Planned and Unplanned Actions City of Kingston

The City of Kingston prides itself on “where innovation and history strive”, and there are indeed examples of exciting policies and good infrastructure emerging  in our city. A good example is the city’s Waterfront Master Plan. Click here to see how it affects the Aragon Road. 

But if eager civil servants do not communicate between the silos they inhabit at City Hall, good plans  go awry. Take the latest example of unwelcome and unplanned tree planting in the Cecil and Wilma Graham’s nature park  opposite their century farm  on the historic Aragon Road. Located adjacent to the Esther March Bay, a secluded bay off Colonel By Lake, where nature has been left alone for the last century plus and where nature thrives.

Suddenly,  rows of evergreen seedlings in a straight pattern appeared in the park area that has been used for haying as long as people along the Aragon Road can remember. The soil has been treated with chemicals to destroy the grass  and flowers that grow in this ecologically important meadow habitat. It was Cecil and Wilma’s wish when they donated this valuable land bordering the lake, that it would remain natural and would be enjoyed by the public for observation of wildlife and for light recreational activities like hiking and birding.  Why would the city plant 4000 trees in a mono-culture of spindly evergreens in a strict geometric pattern, which is not compatible with a nature park. Photo credit: Jackie Duffin

Concerned citizens asked our Councillor Gary Oosterhof if he could help to explain this unwanted action.Bob Wolfe past member of the Rural Affairs Committee sent a letter to Councillor Oosterhof which is included in the August agenda for the meeting: click here for the letter with supporting documentation. It will be discussed at the September 25th meeting.

And here is the answer to inquiries from him, sent to the Councillor by the Department of Transportation and Public Work. (highlights by the website editor):

This is a seedling planting program that is done in partnership with the CRCA ( Cataraqui Regional Conservation Area, ed.) under a Provincial Program called “50 Million Trees”. It is part of a reforestation program and the City has participated since 2016 to support Council’s priority to Double the Tree Canopy. I believe the CRCA has a 3rd party that does the planting. I understand they do spray so the seedlings have a chance to survive rather than competing with the grass. I don’t have all the details but I can assure you the planter would be registered and would only use approved products. We can ask the CRCA for additional information if that is required. The planting is (sic) being done in a municipal park and it has not been our practice to notify area residents when we are planting trees on public land.

Sheila Kidd, Commissioner Transportation and Public Works

The Cecil and Wilma Graham park should not have  been used to plant trees without regard for the historic nature of the environment of the Aragon Road. It is a forced road, having evolved since the mid-eighteen hundreds into a heritage road with many important natural features that remind visitors and residents of our rural history. This is especially important to recognize since the road runs parallel with the Rideau Canal watershed, a UNESCO world heritage site.

We ask that the natural meadow features be restored to what Wikipedia describes as:  A meadow is an open habitat, or field, vegetated by grass and other non-woody plants. … They provide areas for courtship displays, nesting, food gathering, pollinating insects, and sometimes sheltering, if the vegetation is high enough, making them ecologically important. Click here for more.

The City’s Planning Department works hard to recognize habitats, historic features and sight-lines  in our natural environment and in the so-called build environment in the city’s center and  along its waterfront. All of this is part of the Official Plan and written in more detail in the Waterfront Master Plan. Why is Public Works going outside this plan and ignore  our efforts to keep the Aragon Road Kingston’s best kept nature’s paradise?

For the name “Paradise” see the Oral History of the Road. Click here.

Part of the Cecil and Wilma Park area looking from the Aragon Road to the west. This meadow is used for haying. We have spotted foxes and their young, wild turkeys and their fledglings, deer and many different species of birds and insect-pollinators. At the edges  and in other sections of the park, milkweed grows that is essential for the monarch butterfly population that is just recovering slightly from years of habitat destruction and is threatened with extinction. Photo credit: Jackie Duffin.

The park looking to the east over Esther Marsh Bay and Colonel By Lake. The waterfront is part of the Rideau Canal and the UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo credit: Henk Wevers. 

Esther March Bay bordering the Cecil and Wilma Graham Park. A sensitive secluded area that offers an undisturbed water and wetland habitat intertwined with the meadow habitat of the park. Photo credit: Bob Wolfe.

There will be continuing discussions in the Rural Advisory Committee on this topic and the citizens who care about the preservation of the historic aspects of the Aragon Road demand that the seedlings be removed to prevent the establishment of a disturbing mono-culture of spindly evergreens. See photo below which shows a planted plot of pine trees after thirty years of growth.

Is this example of a mono-culture what Public Works wants for the sight lines towards the Rideau Canal? Would Parks Canada like this view, and does it honor our history and the Waterfront Master Plan?

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