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County’s south shore land on way to designation as conservation reserve

Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith watches as Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek delivers the announcement at Point Petre. – Sue Capon photo

Ontario is beginning the process to designate Ostrander Crown Land Block and Point Petre Provincial Wildlife Area as a new conservation reserve.

Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith brought Jeff Yurek, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks to Point Petre Thursday afternoon to make the announcement.

With designation, the main thing is all industrial development ceases, said Yurek.

“It’s done. It will be preserved for the future and plans going forward will be to maintain and enhance the protection of the vegetation and species-at-risk and ensure it’s enjoyed by generations to come,” he said.

The lands would become the first new conservation reserve identified since Ontario’s Living Legacy Land Use Strategy, announced in 1999, which resulted in the creation of 58 new provincial parks and 268 new conservation reserves.

Over the coming months, the province will complete an assessment and evaluation of the site, in collaboration with Indigenous communities and environmental organizations.

Yurek noted it was the work of the community pushing the issue with Minister Smith that brought it forward.

“People would like more opportunities to explore nature and they like to see the creation and protection of more green spaces across our entire province,” he said. “That’s why our ministry will explore this proposal.”

John Hirsch, president of the South Shore Joint Initiative speaks to the gathering, as MPPs Jeff Yurek and Todd Smith, and Mayor Steve Ferguson look on. – Sue Capon photo

It’s an announcement we have been waiting for, for a long time, said County councillor John Hirsch, president of the South Shore Joint Initiative.

“Here on one of the County’s so-called secret beaches, we celebrate a great realization by the province, that the south shore of Prince Edward County is a very special and important place, worthy of permanent protection,” said Hirsch. “To those of us who have worked so hard over the last few years, for some of us; many years for others, this is a victory.”

He noted it is many victories – for the 33-plus species-at-risk, the rare and fragile alvar, and victory for the entire eco-system of the south shore which is the last significant, largely undisturbed stretch of the north shore of Lake Ontario.

“It has truly been a collaborative effort,” said Hirsch, who thanked the people who came to form the South Shore Joint Initiative, who had the idea to bring together many of the organizations dedicated to nature and conservation, whether or not they were in the County.

Exploring creation of the new conservation reserve is based on the conservation efforts of the South Shore Joint Initiative, a not-for-profit coalition working to protect the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area in the South Shore of Prince Edward County, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, who acquired and is managing privately protected areas in the region.

Hirsch told Yurek there were plenty of folks lined up to help provincial officials in the consultation process “and I guess you’d be happy if we turned off the letter writing campaign about now. Over 1,600 letters bombarding your office. That’s probably enough.”

Smith noted people in attendance at the announcement represented many of the groups he has worked with over the past years.

“I know you’re all smiling underneath those masks at the announcement made by Minister Yurek,” he said, noting it meets the government’s commitment to find more opportunities to expand Ontario’s parks and conservation reserves, which play an important role in the quality of life we enjoy.”

Sandbanks Provincial Park, said Yurek, is a separate issue, noting the ministry has short-term and long-term goals and has staff in discussion with all provincial parks officials to speak to heavy tourism concerns.

“We’ve put forth a few changes at this point to try to alleviate the traffic issues going into and out of the park. Those were ideas brought forth by local councillors in this area,” said Yurek. “We’re going to continue to move forward to make it an enjoyable experience for those attending the parks, but also make sure those living around the park also enjoy their life spaces, and have the economic benefits of having a provincial park in their area.”

Graham Saul, executive director of Nature Canada called the conservation reserve announcement a critical step forward.

“We championed this initiative alongside local conservation groups and we encourage the government to provide a strong management plan for the South Shore that will protect this treasured natural area for generations,” he said.

“I am thrilled,” said Cheryl Anderson, a member of the South Shore Joint Initiative and other groups working for protection of the south shore of Prince Edward County.

“It’s just been 10 years for me, but other people have been working on this for much longer – this is a long story, maybe over 30 years. Getting these two pieces of public land protects 4,000 more acres of the south shore.”

Conservation reserves have minimal facilities and are intended for low levels of recreational use, such as hiking, fishing, bird watching and other activities.

Ostrander Crown Land Block and Point Petre Provincial Wildlife Area are currently provincial Crown land managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, used for waterfowl hunting, hiking, recreational motorized vehicles and other recreational activities. Point Petre is also designated as a Provincial Wildlife Area.

Ontario manages and protects 340 provincial parks and 295 conservation reserves totalling 9.8 million hectares or over nine per cent of the province.

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  1. John Hassell says:

    Ontario Nature congratulates Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, Jeff Yurek, on his announcement that the government intends to permanently protect more than 3,200 acres of provincial Crown Lands on the South Shore of Prince Edward County as a Conservation Reserve.

    The announcement is a huge success for our Nature Network member group, the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, and the South Shore Joint Initiative, that have worked tirelessly to champion this ecological gem.

  2. Doris Lane says:

    The south shore of the County is a very special place. It is great to see more of made into a reserve

  3. Dave Thomas says:

    Wonderful, wonderful news. This area is about as wild as you can get in southern Ontario, making it a very special place. Does anybody know whether this designation will restrict the use of ATVs in the area?

  4. Cheryl Anderson says:

    A special Thank You to everyone who wrote to the Minister to support this initiative. It made a difference. It shows that when we all work together we can accomplish great things.

  5. MissP says:

    A huge round of applause for everyone who has worked tirelessly on this important initiative. Recognizing the importance and uniqueness of our County’s South Shore is critical. Well done! Some of the best news I’ve heard in a long time – you cannot wipe the smile off my face right now.

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