Efforts underway to make the proposed national urban park even larger

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This week’s announcement of an Ojibway National Urban Park that Ottawa has agreed to help create was huge news for those who have worked towards this goal for years.

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But efforts are already underway to make that dream even bigger, actively pursuing a much larger nationally protected ecological sanctuary in the city of Windsor.

“We spoke to a few people… we can’t wait to see something happen that works for everyone,” said Francis Kennette of BridgePort Windsor Marine Terminal. He owns a vacant 14 acre (5.7 ha) property – currently on the market and zoned for industrial use – adjacent to Ojibway Shores.

Ojibway Shores, owned by the Windsor Port Authority and representing the city’s last natural stretch of the Detroit River shoreline, is still not a sure thing as an addition to the Ojibway Prairie complex, but environmentalists and d others now take this acquisition as a given and envision something much bigger for the city.

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The BridgePort property is ideally located for any business involved in shipping (it includes a body of water), trucking or warehousing next to the soon to be completed Gordie Howe International Bridge. But some see its location, at the Canadian gate of the new crossing, as ideal for an alternative use, within the framework of the proposed national park.

Kennette said there had been “a lot of talk” in the past with bridge builders, but nothing came of it: “The problem was a lack of money.”

Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve is seen on Thursday, August 12, 2021.
Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve is seen on Thursday, August 12, 2021. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

The Liberal government announced this month that it is budgeting $ 130 million over five years to create a national system of urban parks, with Windsor being mentioned prominently as one of the first to be negotiated.

“Now that they have the money for it… I hope for the sake of Windsor and the community we can make it happen,” Kennette said. He has already discussed this potential with the head of the Essex Region Conservation Authority.

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“We have irons in the fire now,” said ERCA director Tim Byrne. He won’t release details, but said his organization is contacting landowners east and north of the Ojibway Prairie Complex’s existing footprint. The announcement of federal funding “may spark additional interest,” he said.

The dream could come true

The current collection of patchwork of natural patches – from Black Oak Heritage Park east of Ojibway Shores and extending further east to Oakwood Bush, now connected by a wildlife corridor through the Herb Gray Parkway – includes approximately 865 acres (350 hectares) of protected land.

Byrne said it was possible to increase that by hundreds more acres, although he wonders how realistic such a goal could be. However, he added, “the dream could come true” with respect to a number of private properties currently under consideration.

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“There are so many more potential opportunities to have a bigger footprint … it is a game changer if the federal government decides to follow through,” said David Hanna, a local planning advocate and avid council observer. municipal. He posted a map on social media highlighting the locations of some potential additional park acquisitions.

Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve is seen Thursday, August 12, 2021.
Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve is seen on Thursday, August 12, 2021. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

Earlier this year, for example, a 23-acre industrially zoned Ojibway Parkway property adjacent to Black Oaks Heritage Park was put up for sale for $ 3.45 million. Rouge National Urban Park, Canada’s first and only national urban park to date, continues to expand by acquiring adjacent land, Hanna said.

“Sometimes you have to seize opportunities when they arise, or you miss out,” he said.

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This is also how others see it. Despite local successes in conservation and natural remediation, Byrne said he believed Windsor and Essex County, with one of the weakest natural coverages in the province, was still losing more than it was only earning due to continued urbanization.

Connecting and linking existing natural pockets is important to ensure the survival of species. Byrne said talks are also underway between ERCA and the province to create further natural links between the Ojibway Prairie complex and the Great Green Ribbons along Herb Gray Drive.

A map of the city of Windsor depicting parts of the Ojibway Prairie Complex, from the Detroit River in wet waters to Herb Gray Drive and Oakwood Bush to the east.
A map of the city of Windsor depicting parts of the Ojibway Prairie Complex, from the Detroit River in wet waters to Herb Gray Drive and Oakwood Bush to the east. Photo courtesy of the City of Windsor /Windsor Star

“We are moving in the right direction,” said Bill Roesel, president of Friends of Ojibway Prairie. “Small areas that don’t grow tend to lose species over time – connecting them is a big thing.”

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Although it is by far the largest green expanse in Windsor, the Ojibway Prairie Complex is still relatively small, yet it is home to more rare and endangered species than any other natural space in Canada.

  1. 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

  2. Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, is flanked by IREK Kusmiercyzk, MP for Windsor-Tecumseh, left, and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, as they announce 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 National Urban Park is close to a sure thing, Federal Minister says

  3. A team working for Union Gas cuts tall trees on the former Windsor Racecourse grounds near Ojibway Park on March 30, 2016.

    Hope fades for Save Ojibway of Windsor as big box site preparation begins

After waging a long and costly battle against environmentalists, a spokesperson for the Coco Group said he now has no plans to cede his land next to Ojibway Park which remains underdeveloped.

“It’s been a long way to get it approved – our intention is still to proceed (with big box retail development),” said Anthony Rossi, director of land use planning and government relations.

However, obtaining that approval meant that Coco had to agree to cede a 10-acre naturalized “buffer” along Matchette Road to Ojibway Park, a transfer that is still pending but will see Ojibway’s footprint grow.

dschmidt@postmedia.com

twitter.com/schmidtcity

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