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The Roland Michener Conservation Award

August 30, 2022

I was honoured this spring to receive the Roland Michener Conservation Award from the Canadian Wildlife Federation.   I travelled to Charlottetown for the award ceremony in my electric vehicle which was an adventure of its own and which I will talk about in another blog post.    It was inspiring and empowering to meet the other winners and to listen to their stories.  For more information on the award go to:
 https://cwf-fcf.org/en/explore/awards/winners/2022/CW-JulAug-Awards-1.pdf

I have included the text of my acceptance speech below.  It talks about the importance of support and community.  I know I would never have been able to accomplish what I have done without the help of my community.  King Township is a great place to live. 

 

It is an honour to be here tonight to receive the Roland Michener Conservation Award and to be recognised by the CanadianWildlife Federation.

I have to admit when I first heard about the award I was somewhat surprised.  Why was I receiving this recognition?  I just plod along and do what I do because I think it is the right thing to do; because it is who I am.  Then after discussions with my friends and family I realised that it is not really about me at all, but about the thousands and thousands of people like me;  those that care about nature and the communities that they live in. 

Behind me you are seeing photos of the Dufferin Marsh in Schomberg Ontario … a 5 ha wetland in the middle of the village … and pictures of some of the activities that the Dufferin Marsh Nature Connection has been doing over the last 30 years. I am a founding member of this community group and in reviewing the photos the first thing I noticed was how young I was.  I am heartened to know that there are still many young people today that are active and passionate about nature and some of them are in this room. 

I also realised that passion and tenacity and giving has given back to me.  I have learned so much about nature, fund raising, project management, communications, governance, development processes, and what makes a community work.  I have learned that through patience and persistence even the most ardent opponent can become an advocate.  My work with the Dufferin Marsh Nature Connection has provided the opportunity to make new and lifelong friendships; it has opened the door to positive and productive community, business and agency partnership; it has allowed me to share my knowledge and passion with anyone who will take time to listen; and best of all it has allowed me to advocate for the protection of the little gem of a wetland just down the street. 

When my 2 kids were growing up they had the luxury of roaming around and exploring our village.  I remember once my son Garth and his friend Scott got lost among the six foot high cattails in the Marsh looking for a short cut through town.  What an adventure they had.  I don’t think there are many childhoods like that anymore.  I was secure in the knowledge that they were being cared for and watched by the whole community. 

My community of family, friends, neighbours and business people have supported me through everything.  And most surprisingly they believe in me.  I want to acknowledge my husband, who sadly is not with us anymore, for teaching me about nature and how to find it a source of peace and joy; and my two beautiful children who helped with so many restoration projects and other activities with hardly a complaint; so many friends and family who answered the call to volunteer and were there to guide me when things got me down; from dog walkers to Township staff I could not have achieved anything without them. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

 

What is Bill 66

January 11, 2019

Dear Editor

I know that most people who live in King Township care about protecting the environment. They care about clean drinking water, strong self-sufficient communities and effective public involvement in government decisions that affect them. Bill 66 (Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act), a Bill that is being proposed by the Provincial government, opens the door to undermine all of these things. Under the pretext of supporting business and job creation, this Bill grants Municipalities the option to designate lands for employment purposes anywhere, ignoring the requirements of the Greenbelt Act, the Oak Ridges Moraine Act, the Clean Water Act, the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, the Planning Act and the Places to Grow Act, without any requirement or recourse for public input or appeal

So what is the Provincial government trying to do

  • Providing Employment – So let’s examine this more closely. I live in Schomberg. This is a tight-knit community of residential neighbourhoods and commercial and light industrial businesses that provide services and jobs. It is functionally walkable and provides opportunities for both outdoor and indoor recreation. It meets many of the requirements for a “sustainable” community. Included in the Village of Schomberg is a large area east of Highway #27 designated as employment lands. Much of this land has been left vacant for years. In fact every community in the GTA, through public consultation and the desire to build strong communities, has already designated employment lands … there is no shortage. Instead of opening up lands arbitrarily, effort needs to be made to develop the existing employment lands where services and infrastructure are already provided or planned for and where there is a local employment pool.
  • Cutting Red Tape – The government is trying to stream-line the development process by cutting red tape. I don’t know about you, but the Acts that safe-guard our drinking water, protect our right to effective public consultation and protect agricultural land and important environmental services and areas, do not seem like red tape to me.
  • Downloading the development process to the Municipalities – On the surface it looks like the Provincial government is giving Municipalities more authority … and in some respects they are. However it also gives Municipalities more burdens and responsibilities. Let’s say the Township decides to designate industrial lands adjacent to the 400. Makes sense … until they are required to take on the burden of building and maintaining services and infrastructure and start getting complaints about increased traffic, noise and pollution. Bill 66 forgoes all checks and balances and promotes only a single consideration in the planning process. Where is the vision? And if something goes wrong or there is public back-lash, the Province gets to wash their hands of it.

I have to ask this question. Who is the Provincial government listening to? The only people who benefit from this legislation are developers, who own large chucks of land throughout the GTA, and big business. I doubt if many of the jobs created would go to existing local residents. There may be some tax benefit but will that be off-set by the new costs? In the end it will push our villages closer to bedroom communities and farther from the sustainable communities that we want.

Are you concerned? Not everyone has time to get involved in large picture planning considerations like this one, but there are a few things you can do. Contact your councillor … mine is Bill Cober (bcober@king.ca), the mayor Steve Pellegrini (spellegrini@king.ca) or the Township CEO Susan Plamondon (splamondon@king.ca). And you can contact your MPP Stephen Lecce (stephen.lecce@pc.ola.org). Ask questions. Let them know what you think. For more information or to sign a petition you can go to https://act.environmentaldefence.ca/page/35250/action/1environmentaldefence.ca.

Mary Asselstine

 

Blog

August 17, 2022

Emerging from COVID

Like many people, when the COVID pandemic was first announced I stopped writing my blog, hid myself away, took up new hobbies like jigsaw puzzles and learned how to communicate and socialise over internet platforms.  My garden was my friend, and the grocery store was a bit scary.  For me everything changed.  Every personal interaction came with planning, logistics and the realisation of personal risk.  Vaccines promised the return to a normal life but somehow that has not really panned out.  Continuing uncertainty and pandemic exhaustion has reshaped my relationships and my community and has high-lighted weakness in our economy, service delivery, infrastructure and the social safety net.  Society has become more polarized than at any time in recent memory and people are calling out (with anger in some cases) for affordable housing, food security, reliable employment, equitable health care and most of all respect.  

We are not really emerging from COVID but rather limping into a new way of living.  And clouding all this are new wars, climate change impacts, disparity in food supplies, fires, floods, and loss of species diversity.  And as we speak democracy is being threatened around the world.  

How do we find hope? I think we find hope in putting aside anger and fear and in building strong communities … communities that provide for the needs of all individuals.  This has been my passion for years and I will doggedly talk about it, learn about it and advocate for it.  

Schomberg/Lloydtown

October 21, 2018

What a privilege it has been to meet so many new people in Lloydtown and Schomberg. After living in Schomberg since 1985, you would think I would already know everyone. The people of Lloydtown and Schomberg are both concerned and excited about the future of the Hamlet and Village. They value the heritage character and small town feel, and want to balance that with limited growth including opportunities for job creation, affordable housing and transit options. With development pressures on the horizon people have raised several concerns:

more “Schomberg/Lloydtown”

Carrying Place

October 21, 2018

What a beautiful pastoral neighbourhood. This was the first time I have explored it and I heard lots about the history of the area. Members of this neighbourhood seem fairly content. Two new projects have addressed two major issues – upgraded cell phone and internet access and an acoustic barrier along Highway 400. There are still a few concerns that I heard at the door.

more “Carrying Place”

Pottageville

October 21, 2018

I have been knocking on doors in Pottageville and have had the pleasure to meet many of you and listen to your ideas for the future, and your concerns. The conversations have been varied and interesting but there are three main themes that kept recurring:

more “Pottageville”

66 Main Street – Part 2

August 17, 2018

Several weeks ago a small group of us met at 66 Main Street to view the house and discuss any changes in the development proposal. The owner expressed a sincere interest in the protection and restoration of the house which was very encouraging. At that point they were still in consultation with the Township Planning Department and Conservation Authority.

Since then two things have happened. The first is the purchase of 72 Main Street. My understanding is that this property, which is immediately west of 66 Main Street, was purchased by the developer. This will likely mean that there will be more townhomes proposed, but it also means that there is an opportunity to reconfigure the proposal, saving more trees, eliminating the crowding of houses and roads at Main Street and removing all proposed development from the floodplain.

more “66 Main Street – Part 2”

Roselina Development Part 2

July 8, 2018

I attended the Council meeting on June 25 where Council considered the development proposal to extend Roselena and build 51 new single family homes. There was a presentation given by staff and the developers’ representative and several presentations by concerned neighbours. One person representing the existing residents on Roselena talked about the issue of traffic and suggested that only emergency access link Roselena Dr. between the existing and proposed development. A resident living downstream of the site expressed serious concerns about the extent of the development and filling in the floodplain and how it will impact flood levels up and downstream of the site as well as impact the sensitive environmental features. A third resident pointed out the failing wells in the area and was concerned that this new development may exacerbate the problem.

more “Roselina Development Part 2”

Roselena Drive Extension and Subdivision Development

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June 20, 2018

I have been thinking about the proposed development at the end of Roselena and what it will offer to the people who will live there and who already live nearby and how it will impact the natural spaces. Fifty -one homes will change this area forever so how do we make sure that people are given an attractive and safe place to live and the natural features are protected as much as possible?
more “Roselena Drive Extension and Subdivision Development”

Official Plan—Part 3

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June 11, 2018

North of Dr. Kay Dr. on the east side of Main Street is a row of heritage homes extending past the intersection at Western Ave. These homes include the historic train station.

In the new draft Official Plan the first eight properties have been identified as Special Development Area 2 (SDA -2) .A Special Development Area designation identifies an area for future redevelopment. It requires a comprehensive plan for roads, services and structures. SDA – 2 also allows for mixed use with a generous allowance for commercial use.

more “Official Plan—Part 3”

66 Main Street

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June 7, 2018

I thought I would update you on what is happening at 66 Main Street. A group of us met with the developer yesterday to discuss the protection of the heritage home. He took us on a tour of the house which is currently full of trash. He will be inviting the Heritage Advisory Committee and the Museum to tour the place as well. There are some beautiful interior features but the restoration will be a lot of work. The developer is not only happy to do the restoration but is eager to see the house assume its former grandeur.
more “66 Main Street”

King Township Draft Official Plan November 2017

March 18, 2018

I remember in 1989 the people of Schomberg were really engaged in the review of a community plan for Schomberg. The process resulted in a great plan for the future of the village. This plan was instrumental in recognising historic Main Street and protecting the Dufferin Marsh.

I have seen many changes in our Township since 1989. The population in Schomberg and the adjacent area has grown dramatically and the once rural character has been overpowered by fast cars, noise, light and the detritus of modern human existence.

more “King Township Draft Official Plan November 2017”

2018 Birdathon

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May 20, 2018

To say I was excited to get up at 4:45 am would be an exaggeration but I thought it would be a good idea to hear the dawn chorus. After breakfast in the dark (need my energy) I slipped out to the backyard to be greeted by all the eager early birds. To my disappointment the dawn chorus was a dud. Only the usual suspects were singing and even that was thin. This was a fore-shadowing of my whole day. I cannot remember the last time I had to work so hard for so few birds.

I could always count on Robins. They had been singing since 4:00 am. And the Grackles had already claimed their territory by the feeders making the Chickadees, Nuthatches, Mourning Doves and Red-winged Blackbirds wait their turn. I didn’t spend long in the yard but made my way along the ridge north of the Dufferin Marsh. I was greeted by a plethora of Yellow Warblers and Catbirds. A Swamp Sparrow was singing in the same place it does every year and I was lucky to see it up close, head tilted back and “chipping” with abandon. My husband Gary used to say it sounds like a Singer Sewing Machine. Does anyone remember what that sounds like? There were lots of Swallows diving over the marsh and one of them was a Roughed-winged Swallow. That was a satisfying bird.

more “2018 Birdathon”

Official Plan – Part 2

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April 19, 2018

I want to look at the core area of Schomberg and how the draft Official Plan will affect the character of the historic village.

The draft Official Plan (draft OP) recognises the core area of Schomberg, extending along Main Street from Dr. Kay Drive at the north end to the river at the curve at the south end. Casual observation on this stretch of Main Street shows a mixture of uses including single family residential, apartments, stores, bars and restaurants. In the draft OP this area is designated mixed use which includes both commercial and residential uses. On the surface this seems appropriate until you look at the list of permitted uses. The list does not include single family residential uses.

more “Official Plan – Part 2”

Heritage in King Township

April 5, 2018

When I moved to Schomberg I was attracted by the heritage character of the village, especially Main Street, and could see all the potential for a healthy vibrant community. The village was unique and charming and seemed like a little oasis in the otherwise urbanising landscape. Heritage character is what makes our communities distinctive and alive, reflecting the traditions, history and life of the people who once lived there.

The villages and hamlets of King have many properties and structures of heritage significance. In fact, places like Main Street Schomberg and Kettleby are defined by their heritage character. So what does it mean to own a heritage property in King Township?

more “Heritage in King Township”