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Why destroy a heritage forest …. if you don’t have to?

By Katherine Haas, Guest Blogger: In the Town of Uxbridge, a proposal has been made for a by-law amendment to rezone approximately 5.3 hectares of forested land to permit the clear cutting of a heritage forest, and construction of a 52-unit medium density condominium townhouse development. The development proposal is an 'infill' application in a forested area in the community of Coral Creek/Avonlea.  
Uxbridge is “The Trail Capital of Canada,” a well-deserved designation recognizing our amazing natural trail systems, heritage bridges, and a strong partnership of local businesses and residents supporting the environment and giving it a voice and identity.   The forested area that is the subject of this proposed development is a small, but mature forest, in the heart of Uxbridge. For the residents of this town, it symbolizes what it means to live here with a strong community, in harmony with nature, and is proudly identified as “The Trail Capital of Canada.”
This forested area is not something that can quickly be dismissed or assumed to be easily re-created.  There are no studies that support the removal of the forest and, also, no studies that claim removing the forest will have no real impact on the environment or the wildlife habitat.  That is easy to understand.  This forest is an established wildlife habitat, untouched for decades, with tall, mature and thriving trees that are estimated to be perhaps 100 years old.  This small forest should not be disregarded, nor destroyed, in the name of urban growth and development, especially given readily available brownfield development lands, with an estimated capacity for 800 new homes, within a 5-minute walk of this forest, on the other side of the street.  The distinction of ‘infill vs brownfield’ is an important point as Provincial requirements specify that development of brownfield lands must take precedence over 'infill' applications.  Simple compliance with this provincial government requirement would result in the saving of this heritage forest.  
To be clear, there are 13 homes that share the property line with this heritage forest site, and the residents are clearly opposed to destruction of this forest.  However, more importantly, over 400 people, from throughout Uxbridge, and its surrounding communities, who do not live on that street, have signed a petition in support of this forest and have voiced their disapproval for this proposed development.  To the residents and others it defies understanding that a small, heritage forest in the heart of “The Trail Capital of Canada” would be destroyed to build 52 condominium townhouses when there are available brownfield lands immediately nearby for over 800 homes.

The passing of this rezoning by-law amendment, and subsequent proposed condominium townhouse plan, will have long-lasting and far reaching environmental impacts for future generations which cannot be underestimated. Development is a necessary process in all communities, including Uxbridge.  However, in this situation development in Uxbridge can continue unabated and, in fact, on a larger scale than offered in this proposal while still preserving an important element in what it means to live in Uxbridge, “The Trail Capital of Canada.”Worth noting are the following environmental impacts which are being disregarded in the pursuit and support of urban growth:

1.    LSRCA designations - portions of this forest are “Environmental Constraint,” with a Level 1 Heritage Forest classification due to its key natural heritage features
2.    LSRCA advised the “Hemlock Stand” in the forested area must be preserved due to its mature age
3.    LSRCA identified issues re: storm water/sewage management – phosphorous loading – infiltration swale
4.    LSPP Report in ‘2009 references forested area within a “Significant Groundwater Recharge Area with Highly Vulnerable Aquifers
5.    Town of Uxbridge identified forested area as ‘significant woodlands’
6.    Trees and other aspects of the forest are an integral part of the ecosystem that supports wildlife and amphibious species in their natural habitat.
7.    Clear-cutting and destruction of the forest through classification of the trees as a ‘hedgerow’, with no significant value to the environment or wildlife, has been disproved by an independent arborist and Trees Canada.
8.    Residents of Uxbridge question how rezoning/development of the forested area supports the LSPP effort to restore and improve the ecological health of the Lake Simcoe Watershed, and benefits The Trail Capital of Canada designation.Don’t let ‘urban growth’ outweigh the importance of our natural resources and heritage. Let your voice be heard in support of this situation and STOP the destruction of this forest. Thank you for listening to the concerns this type of rezoning and development will have on our environment, and that of greatest natural local resource, Lake Simcoe.
Katherine Haas, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
On behalf of Engaged and Proud Residents of Uxbridge 
– “The Trail Capital of Canada”

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