My Letter to Guelph Councillors About OPA 48

I am concerned that OPA 48 does not provide adequate protection for Guelph’s rivers and greenways.

I have been a Guelph resident since 1982 when I came here for university. I stayed because I love Guelph’s strong sense of community, vital downtown, cultural life, and progressive environmental record. Few features have enriched my life as the parks along the rivers. They provide recreation and solace to me, my family and friends, and inspiration to me as a writer.

My new home since last summer backs onto Hanlon Creek Conservation Area. Yesterday morning while sitting on my back deck I was startled to hear a scarlet tanager singing in the woods. These beautiful songbirds are threatened by habitat fragmentation. They require large tracts of mature woods for nesting, and I was surprised to hear one within the city limits. So late in the spring it must be nesting nearby. This highlights another essential value of river greenways: as habitat for resident and migrant wildlife. With our river system citizens can live in the city and also be close to nature. This precious, unusual resource needs protection.

It has been argued that OPA 48 adequately protects the rivers. However, the document has dropped the River System Management Plan which has been part of city planning since 1995. The RSMP is one of the most progressive urban river policies and has served as a model elsewhere. Recently it was used in working out the Downtown Guelph Secondary Plan. Dropping it from the Official Plan is not progress.

OPA 48 also fails to prioritize integrating passive-use open space areas and Natural Heritage features into a unified greenway system. This action exists as a priority within the existing Official Plan, and it should not be dropped.

It is not enough for the Official Plan to imply inclusion of these policies. Such implications will soon be forgotten. Sections of this remarkable greenway system might become subject to development under OPA 48. These deficiencies have only become apparent within recent weeks. The Official Plan belongs to Guelph’s residents. It should not be passed until we understand why these important policies have been dropped. I request that approval of OPA 48 be delayed until this question is resolved.

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