Earth Day and London's Environmental Treasures

By Ed Corrigan

Published in Your Village News, May 5, 2006

April 23, 2006 was Earth Day. Various activities were held around the World to celebrate Earth Day and to remind us all how precious our natural heritage is and how fragile is our environment. In London Earth Day activities were held at the Westminster Ponds. Suncor Energy Foundation has been the sponsor of Earth Day activities in London for the past 6 years.

Activities include planting 1,500 trees to enhance the natural buffer at the Westminster Ponds. Under the supervision of the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority wild life scrubs were also planted to enhance the natural character of the area. In total over 6,000 native hard wood trees will be planted by children from local schools and other community members in the London region.

An enjoyable time was held by all, despite the threat of rain. The Canadian Raptor Conservancy put on a show with Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Red Tail Hawks and Great Horned Owls. Displays on Species at Risk and on London's Environmentally Significant Areas were also featured. The London Laff guards were on hand for face painting and for making balloon animals and hats.

Khalil Ramal MPP for London Fanshawe was on hand to bring greetings from the Province of Ontario. Councillor Cheryl Miller brought greetings from the City of London. Draws for bikes and food also enhanced the family aspects of the day. Staff from the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority were also on hand to answer questions.

The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority

The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, or UTRCA, is one of 36 Conservation Authorities in the Province of Ontario, Canada. Their area of jurisdiction, the upper watershed of the Thames River, covers 3,432 square kilometres in southwestern Ontario and home to 422,322 people. The Thames has been designated a Canadian Heritage River.

I had the pleasure of sitting on the Board of the UTRCA when I served on City Council. This is a vitally important agency that maintains the dams that helps prevent flooding from the Thames River and other waterways in the London area. The UTRCA manages Fanshawe, Pittock and Wildwood Conservation areas. They also manage many of the "Environmentally Significant Areas" (ESAs) in the London area.

Earth Day 2006 picture with Khalil Ramal M.P.P. and friends.

Environmentally Significant Areas

There are 16 natural areas are designated as ESAs in the City of London. These areas represent a variety of habitats, including upland forests, wetlands and river corridors. The ESAs are an integral part of London's proposed Natural Heritage System connecting parks, valley lands and other open spaces. In addition to the official ESAs, London has many other natural areas within the city limits.

The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority manages six of the ESAs in partnership with the City. These include; Kilally Meadows, Meadowlily Woods, Medway Valley Heritage Forest, Sifton Bog, Warbler Woods and Westminster Ponds/Pond Mills Conservation Area. The Upper Thames' ESA team is working to prepare the Kains Woods ESA in west Byron for public access. It is anticipated that this area will be open to the public soon.

The UTRCA's management objectives for these areas are to protect the ESAs, to ensure public safety, to encourage partnership and education, and to promote and enforce proper use. Their job is deal with encroachment by property owners into the ESAs, cutting hazardous trees to ensure safe use of the trails, repairing and replacing bridges, staircases and boardwalks, installing signs and trail markers and removing garbage, restricting unofficial access points to protect sensitive vegetation, and enforcing rules to protect vegetation, wildlife and people under the Provincial Offences Act.

Brochures for the six ESAs are available free of charge from Tourism London Information Centre (696 Wellington Rd. South, in Westminster Ponds ESA) and the Dundas Street Information Centre (267 Dundas Street at Wellington) or the City Planning Department, 6th floor, City Hall, (519) 661-250 ext. 4980. You can also contact the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority at (519) 451-2800, email infoline@thamesriver.on.ca

Rules to Remember in London's ESAs

Please use the official access points indicated on the trail maps. Managed trails are marked with yellow markings. All dogs must be on leash (2 metre/ 6 ft max.) Do not disturb wildlife or pick or transplant flowers. Keep the ESAs litter free. Fishing is permitted with a
provincial fishing licence. No hunting is permitted. Access allowed from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Bicycles are only permitted on the asphalt or crushed gravel paths in Kilally Meadows and Medway Valley. Bicycles are not permitted in any other locations. All motorized off road vehicles and any kind of motor bikes are prohibited.

If you have questions or concerns about management of London's Environmentally Significant Areas, please contact the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority: telephone: 519-451-2800 ext. 281 or e-mail infoline@thamesriver.on.ca. Their web site is www.thamesriver.on.ca.

These ESA's are environmental treasures and so long as we preserve them and protect them they are ours to enjoy and will be there for the enjoyment of future generations. Many people do not know that these protected natural areas are in our own backyards. They are waiting to be explored and enjoyed at no charge to the public.

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