Looking for help to save the ‘400’

Dear Editor,

I am writing this letter in regards to the South Dundas council’s decision to  liquidate our (the taxpayers) public recreational land. South Dundas Township has many large pieces of recreational land such as golf courses, beaches, outdoor rinks, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, basketball courts, playgrounds, boat launches, dog parks, and parkland that line then northern shores of the St. Lawrence River.

 There is only one large piece of public land in this township, however, that is suitable for the activities in which it is currently used. This piece of land is what we call around here: “the 400”. I am writing this letter as a concerned citizen of this township and this country.

South Dundas stretches approximately 30 kilometres along the river. Now, a good portion of that is owned by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission (Ontario government) and is designated as a sanctuary. From the end of the sanctuary land just east of Morrisburg to the end of the township just west of Iroquois (which is 11.9 kilometres from Morrisburg) is approximately 15 to 20 kilometres. 

In this small stretch of waterfront there is a park in the Village of Morrisburg. There is also a dog park on this site. It is a fenced environment and is complete with tow large separate caged areas, interlock brick walkways, lighting, there is even a hose and water at the site to clean the… well, you know what I mean off your shoes. 

Across the road from the dog park is a beach. Further west, there is another waterfront park in the hamlet of Mariatown. Continue down Lakeshore Drive a couple kilometres and you will come upon Loyalist Park, which again is waterfront property.

A few kilometres later down County Road 2 you get to Iroquois. This town holds some large waterfront properties. These consist of: an 18 hole golf course, a beach and an airstrip. 

Recently, the Iroquois Gold Club came up for lease. It was a controversial issue. On one side, many wanted to sell the golf course and its property. The shared opinion was that the golf course did not generate enough revenue to justify keeping it open. It was felt that if we sold this land to a developer of sorts, we would benefit greatly from, first, the initial revenue generated from the sale of this mass waterfront property and, for the long term, that the construction and operations of whatever was built there would keep the money flowing for years to come. 

On the other side, were the citizens who felt that the land should remain public, and that development would ruin the natural beauty of the landscape in this village. In the end, the public’s opinion was heard. The township had asked the public’s opinion, and although there was much controversy, the final decision was to see the golf course remain in public hands. So, council made the decision, and a new 20 year lease was signed, case closed.

You’re probably wondering exactly where I’m going with this. What I’m getting at here is that last week I opened up the local paper, as my eyes scrolled their way down the front page, I suddenly stopped and swallowed hard as I read the title of an article. It stated: “Forested land and wetland declared surplus by council.” 

Immediately, I knew the location! A location very familiar to me. Coincidentally this “surplus” land, is but a few feet from forested land that has been in my family for two generations. This “surplus” land is a place where I’ve grown up, I’ve walked, rode, and hunted this land my entire life. It is a playground of a different kind, a playground without monkey bars, swings, or slides, but a playground none the less.

This property has provided recreation of a different variety to many outdoorsmen. ATV/dirt bike/skidoo riders, cross-country skiers, nature enthusiasts, and families from in and out of this township who prefer the serenity, seclusion, and natural beauty of this property to the other public parks and recreation areas in the township. Pretty much all of which are located in towns and villages close to roads, homes, and businesses. 

There is an unmaintained road that runs on the south side of this 397.31 acres of land, which has served as an absolutely amazing walk/ride through nothing but forest, for everything from ATV’s and snowmobiles to hunters or just someone out for a walk.

The impact on the folks who use this public property could be potentially devastating, for it is truly the last large piece of bush that exists in this township (as the satellite imagery will confirm). All that is left after this are small plots of bush scattered between vast plains of corn and soy and these small plots are disappearing more and more every year, cut away for expanding farms and the ever increasing demand for corn, essential for the production of ethanol fuel.

 But an even bigger concern than losing a favoured recreation spot, is the certain potential for the complete annihilation of a vast ecosystem that exists in our last standing forest. Articles stated that an environmental study will be done. However, this study is only in place to detect the presence of two fish, four birds, and three plants. Well you can be certain the fish will not be there. So what happens if none of these nine species are found? 

This forest is home to thousands upon thousands of mammals, birds, reptiles, and plant life. These lands are a safe haven for these animals. When winter comes, the mammals seek refuge deep in these thick cedar swamps, the only place that they really have to shelter themselves from the bitterness of winter. They feed off the buds of the coniferous trees to stay alive, as any other source of food (ex: grass, crops) is dead, frozen, and buried. 

So what do we expect those animals, who are not considered endangered, to do when their food and shelter is taken away from them? They will move to survive. Accidents caused by “road kills” will rise, the food source will be gone, eventually the smaller animals will die off and larger, predatory animals (like coyotes, which are very much present in this township) will move elsewhere to find food to survive, whether that be prey in another habitat or somebody’s house pet.

Now, I realize there’s potential for someone to buy the land and not clear cut the entire bush, however, myself and many other residents share the opinion that odds are, this bush will be non-existent in the not so distant future. If you need proof of that, I recommend that you go and visit Google Earth and take a look at this area for yourself. I can’t even count the number of forests I saw being clear cut in the last year there were so many, can you? 

I just find it very odd that all of this is happening so fast. When council was considering selling the Iroquois Golf Course, it was publicized from the very thought to the final decision. The 400 was not. A short article stating that this property has been deemed surplus and will be sold. Also, I was only able to find notification of this in the Morrisburg Leader and the Standard Freeholder. 

I have met regular visitors of the 400 during all my time spent at this public land. A lot of these people are not even from South Dundas. I have met people from Russell, Embrun, Ottawa, Montreal, Brockville, Cornwall, Alexandria, the list goes on and on. I’m sure that all of these people from those areas would be just as upset about the sale of this property as we are. In fact, I’m sure some of them would even make an offer on the property to have for sporting purposes. However, they will probably not find out about the sale of this property until long after it has been sold.

I’m not writing this to cause an issue, nor am I comparing town to country, but I have to say that it is extremely unfair that the decision to sell was already made before we were even informed that the land was deemed as surplus. 

This land is virtually maintenance free to this townhsip. The road that runs through it is unmaintained, it is overgrown, and tore up from years of riding and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not a tree-hugger or environmentalist. I’m not a do-gooder or someone on a mission to save the planet. I’m an average citizen of this land just like anyone else born here. I’m defending this land so that my children and grandchildren can enjoy it for what it is, just as my generation and generations before that have enjoyed it just the same.

When the citizens of this township spoke out against the sale of their golf course and town waterfront, many who didn’t even use the golf course lent their support and signatures to keep the course in public hands. I support recreation of all kinds in this township, so I believe I speak for most users of the 400 land when I say… would you please support us in keeping this land the way it is, and in the hands of the citizens of this land. 

The final day for bids on this land is April the 16th. We don’t have a lot of time, I urge you to please voice your concerns to Mayor Steven Byvelds and Clerk Brenda Brunt as their names were the only two mentioned in the statement given to newspapers.

Mayor Steven Byvelds

613-652-2271

613-897-1617 (cell)

mayor@southdundas.com (email)

Brenda Brunt – clerk

613-535-2673 (township office)

1-800-265-0619 (toll free)

bbrunt@southdundas.com (email)

Southdundas.com

Facebook.com/southdundas

 

Sincerely,

Tyler Mills

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