Starting at noon on Sat. Sept. 24, the free festival will salute Science Literacy Week and will be a fun, adventurous and educational day that will include a nature scavenger hunt, obstacle course and other fun kids programming; a vendor village featuring many local businesses; food, refreshments and a performance by The Thirsty Boys.  There will be an opportunity to learn about the many environmental challenges currently unfolding in numerous locations throughout South Georgian Bay from the groups in attendance including:  Blue Mountain Watershed Trust, Friends of Silver Creek, Harbour West Residents Group, Protect Talisman Lands, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and Save Georgian Bay.

“We want to bring families, young and older adults together for a fun, educational day, introduce them to our school and engage them in the bigger conversation regarding the importance of the environment. Only by teaching and learning about the gravity of the pending environmental crisis in and around the Escarpment, will we start to illicit change,” said Jeff Barrett, Founder/Executive Director of Blue Mountain Wild School and co-organizer of the Escarpment WILDHOOD Festival.

David Scoon, Member of the Board of Directors of the Escarpment Corridor Alliance and co-organizer of the Escarpment WILDHOOD Festival said, “we continue to be alarmed by oversized, short-sighted and irresponsible development.  Whether it is Castle Glen, Talisman or the Silver Creek Wetland, precious forests and habitats for endangered species will be destroyed if we don’t educate and inform those around us.  We hope that many folks will come out and learn how they can help save these valuable resources.”

Opportunities to offer donations or to volunteer support will be available on-site.  Parking will be available and follow signage to the site which is located at 316362 3rd Line, Kimberley, ON N0C 1G0.

The event page is live on Facebook, click here for more information and to let the organizers know you’re coming!

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For further information:

Katherine Holmes

416-919-6310

kholmes@holmespr.com

The Elephant on the Escarpment

Let’s call a spade a spade. For over 50 years now, the Castle Glen development, in one form or another, has been “on the books.” Yet, when it comes to the Town of the Blue Mountains politicians and staff, it has long remained the proverbial elephant on the Escarpment. None of them want to touch it. “Keep quiet and maybe it will go away,” has been the historical approach. Castle Glen shows up on page 283 of the Official Plan. It appears a few times in passing and parentheses in the BLUEPRINT, the Town’s 2022 Official Plan Review publications. Population projections through 2046 in the same BLUEPRINT documents don’t even include Castle Glen. As if this will magically make it all disappear!

The Escarpment Corridor Alliance (ECA) wants you to know that Castle Glen is NOT just “another development,” and without our efforts it won’t magically disappear.

Let’s put things in context.

Five Fast Facts

Developed as planned, Castle Glen would represent:

  1. The single largest development in the history of the Town of the Blue Mountains.
  2. The single largest development in the future Official Plan planning period (2022–2046) of the Town.
  3. An increase in population that would exceed the total cumulative population growth for the Town over the past 15-year period (2006–2021).
  4. An urban area with a population 10–20% greater than Thornbury (based on 2021 census data).
  5. The single largest new development on the brow and prominent Escarpment slopes in the province of Ontario since the creation of the Niagara Escarpment Commission (the “NEC”) in 1973.

But there’s more. The biggest “single largest” is the most dispiriting of all – given its size, strategic location as part of the escarpment corridor and its exceptional ecological value, the Castle Glen development would be the single most environmentally destructive development, not just in the history of the Blue Mountains, but in the history of the Niagara Escarpment.

Oh, by the way, because the Castle Glen development is masquerading behind resort residential zoning (my emphasis) the developers can be exempt from the planning for infrastructure, schools, libraries, EMS services that would normally be associated with such an urban area.

The ECA is saying “enough is enough.” Our lawyer, David Donnelly, will be submitting our formal response to the recently issued Staff Report on the History and Current Status of Castle Glen Property on Friday August 19th. The ECA will then be making a formal deputation to Town Council when they receive the report on Tuesday August 30th.

From now on, we want Council, Staff and Blue Mountains residents to call the proposed Castle Glen development exactly what it is: a huge and irreparably destructive new urban development on the brow of the UNESCO designated Niagara Escarpment Biosphere.

Goodbye elephant!

Having spent the past two decades trying to fight this phantom development there have been many very frustrating moments. Today, I am filled with hope that common sense will prevail. It is 2022 and we do know better!

Do you want to make a difference? Here’s how you can help:

  1. Your voice – show up to Blue Mountain Council on August 30th.
  2. Your donations – every dollar helps, especially as we begin to engage legal counsel and professionals and amplify our messaging.
  3. Your support – please volunteer, sign our petition, register for our newsletter and spread the word to friends, families and your communities.

With gratitude,

Bruce Harbinson

President, Escarpment Corridor Alliance

Talisman Update Part II: Beaver Valley Development Group Presents to Council

Westway, working under the new name, Beaver Valley Development Group (BVDG) presented to Grey Highlands Council on August 3 – watch from the 1:08 mark. While short on substance the presentation was long on buzzwords such as sustainable, wellness, collaboration, listening and ecotourismWhile nothing specific was shared it is very clear that they are intent on moving forward with significant development on farmland and Beaver River watershed lands at the Talisman site.

While BVDG continues to perpetuate the myth, started by Grey Highlands staff and Council, that they will “revitalize” the old Talisman resort, this is puzzling as they do not own that property, but bought the pristine farmland and watershed/floodplain properties that sandwich the Talisman resort and old ski hill. In response to a question, BVDG indicated they were attempting to reach an agreement with the owners of the resort property. We don’t know the nature of this agreement.

The presenters were very careful to say that they have “no vision and no plan” but yet have been meeting with the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority, the Niagara Escarpment Commission, and the Bruce Trail ConservancyThe developers also thanked Grey Highlands staff for their guidance and support. If there is “no vision and no plan”, which they say is to be developed in consultation with the community, what have they have been discussing with our representatives and officials tasked with protecting the Escarpment?

Apparently, community consultation to inform the vision and plan is tentatively scheduled to begin in September. It is important that the community continues to be deeply and actively engaged to promote a green Beaver Valley and Escarpment, and to protect our environment, farmlands, rivers and watersheds.

Many questions remain:

  • What will be developed and where will it be built?
  • How will this development affect the existing redevelopment plans for the original Talisman resort?
  • How will development affect local neighbours in Amik, Kimberley and at the top of the hill?
  • What will be the costs to taxpayers to develop the access roads and bridges along 7A so they can handle years of construction equipment and hundreds of more cars?
  • How will sewage and water capacity be expanded to handle the development and at what cost?
  • How will development on farmland at the top of hill, which is on Karst, affect the municipal water treatment plant which draws from this area to supply Amik?
  • Will the developer be required to fund a substantive new flood plain study as the 1995 study for the site is outdated, and does not incorporate climate change or Eugenia Dam releases? See Kate Lazier’s excellent presentation on this subject to GSCA here.

–This is the second blog in our update on the sale of the Talisman Public Lands. Once again, we were fortunate to receive this update from our friends at the Protect Talisman Lands Association. The PTLA and ECA are aligned in our fight to keep the Escarpment green by stopping inappropriate developments, such as the one proposed on the Talisman Public Lands.

The PTLA thanks you all for your continued engagement and donations.  All help of time and money is extremely appreciated and is tax deductible through our Small Change Fund project. Donate here to support the PTLA’s fight to protect the Talisman Public Lands.

Talisman Update: What Now That the Land’s Been Sold?

This June saw the final closing of the controversial sale of the municipally owned lands sandwiching the former Talisman Resort to Westway Capital, a GTA-based group that has informally proposed a significant resort and residential development.

The land known as Talisman sits on the slope of the Niagara Escarpment protected lands, just outside of the hamlet of Kimberley, in the Beaver Valley Corridor, a picturesque, 40-kilometre stretch of the Beaver River Valley tightly enclosed on two sides by the Niagara Escarpment.

As tourist traffic shifted to Blue Mountain in the early 2000s, Talisman fell on hard times and declared bankruptcy in 2011. At that time the Municipality of Grey Highlands retained ownership of the lands above and below the resort—agricultural land and the Bruce Trail at the top and the former golf course on the river floodplain at the bottom.

The 3rd section contains the former ski hill and resort buildings, and has been owned since 2011 by another company, which has plans to revitalize the resort, including a spa. To date this development is working within the existing sewage, water and road infrastructure.

In 2020 the municipality announced plans to more aggressively market the lands to “maximize development potential.” In May of 2021, a GTA-based group of investors and real estate developers named Westway Capital approached Council with a proposal to buy the two properties and develop them.  While at least one offer at a higher price was made, by the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy, it was not accepted. Most Council meetings concerning the sale were in private and minutes are not available.

The sale went ahead despite widespread public opposition and concerns about a lack of transparency by Council. A survey found the 72% of respondents were opposed to the sale and 75% thought the municipality was not acting in the best interest of its residents.

In the ensuing year, many community groups have come forward seeking to halt or delay the sale in favour of a more ecologically minded, community-driven future for the land.

The Protecting Talisman Lands Association (PTLA) formed in 2021 with the prime objective of retaining the top and bottom lands as green space for community enjoyment.

Despite the PTLA’s efforts, which included taking the municipality to court, the sale closed on June 9, 2022.

So what now?

“Now they’ve sold it off, we have no idea what’s going on with it except this one presentation that Westway Capital made to council which basically envisioned another Blue Mountain,” says Stephanie Warner of the PTLA. As the group watches and waits to see what Westway does next—concerned that they may try to get something approved quickly before there is a change in government—the PTLA has additional focus on the October 2022 municipal elections. The PTLA website states its objectives as:

  • Raise awareness of the community’s vision for Talisman in the upcoming elections.
  • Educate and advocate for continued green space and public access to the lands.
  • Ensure that any development respects the unique features of the Beaver Valley and the Niagara Escarpment
  • Enhance planning, biodiversity and floodplain regulations that recognize the vision for the Niagara Escarpment Plan and mitigate climate risk.

“We’re trying to get the municipality to be more transparent with what’s going on,” says Warner. We’re actively looking for councillors to run in Grey Highlands who can support the vision of appropriate development.”

The latest news is that Westway is sending a delegation to Grey Highlands Council on August 3, which may reveal more about their plans. Stay tuned for updates from that meeting.

The fight is far from over.

What can you do?

  • Follow the Protecting Talisman Lands Association on Facebook and sign up for the newsletter at protecttalisman.ca
  • Donate at protecttalisman.ca
  • Volunteer with the Protecting Talisman Lands Association
  • Continue to support partner groups like the Escarpment Corridors Alliance to show politicians that this is not just a NIMBY issue—there is widespread and unified support to ensure that development on the Niagara Escarpment is environmentally appropriate.

–Guest blog by our friends at the Protect Talisman Lands Association. The PTLA and ECA are aligned in their fight to keep the Escarpment green by stopping inappropriate developments, such as the one proposed in the Talisman Public Lands.

The Escarpment Summit: Like-Minded Groups Meet to Discuss Strategy

At the end of June, the G7 summit met in Germany. Just prior, on June 23, there was a rather different meeting of the minds at an “Escarpment Summit.”

The Escarpment Corridor Alliance (ECA) gathered close to a dozen local organizations for a workshopping session to share ideas and support each other in the common goal of keeping the Escarpment green for future generations.

“The key message was the urgency expressed and how little time we may have to act,” said David Scoon, an ECA board member. “If we don’t act quickly and forcefully, forests could be cut down practically overnight.”

Attendees included the Friends of Silver Creek, Save Georgian Bay, Collingwood Climate Action Team, the Nature League of Collingwood, Collingwood Cycling Club, Collingwood Off Road Cycling, Kolapore Wilderness Trails, Protecting Talisman Lands Association, Blue Mountain Watershed Trust, and the Niagara Escarpment Foundation.

The gathering highlighted the power of these groups to bring together a very large number of concerned citizens with a common interest of protecting the Niagara Escarpment from irresponsible development.

Going forward, the groups plan to share information and join forces to send a joint letter to politicians.

Further actions to watch for and support include a large community event before the municipal elections this fall and letter writing campaigns.

“The gathering certainly emphasized the fact that we are all in this together, and by joining forces, we are much stronger and in a better position to achieve our common goals,” said Scoon.

See below for the full list of attendees, and please follow and share their social media.

Escarpment Corridor Alliance

Friends of Silver Creek

Protecting Talisman Lands Association

Niagara Escarpment Foundation

Save Georgian Bay

Collingwood Climate Action Team

Nature League of Collingwood

Collingwood Cycling Club

Blue Mountain Watershed Trust

Collingwood Off Road Cycling

Kolapore Wilderness Trails

My Grandfather Built Lake of the Clouds

My grandfather, Bing Young, built Lake of the Clouds in 1965. He worked in construction all his life. Castle Glen hired him as the caretaker. He plowed all the roads, took care of all the buildings, and he also built the lake. He did that until he retired around the year 2000. He lived across Grey Road 19. There’s an old farmhouse on the hill. When he retired Castle Glen gave him two acres of land and he built his house there.

I spent every weekend as a child up there, always hiking. The lake was stocked with speckled trout. That’s where I would spend all my Christmases. I proposed to my wife there, too, right at the arch of the castle.

My grandfather had to enforce the No Trespassing signs at certain times because big four-wheelers would come in off the Sixth Street extension, drive into the castle and rip up the trails. But other than that, everyone you talk to up there is very open about sharing the land. I’ve been going up there my whole life as a local. It’s always just something you do on weekends. The walk through the hardwood forest from the castle to Sixth Street is absolutely beautiful. It’s an ecosystem for a lot of wildlife. It’s a nice place to enjoy. When you come out of that forest the view over the whole area is incredible.

There’s a real lack of awareness about what could happen to the Castle Glen property. Until I heard about it from the Escarpment Corridor Alliance I had no idea that the land was sold to a big developer. The original Castle Glen owners had the dream of doing all this but they never had the funds to make it happen. I have the original pamphlet from Castle Glen when they were selling lots for $3,900 in the late ‘60s or early ’70s. The development was the kind of thing that was out of sight, out of mind. It was something from 15 or 20 years ago that stalled and everyone forgot about.

I’ve always been a mountain biker. One of my biggest concerns is that the nearby mountain bike trails at Three Stage will get destroyed. The soil is clay-based. When it’s wet and people ride there, the trails get damaged fast. A 1,600-home development, potentially a hotel, is just that much more traffic volume.

And for the road biking community, Grey Road 19 is a haven for cyclists. The increased traffic would be monumental. I can’t imagine all the dump trucks going up and down there.

I also worry about the Pretty River Provincial Park and the amount of people that the development will bring. And I don’t like the idea of a housing development right on the Bruce Trail corridor.

I’m not against development, but this is massive. I’m surprised that the environmental side isn’t being looked at more.

My grandfather passed away in 2002, but all those trails and forests are the same as I remember them. If that development is pushed through, it would change the whole landscape of the area.

My hope is that Castle Glen stays as it is for future generations to enjoy.

This article is edited and condensed from an interview with Jason Smith, an avid mountain biker and ECA volunteer who grew up in Collingwood and now lives in Wasaga Beach.