Ojibway Shores Takes ‘Big Step’ Toward National Urban Park

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In what all but guarantees that the sprawling Ojibway natural complex of Windsor will become one of the country’s first national urban parks, Ottawa has announced that Ojibway Shores is being transferred from Transport Canada to Parks Canada.

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This means that the last stretch of untouched natural land along Windsor’s waterfront – targeted for decades for future industrial use – can now be preserved for its environmental significance and become part of the adjacent, protected Ojibway Prairie complex of the city.

“Today is an important milestone – an Ojibway National Urban Park will see the light of day,” MP Irek Kusmierczyk (L – Windsor-Tecumseh) told The Star.

“Today is a great day to celebrate. So many people have pushed and pushed and pushed for this for 10+ years…we will have this huge legacy project for our community,” he said, adding that It took ‘a lot of advocacy and hard work behind the scenes’.

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault announced Thursday during question period in the House of Commons that a memorandum of understanding had been signed between the two federal agencies to transfer undeveloped ownership of the Windsor Port Authority to preserve its 33 acres (13.4 hectares) in a natural state.

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A section of the Ojibway Shores property just west of the Broadway drain is shown Thursday, May 12, 2022.
A section of the Ojibway Shores property just west of the Broadway drain is shown Thursday, May 12, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

“I can’t tell you how I feel — we’re just thrilled about it,” said Kusmierczyk, who has previously described Ojibway Shores as “an essential part” of any future Ojibway National Park. He said it was the subject of his first meeting with government colleagues after he was first elected federally in 2019 and that there have been “countless” other interactions since then, including with the Prime Minister.

The Liberal government’s announcement also means municipal ratepayers will now save millions of dollars in potential acquisition costs. The next step, Kusmierczyk said, is to find other properties locally that can be traded with the Port Authority to compensate it for the loss of Ojibway Shores.

This week’s announcement follows years of ultimately fruitless negotiations between the municipality and the Windsor Port Authority, which insisted on being compensated financially or given equivalent land elsewhere in exchange.

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“It’s been a cruel dance between the city and the Port Authority over this,” fellow city MP Brian Masse (NDP – Windsor West) said a year ago. An early advocate for saving Ojibway Shores, Masse has expressed frustration that city taxpayers are being asked to pay again for properties already owned by the federal government.

The municipality no longer has to be in this dance.

“There’s going to be a land swap, but the city isn’t involved,” Kusmierczyk said, adding that Parks Canada will now provide the necessary funds, which he says will be in the millions of dollars. In a press release later Thursday, the Windsor Ports Authority welcomed the transfer agreement and said it expects to soon make “its own exciting announcement regarding a new property acquisition and development of a project”.

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A section of the Ojibway Shores property just west of the Broadway drain is shown Thursday, May 12, 2022.
A section of the Ojibway Shores property just west of the Broadway drain is shown Thursday, May 12, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

“Oh, wow, this is the best news I’ve heard since the rally on July 3, 2013,” said local environmental activist Tom Henderson, recalling the exact date hundreds of angry citizens showed up to an open house at Mackenzie Hall to protest. a Port Authority proposal to clear-cut substantially all of Ojibway Shores and commercialize it for industrial use.

The chairman of the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup Public Advisory Board credits the Port Authority for backing down from its development plans and not standing in the way of subsequent efforts to preserve Ojibway Shores.

Now the hard work begins, Kusmierczyk said. Earlier this year, Parks Canada awarded the city a $600,000 grant to begin planning for the new urban park, including consultations with the public and potential collaborators such as environmental groups, Indigenous partners and different governments. and agencies.

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Significantly, Kusmierczyk said, the footprint of Windsor National Urban Park and the location of its boundaries have yet to be determined.

He and others said there have been discussions with owners of adjacent private properties, as well as the province, which has a large tract of Ojibway natural land currently protected. The City of LaSalle is another potential contributor to what is currently a mosaic of protected parcels that are home to some of the rarest and most endangered species of plants, birds and animals in Canada.

  1. MP Brian Masse speaks during 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.

    Parks Canada offers $584,760 for Ojibway National Park assessment

  2. National Urban Park?  An aerial view of Ojibway Shores, Windsor's last natural shoreline along the Detroit River, is shown on May 16, 2019.

    Mayor calls on new federal environment minister to help save Ojibway Shores

  3. Land adjacent to Ojibway Park is pictured Thursday August 12, 2021.

    Efforts are underway to further expand the proposed National Urban Park

  4. Over 200 people showed up for the meeting at Mackenzie Hall in Windsor to decide the fate of Ojibway Shores on Wednesday, July 3, 2013.

    Jarvis: The day that marked a turning point for Ojibway

While Thursday’s announcement was “great news”, Masse said the transfer was something “we asked for over a decade ago” and suggested the timing was no coincidence. Masse said he was successful in winning all-party support in the House of Commons for a private member’s bill he introduced with a bill to create an Ojibway National Urban Park. His Bill C-248 is in second reading in early June and has been backed by environmental groups on both sides of the border, Windsor City Council and Caldwell First Nation.

While environmental groups like the Citizens Environment Alliance deserve much of the praise for getting the ball rolling by protecting Ojibway Shores from chainsaws, Henderson said Masse and Kusmierczyk deserve to share the credit on the political front, the former for ” years and years of defense”, and the latter who “made the difference” while being a member of the ruling party.

dschmidt@postmedia.com

twitter.com/schmidtcity

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