Jarvis: Ojibway National Urban Park – Getting There

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It is already called Ojibway National Urban Park.

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Suddenly, after years of lobbying, the federal government wants to establish Canada’s second national urban park in Windsor.

Windsor West MP Brian Masse wrote another letter to the government in May asking them to save and designate Ojibway Shores, the last stretch of the city of Windsor’s natural coastline, along with the popular Ojibway Prairie. Complex, national urban park. He sent a copy of the letter to the city, where it landed among all the other letters at the June 7 council meeting.

Usually, little happens with regular communications caching. But Con. Jo-Anne Gignac chose Masse’s letter and tabled a motion for council to support it. The Council did so unanimously. In addition, he called on the government to “move forward quickly”.

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And the government did.

That week, a Parks Canada official asked the city to hold a meeting on the issue. Ten days later, representatives of the city and Parks Canada met. It was the first time the government had officially addressed the issue. Eleven days later, last Monday, representatives from the office of Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, Parks Canada, Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk, Masse and Mayor Drew Dilkens met by teleconference.

“We think the next best candidate for a national urban park is the Ojibway Prairie complex,” a Parks Canada official told Dilkens.

There was even a feeling that the government would consider transferring Ojibway Shores, owned by the Windsor Port Authority, which is overseen by Transport Canada, to Environment Canada, and ultimately to Parks Canada, thus solving the three-year quest for the city ​​to preserve it.

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The government has told the city it wants to sign a declaration of collaboration this summer.

“How fast do you want to meet? The mayor replied. “I’ll have everyone on the phone, on Zoom, in person, whatever you want.” “

After the meeting, Kusmiercyzk tweeted about it, referring to “Ojibway National Urban Park”.

“So far everyone is saying all the right things,” Dilkens said this week. “There seems to be a great deal of interest in this happening now. “

Environmentalists have long argued that Ojibway Shores, Windsor's last stretch of natural shoreline, provides an important ecological link between the Detroit River and the Ojibway Prairie complex pictured here in this 2013 paper.
Environmentalists have long argued that Ojibway Shores, Windsor’s last stretch of natural shoreline, provides an important ecological link between the Detroit River and the Ojibway Prairie complex pictured here in this 2013 paper. Photo by document /Windsor Star

The point is, Windsor has what the government says it wants. Canada’s first and only national urban park is Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto. The Liberals, who have made the environment a major focus of their government, pledged in the 2020 Speech from the Throne to designate more of these parks.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeated this in his mandate letter to Wilkinson last January. Budget 2021 includes an investment of $ 2.3 billion over five years in Canada’s “natural heritage”, including national urban parks.

It’s part of the plan to protect a quarter of Canada’s natural heritage by 2025, provide Canadians with better access to nature and mitigate climate change.

Windsor is a perfect candidate because all Ojibway land is owned by all three levels of government, so nothing needs to be bought or expropriated. All of this, with the exception of Ojibway Shores, is already protected, and everyone knows there would be an “environmental uplift,” as Dilkens put it, if Ojibway Shores were developed. And the city council and the public clearly support a national urban park.

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More importantly, the Ojibway complex has long been recognized as a biodiversity wonder, teeming with rare and endangered flora and fauna, some not found anywhere else in Canada, and new species still present. In the middle of a manufacturing city, next to an international trade corridor, you couldn’t find a better definition of a national urban park.

A notice board from Windsor West MP Brian Masse advocating saving Ojibway Shores and creating a national urban park is posted August 20, 2019 on Division Road.
A notice board from Windsor West MP Brian Masse advocating saving Ojibway Shores and creating a national urban park is posted August 20, 2019 on Division Road. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

So, is this just a feel-good talk ahead of an expected election, or is it the real thing? Watch for two factors, says Dilkens.

The first and most important is that Environment Canada and ultimately Parks Canada must take control of Ojibway Shores. This land is already owned by the federal government through the Windsor Port Authority. Ditch this nonsense of taxpayers having to buy it again or swap a different property for it.

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The second is that any agreement between the government and the city must include a provision for the government to bring all properties together under one body, manage them, and invest the appropriate resources – money, personnel and expertise – for equipment and the programs. Parks Canada adds cachet and opportunities. It can do things Windsor can only dream of, like building a decent wildlife crossing over Ojibway Parkway that doesn’t stop at rail tracks, like the current “preferred option”.

“This is the type of investment that has to happen,” Dilkens said.

  1. A sign indicating the Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve at the western end of Windsor is posted on June 29, 2021.

    Windsor Leaders Meet with Parks Canada to Advance Ojibway National Urban Park

  2. The Detroit River is pictured from Ojibway Shores on Tuesday, August 7, 2018.

    Council Supports Mass Call for Federal Government to Save Ojibway Shores and Create National Urban Park

If that happens, Windsor will finally realize its long-held dream of connecting the five remains of Ojibway – Ojibway Park, Black Oak Heritage Park, Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve and Spring Garden Natural Area. Together, it’s nearly 900 acres of forest, wetlands, savannah, and Ontario’s largest protected native prairie, one of the few that still functions as an ecosystem. And, that would add Ojibway Shores, connecting everything to the Detroit River.

It would be a major environmental feat, and it would catapult the city into a whole new light, with a very different and unique brand.

More importantly, “you’ll have a great system for people to browse, browse, experience,” Dilkens said. “That’s the goal, to preserve it all in perpetuity but make it come alive for people to experience.”

ajarvis@postmedia.com

More than 200 people showed up for a Port Authority meeting at Mackenzie Hall in Windsor on July 3, 2013, which helped decide the fate of Ojibway Shores.
More than 200 people showed up for a Port Authority meeting at Mackenzie Hall in Windsor on July 3, 2013, which helped decide the fate of Ojibway Shores. Photo by Doug Schmidt /Windsor Star

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