Annabel Slaight, co-founder of Ladies of the Lake, received the top award for her life-long dedication to the environment at the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority awards gala Nov. 3.
The George R. Richardson Conservation Award of Honour given to Slaight was one of 33 awards given to Environmental Heroes, who included a large number of students recognized for their environmental leadership and action, from planting trees to initiating recycling programs and creating "green" playgrounds at their schools.
Slaight was co-founder and president of OWL Magazine, Books and Television, which have collectively reached and influenced more than 40 million Canadian families since 1976. She is chair of the Shaw Rocket Fund that invests $12-million a year in children’s television production.
At home on Lake Simcoe, Slaight champions the protection of the lake in numerous ways. In addition to co-founding Ladies of the Lake, a group of more than 100 women committed to helping people help their lake and watershed, she was founding vice-chair of Alliance for a Better Georgina, a ministerial appointee to the Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee, and founding chair of the Ontario Water Centre, an educational charity dedicated to making Lake Simcoe an integrated hub for learning, research and innovation.
Among OWC projects are: ReWilding, which also received an award Nov. 3; and Do Fish Fart, a book of children's questions and experts' answers about Lake Simcoe; and, the ClearWater Farm, to help people get in touch with water and food production.
"I so much appreciate this award, and truly it is not just for me," Slaight said in her acceptance speech. "It really is for all of the Ladies of the Lake, the volunteers and others working on the integrated mission of the Ontario Water Centre, the Re-Wilding team, the 'Do Fish Fart' team (they were a riot) and the people helping Clearwater Farm become a reality.
"This award really is for the citizens of Lake Simcoe and many terrific friends that I have made over the years."
The other awards and recipients for 2016 are:
Water Conservation Award
1. CAPSTONE Environmental Sustainability Team: Makayla Churchill, Katie Brown, Ashley Lee (Orillia) – for conducting chemical water quality tests and sampling, and cleaning up, rehabilitating and beautifying Ben’s Ditch, an area of long-standing concern to the community.
2. Lefroy Harbour Resorts Inc. (Innisfil) – for implementing an environmental stewardship program to reduce waste and harmful impacts on the lake environment.
3. InnServices Utilities Inc. (Innisfil) – for adopting a water conservation program in 2015 for the Town of Innisfil. Initiatives included a toilet replacement program, rain barrel sale and an education program geared to children.
4. Dry Cleaners Plus (Newmarket) – for going above and beyond to help keep our municipal drinking water clean. Eun Young Lee, owner of Dry Cleaner Plus, spent $70,000 to purchase new equipment that eliminates the use of DNAPLs (dense non aqueous phases liquids) which are toxic liquids that present a significant threat to drinking water. The equipment purchases and installed by Eun Young Lee goes above and beyond the requirements in the region’s source protection plan.
5. Gerry Brouwer (Georgina) – for stabilizing the road built over a river that runs through his property, by installing a large box culvert, natural boulders and native plants. This also resolved the road’s flooding problem.
Soil Conservation Award
1. Lake Simcoe Public School students Ashton Hill, Jorja Keay, Rhea Marok and Taya Torrance (Georgina) – for fundraising the money needed to replace lost trees at their school that were lost due to the Emerald Ash Borer infestation.
2. Udora & Leaskdale Lions Club (Georgina) – for organizing a number of environmental projects each year. These include: an annual garbage pickup event, providing 250 trees to residents free of charge, and co-hosting Farmers Night which provides dinner and a guest speaker on topics of interest to farmers.
3. Kyle Horlings (Township of King) – for planting cover crops on nine acres of his carrot and onion farm to help prevent soil erosion, reduce fertilizer costs, aerate the soil, protect water quality, and provide food for pollinators.
4. Green Team of Holy Spirit Catholic Elementary School (Aurora) – for planting 100 native trees and 200 native shrubs at their school. The trees provide a buffer between the school and the houses that back onto the school, and the shrubs were planted near pre-existing bird boxes to create more habitat for the birds.
5. Eco Club of Innisdale Secondary School (Barrie) – for planting 150 trees to replace those destroyed by an ice storm, enhance local habitat and block the view of an industrial building next door. They also installed three rain barrels with the goal of using them to collect rain to water the newly planted trees.
6. École élémentaire La Source (Barrie) – for planting trees, shrubs and wildflowers throughout the school’s existing outdoor classroom. Students planted another 250 trees in an environmental protection area close to the school.
7. Michael Freeman (East Gwillimbury) – for organizing a tree planting event with 140 students and fellow teachers. They planted 530 trees and shrubs to create a buffer between the school and a busy road.
8. Hans Pape (Georgina) – for naturalizing a portion of his farmland, which was once used for cash crops, by planting 1,600 trees instead.
9. Kathleen Williams (East Gwillimbury) – for organizing a tree planting event for 100 students and her fellow teachers. They planted 150 native trees and shrubs on the school’s property.
10. Karen and Wayne Rynard (Uxbridge) – for planting 2,500 trees in an area on their property that was becoming overrun with invasive buckthorn.
11. Andrew and Pamela Brown (Township of King) – for planting 920 trees on an area of their property that was formerly a lawn, and adding 25 shrubs to establish a buffer around the edge of a pond.
12. Aurora Montessori School (Aurora) – for planting 455 trees to create a legacy forest that would also serve as a way to block noise from a nearby rail line. Principal Kane Burg led the initiative, with the help of 150 students and teachers.
13. Kathleen Carroll (Uxbridge) – for initiating an outdoor schoolyard naturalization project at Joseph Gould Public School. The school’s EcoClub members and kindergarten children planted 50 native trees at the back of the schoolyard, and added mulch to help protect their roots.
1. Aurora Environmental Advisory Committee (Aurora) – for organizing the community’s first Earth Week Fair. The event featured nearly 30 exhibitors who provided information on the environment, energy conservation and invasive species.
2. Geoffrey Shore (Georgina) – for bringing his students out each year to support the Maskinonge River Recovery Project. This year, 23 of his students helped plant 150 trees and shrubs and 100 native flowering plants.
3. W.H. Day Elementary School (Bradford West Gwillimbury) – for helping turtles that are being killed on roads by convincing the town to put up 16 cautionary road signs. The grade 2-3 and 3-4 classes also built owl boxes, and asked LSRCA staff members to install them at Scanlon Creek Conservation Area.
4. Nancy Astin (Oro-Medonte) – for being a teacher who surpasses expectations to educate students on the watershed and environmental sustainability. She has led the school’s Green Team on a number of initiatives: creating a no-mow zone at school, installing native plant gardens, organizing litter clean-up and promoting National Sweater Day (to reduce carbon footprint by lowering the heat), to name a few.
5. Uxbridge Youth Centre & Uxbridge Watershed Advisory Committee (Uxbridge) – for partnering together to run The Brook Never Sleeps program during March Break each year. The program includes indoor and outdoor activities to engage children with nature and the ecology of the Uxbridge Brook.
Pioneering Green Communities Award
1. Mariposa Folk Festival Green Team (Orillia) – for being a leader in the establishment and implementation of environmentally responsible event management. The annual music event has been incorporating green initiatives since 2009.
2. Lafarge Canada Inc. (Watershed wide) – for donating sand and gravel (including haulage and delivery) used by LSRCA to set up artificial turtle nests along roadsides at five sites within the watershed. The nests provide habitat for turtles, and prevent them from crossing the road.
3. Township of Ramara (Ramara) – for making the switch to applying granite, instead of traditional sand and salt to combat winter road conditions. The Township now uses only 4% salt, and is able to reclaim 20% of the granite for use the next year.
4. Ontario Water Centre – ReWilding Lake Simcoe (Watershed wide) – for undertaking a number of projects that help restore the health of the local waterways and Lake Simcoe. These include completing the Pine Beach Community Park in the Town of Georgina, and Centennial Park in the City of Kawartha Lakes.
Conservation Award of Merit
1. Stormwater Management Policy Working Group (Watershed wide) – for working together to develop new stormwater management guidelines for LSRCA. These new guidelines represent a paradigm shift for stormwater management in Ontario, and an outstanding collaboration between a number of diverse organizations.
Ernie Crossland Young Conservationist Award
1. Simba Musewe (Newmarket) – for his volunteer work at his school on environmental initiatives. He assisted in organizing a centralized recycling collection area, and during his lunch hour he rounded up students to teach them about recycling and sorting. He organized them into teams to collect recycling from each classroom, and created announcements based on trash found in the wrong place, so the school could work towards better sorting practices.
2. Mia Harwood, Kyra Bryson, and Sunderland Public School student body (Brock) – for the students’ commitment to the environment shown through a number of projects. Some of these include helping with weekly garbage and recycling duties, promoting litter-less lunches, and championing the purchase of a goat to help feed a family in another country.
Volunteer Recognition Award
1. Jennifer Stewart and Kathryn Stewart – Run for the Trails event (Bradford West Gwillimbury) – for their volunteer work with the Run for the Trails event at Scanlon Creek Conservation Area, which raises money for the trails. In 2015, volunteers Jennifer and Kathryn collectively secured 26 local sponsors and organized course set up, event timing and details, refreshments and the awards.
2. Maskinonge River Recovery Project Committee (Georgina) – for the volunteer committee’s efforts in donating time every month to attend meetings, community events and workshops and contributing project ideas to improve the Maskinonge River. The committee also helps run events like Up the Maskinonge with a Paddle, to help improve the health of the Maskinonge River.
Photo: Town of Innisfil Councillor and LSRCA Board Vice-Chair Richard Simpson (left), George R. Richardson Conservation Award of Honour recipient Annabel Slaight, Aurora Mayor and LSRCA Board Chair Geoffrey Dawe.