HERITAGE ROAD AND PARK MAINTENANCE

How to merge modern road and park maintenance with the historic character of the Aragon Road and its recreational use?

The Aragon Road is a “forced’ road dating back to the mid-1800s.  There are five “century” homes on the road and four historic barns. Much of the road is forested with trees that are up to one hundred fifty years old. Thanks to Cecil and Wilma Graham who donated a large parcel of waterfront land to the former Kingston Township, the road has retained its rural and historic character. In the mid 1980-s, Cecil Graham resisted the re-routing of hydro poles to run along the road and they remained on his land along the original right of way for hydro out of sight from the road. The Aragon Road just before and after the Graham farm retains its true Victorian era landscape.

graham trees july 2015 a

Some of the century old trees at the Graham farm house on the Aragon Road. Note there are no hydro poles and lines in this long stretch of the road. The trees give an “park like” like feeling that should be preserved; any cut back and trimming should be done with the heritage landscape in mind. Maybe the City arborist and park staff should be consulted prior to planning any maintenance?

Lately road and park maintenance issues have been discussed by the RAC. During the discussion it was suggested that city parks and rural parks are different in their usage. While some rural parks are designed for ball games and other public use, other parks, such as the Cecil and Wilma Graham Park have been donated to the city “for the public to enjoy”. These are the words that Wilma Graham used to describe her family’s wishes. The Graham family and several of the residents on the road see public enjoyment of the parks and recreational areas along the Aragon Road to include: hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, jogging, fishing from shore, bird watching, roller blading and longboarding and other activities.

These recreational users share the no-exit road with automobiles, motorcycles, and farm vehicles.  The small informal boat ramp serves to launch smaller boats, occasional swimmers, anglers, iceboat sailors and skaters. The water beyond the boat ramp is weedy therefore Sea-doo type personal watercraft does not use the launch.

While safety always is an important consideration, there have not been any vehicle accidents since we became residents on the road in 1982. A speed limit of 60 km per hour has slowed down most vehicle operators, except the occasional outlier. Policing the road for speeders is not practical; setting good examples by most residents seems to pay off.

Very recently the City’s road maintenance crews came to “edge” the road. This involved cleaning the side or edge of the existing road surface with a brushing machine and applying fresh tarmac about fifty centimeters, or a foot and a half, wide. This widens the road considerably without cutting trees, shrubs and wildflowers. It was done to improve and direct water run-off, prevent the cracking and abrading of the road surface, and, as a major benefit for recreational users, it allows them to travel more to the side of the road while motor vehicles can now give wider berth to the slower traffic. The job was efficiently and well done. Most residents might agree and we complement the maintenance department.

According to the Supervisor who came by to inspect the progress, after this edging and filling is some potholes, “they were done with this road.”

In the future however, there remain questions about maintenance and developments under the Waterfront Master Plan that is drafted by the City of Kingston.

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Maintenance

Road maintenance might include brush control and tall grass cutting. Recently we have seen brush cutting as it should not be done. The “flailing” machine is not suitable for cutting young and older trees. This issue came before RAC and is resolved. Cutting tall grass is fine as long as it is timed properly since it also cuts wildflowers that feed beneficial insects needed for pollination. The Ontario Nature Conservancy recommends waiting with tall grass cutting till after most early wildflowers have bloomed. This seems common sense and it is hoped that the road maintenance schedule will consider this.

Should the Aragon Road be compliant with modern highway specifications? We hope not. In attempting to preserve its heritage character, cutting of tree limbs, new growth encroaching on the road itself and other consideration ought to be creative, sensitive and cognizant of the importance of preserving some of our rural history that is at the root of our modern existence in Canada. We hope that the planning of important maintenance work can be brought forward to the RAC for a second opinion before proceeding with the work. A Heritage Working Group within RAC might be desirable.

To optimise safety at the boat ramp it is recommended to construct speed bumps that require the auto traffic to slow down well below the 60 km/hr speed limit. This would be inexpensive and very effective with no damage to the historic character of the road.

The maintenance of the Cecil and Wilma Graham Park should only cover the area around the memorial to the late Cecil and Wilma Graham and the memorial itself. It needs weeding and the plaque needs to be remounted properly. To the west is a large area that is maintained by the local farmer taking off hay, something Cecil would have approved. To the east wildflowers and milkweed are abundant. It is suggested that this part remains wild. The flowers complement both the memorial and the spirits of the two persons it commemorates, and the milkweed is recommended by nature groups to leave as is because it is the sole nutrient for the Monarch butterfly that is in decline as a result of removing the milkweed areas on its migratory route north from Mexico via the eastern USA to Canada.

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The large milkweed and wild flower patch on the east side of the Cecil and Wilma Graham Park. The memorial is in the background at the right.

It is recommended that these considerations and ideas inform the road, park and recreation maintenance planning at staff level and that RAC might consider this in the committee or in a working group.

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RAC?????

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LANDSCAPING A SOLAR FARM

Several proposals for solar farms have popped up around the City of Kingston one affects our neighbourhood directly. this is the proposal to build a solar farm on the land just north of Kingston Mills Road and Battersea Road, south of Edenwood. The city requires certain standards in landscaping and it would be wise to press the company and support our Rural Advisory Committee in improving the visual screening of the solar farm from the people that use the road beside it.

The planting of trees along the side fronting the road is useless if it is done as one can see here.

solar farm unity road treesThe visual barrier between the site and the road consists of a single row of small cedars, most of them have died during the winter. There is no visual screening of the site now and it the future since the trees grows slowly and when re-plated they start all over again from a very small size.

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It would be much better if the landscaping included a substantial earthen berm that hides the solar collectors right from the start and plant trees both on top of the berm and in front of it facing the road. This way one visually screens the solar farm from day one AND when the trees grow up it fits much better in the surrounding rural landscape. See this sketch.

solar farm berm

In this concept the berm screens the user of the road from the solar array and the trees when grown up enhance the landscape.

In this concept plan for making a solar farm more visually acceptable the berm serves as a first defence against the effect of a large solar panel array on people who travel past it and on neighbours. While the berm is initially more costly than a row of little trees, it is more effective and in the long run, in conjunction with tree planting provides a  much better boundary around or along a large solar farm.

Let us know what you think, and please try to be at the Open House that the company is planning to offer in the coming weeks. The announcement of that meeting will be in the Kingston Whig and on the City of Kingston website. We will do our best to alert you to this date as well.

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NEWS FROM THE RURAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE: SOLAR FARM IN OUR NEIGHBOURHOOD

At the meeting of the Rural Advisory Committee, (RAC), on June 22, renewable energy companies made presentations about solar farm projects in our neighbourhoods. One such project, if accepted by the Province of Ontario, would see the building of a solar panel array on the land along Montreal/Battersea Road north of Kingston Mills Road and south of Riverside Drive, Edenwood. When completed it will be a different sight than the slowly reforesting meadow that is now there.

On our way to or from Kingston we will not be able to miss it. The potential site is shown here.

solar map cropped

The area bound by Montreal or Battersea Road running north on the left of the photo, Kingston Mills Road  at the bottom, and River Ridge Drive of Battersea Road at the north side. Note that there is a substantial second growth forest in the north east section of the site; that might not be preserved.

solar map cropped to site

The actual proposed site for the solar panels and infrastructure, cropped from the photo above. To the left is Montreal/Battersea Road, at the bottom is Kingston Mills Road. More than half the site is forest.

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There are reasons that we might have to accept such a development: it is non-polluting at least during its operation; it gives us part of our electric energy that we use for our comfort; and having the energy produced locally seems beneficial for our environment. This is my own opinion and others might disagree with that. I don’t think the local municipality can stop it as it is mostly or all under Provincial jurisdiction. However under the new provincial law the host community and city can requires that guidelines be followed to mitigate the solar farm’ impact. This is where we as neighbours can make some impact by providing input at the open house coming up.

Already, an observer of municipal affairs said, “By replacing fossil fuels to generate electricity and thus cleaning our environment, we should not create visible pollution.” A very wise observation, indeed.

Under the “Large Renewable Procurement” program or LRP — bureaucrats are wont of using abbreviations–the local authorities have a somewhat stronger voice in the development of renewable energy projects of larger scale.

So, how should we react?

You can send your feelings and opinions to the Rural Advisory Committee at the City Website and/or contact your councillor Richard Allen, who welcomes your input, or just voice your opinion on our neighbourhood website by sending me an email at weversh@queensu.ca.

The City has prepared a Report to the Rural Advisory Committee, reference: RAC-15-009 which can be downloaded from the address  below. It includes several attachments.

One such an attachment relates to “Landscaping and Site Design Guidelines”. In this document the company must submit a plan that includes a “Visual Appearance and Impact Guideline”. This allows us to suggest effective and visually appropriate measures to protect neighbouring properties from undesirable glare, lighting that projects its beams downwards and avoids light pollution of the night sky, and methods of screening the plant from public road.

We will never see a nice dense forest habitat for wildlife on those acres, but the impact on our daily lives might be mitigated by these landscape guidelines.

My idea of properly screening a site like this is different from what we see at the current solar farms on Unity Road.

solar farm unity road trees

Note the double ,widely, spaced row of scrawny cedar trees, most of them dead, is not a good visual screening method. First they are too small, secondly when they die in their first year of planting, the next replacements will again be too low for proper visual effect, and whey they die the process starts all over with no real growth to greater height in several years after opening the solar farm.

solar farm unitiy road a

The “visual tree barrier” seen from the gate of the solar farm on Unity Road.

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Planting a row of small evergreens that don’t seem to thrive as lone protectors of the site is not enough. A berm of some height that screens the site from eye level view in the first year, with enough breadth that trees can be planted and thrive on its cresst, and with a second and third row of trees between this berm and the road, would create a viable natural barrier with some habitat for smaller wildlife. This could also serve as a corridor from one forested parcel to the other. This would at least mitigate somewhat the habitat loss from the area under the solar panels.

At the north side of the proposed area is a dense secondary forest that would protect the Edenwood neighbourhood from the visual effects of the panel array and would also preserve some habitat. The company representatives did not indicate how much land would be cleared. However there will be a public meeting in July so keep that in mind, it will be announced in the Whig and on the City website. We will also alert you in time to prepare for your attendance and input.

Another concern was pointed out at the RAC meeting by a citizen who currently lives in the area where large solar farm building is in progress. The racks that support the solar collectors are supported by 6 feet wide concrete blocks poured on bedrock or sufficiently deep to bear the weight of the equipment. What happens if after a twenty year period on contract with Ontario Power Generation, the company walks away from operating the farm? Is there a sufficient strong clause in these contracts that the company sets aside, in trust, an amount of money for rehabilitation of the land in case the plant ceases operation? A friend of mine who is much involved with the Amherst Island wind farm has severe doubt that the municipality and taxpayer is protected against the cost of returning the site to viable pasture or forest when the life of the plant has reached its end.

In closing have a look at this potential new development in our neighbourhood and give your thoughts and input at the, to be announced, Open House or right away by contacting your Councillor.

Websites and documents: Large Renewable Procurement program Report RAC-15-009 at: https://www.cityofkingston.ca/documents/10180/9818771/RAC_A0415-15009.pdf/1e1ec13d-e575-489b-9598-0b4a0ea0315e

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