Open letter on new tree policy

Mayor and councillors, I have just been informed that the tree policy is on next Monday’s agenda, but more importantly Town staff are presenting their “original” document for consideration by council.

Senior members of the Pelham Tree Conservation Society spent many hours discussing and fine-tuning the draft tree policy. In some instances, we found it wanting and provided changes with explanations. In this day and age, Town staff and council need to do better.

Just ignoring the Society is not an acceptable starting point for the Town, which runs counter to equity, inclusiveness and fairness.

Uwe Brand, PhD, DFGAC


Concerned about SDUs

To Pelham rate payers and families: I have a few concerns after reading about the proposed second dwelling unit, or “SDU,” changes to the existing Planning Act in the Voice. I believe it is a stealth bylaw change coming from the Ontario government and endorsed by our elected officials.

This is huge change in legislation that will forever change every community. It drastically affects urban and rural homeowners. Our grandchildren’s quality of life will be truly affected.

There are a growing number of “stop the sprawl” websites so far. Page 4 of the July 21 Farmers Monthly has half a page on this topic. Pelham should have a survey go out to each and every homeowner about this proposal and have an open, mask- wearing, ratepayers meeting at the MCC or outdoors there. Hamilton is sending out a survey about their proposed rural boundary change.

The Covid-19 pandemic seems to be the perfect avenue to quietly pass any legislation. It is time to request from our Mayor and councillors an in-depth and open process to make this decision that affects all of us. For more information, see, and scroll down to Schedule 12.

P. Bryant


Genesis, Darwin, creation and evolution

In the July 7 edition of the Voice, religion columnist Pastor Rob Weatherby raises the question, “Where did I come from?” [Faith Lift, p. 19.] He states that, “Human beings were originally created by an infinite God in His own image.” He cites the Biblical Genesis 1: 26-27 to support this view. He does not cite any evidence that human beings arose through an evolutionary process. I am writing to compare the evidence that supports creation or evolution.

Genesis 1: 26- 27 New International Version:

26 Then God said “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

The origin of these words remains obscure. Scholars do not agree on an author, but suggest they were written in Hebrew, on clay tablets, many centuries before the birth of Christ. Consequently they are pre-Christian. The words constitute an emphatic assertion that an infinite God created mankind. However, they lack supporting evidence.

In contrast, Charles Darwin (1809-82) is well known for promoting the idea of evolution. His first book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, was published in 1859. His second book, The Descent of Man, was published in 1871. His first book runs to 445 pages, the second to 333 pages.

As a young man, Darwin was recruited to be the naturalist on the five-year global voyage of HMS Beagle (1831-6). During the voyage Darwin studied the fauna, flora and geology of many different countries. His observations and data led him to formulate the idea that the origin of species results from the natural selection of those individuals in a population that inherit traits (mutants, variants), conferring a reproductive advantage.

He took decades to organize his evidence into a well documented hypothesis supporting evolution. This comprehensive, meticulous work became the basis of his two books.

Years later, DNA research generated further support for Darwin’s theory of evolution. The reproduction of all life forms requires the replication of DNA, or RNA in the case of viruses. In both cases occasional mistakes are made during the replication process. This results in mutations that may confer a disadvantage (e.g., a genetically inherited disease) or an advantage (e.g., a more robust immune system) to resulting progeny. Evolution is driven by the natural selection of those mutants that confer a reproductive advantage. The Covid-19 virus is evolving rapidly and multiplying because mutations have resulted in variants that make the virus more transmissible. Further evolution and multiplication of Covid-19 could result if mutations result in a virus that is vaccine resistant.

In fact, the Catholic Church now holds no official position on the theories of creation or evolution. Clearly the Church has been influenced by the weight of evidence in favor of evolution.

Alan Bown


Tree Society’s view of proposed policy

We of the Pelham Tree Conversation Society (PTCS), are pleased to submit our comments and recommendations pertaining to the Town of Pelham’s Tree Maintenance Policy, 802-01. The goals of the PTCS are to promote the preservation of our urban forest and help facilitate public discussion and education on the value of our trees. Today we find the trees still undervalued by the public, the Town, and developments. We are determined to make positive change by increasing our tree canopy and lessen our town’s carbon footprint.

Firstly, we would like to thank Town of Pelham council and staff for their efforts in addressing this matter and for the creation of the Revised Tree Maintenance Policy. After some 20-plus years of citizens advocating for a more comprehensive action plan to protect and grow Pelham’s tree canopy, and with what has essentially been up to this time two false starts to this end, we are gratified to discern that the Town administration now appears to be serious regarding this issue. We submit this document in the spirit of cooperation and inclusiveness, and with the hoped-for realization that Town staff and council understand that many citizens care about this issue and want to be part of the solution.

Of course, only time will tell if the Town will be willing to follow through on this new promise of a Tree Maintenance Policy. It is stated: “The specific goals on this Tree Maintenance Policy are to develop an integrated set of objectives and procedures that will combine to form a set of overall working guidelines….” We understand that an operational manual will be devised arising from this Policy and that there will be performance standards established, measurements taken and benchmarks set, this so council will be able to assess and thus determine if the Policy is being properly and fully implemented.

In review of page 1, 1. Purpose, and the stated objectives of this new Policy (a to g), by and large we consider these to represent worthy and realistic objectives on which to guide the operational procedures for carrying out the Policy. However, there is one glaring deficiency and this relates to objective (a). One cannot imagine that any responsible person will want to see a net loss of trees on municipal property, even though it appears to many this has been the case in our recent past.

Pertaining to the continuing statement in section (a), that being “…and that every effort shall be made to increase tree planting and expand the tree canopy within the Town,” it is our opinion that this Policy does not in any way sufficiently address that objective. We believe the issue of expanding the tree canopy is a vitally important one and feel very strongly this is an issue council must now address.

In review of the report titled, Subject: Review of the Proposed Tree Management Policy, it is stated the Town’s tree canopy is a source of civic pride and a major component of Pelham’s environmental health and future sustainability, and that the care and maintenance of municipal trees is a priority. Further it was stated in relation to the Town Strategic Plan relationship, that the tree canopy within the municipal boundary is vital to the high quality of life within the Town. Further, section 10.1 states “Public trees should be preserved whenever possible.” The PTCS wholly endorses these tenets.

The PTCS has made multiple recommendations for changes to the actual workings of the proposed Policy. Our sole purpose in doing so is to make a good policy even better! One of the many recommendations advised that the Town create a Forestry Public Advisory Committee, this committee to assist the Town with the extra demands of maintaining and growing our tree canopy, inventory monitoring, policy and educational needs.

We believe the issue of expanding the tree canopy is a vitally important one and feel very strongly this is an issue council must now address

Further, the PTCS recommends that a mechanism be put in place for citizens who have concerns about why a tree is being removed, to seek a second opinion (i.e., get another arborist’s report, etc.), and for an appeals process to be implemented. We recommend that Public Works be directed to keep and post a public list of trees slated for removal, list the reason(s) why, and for a period of 30 days accept and respond to inquiries from the public.

Regarding the tree canopy issue and the stated Town objective (a); “…every effort shall be made to increase tree planting and expand the tree canopy within the Town,” we respectively request that council place utmost priority to achieving this goal. Reference to a study of the Pelham tree canopy it seems to us could be undertaken quickly given advances in technology. Then, as Councillor Olson has suggested, an appropriate target for increasing the tree canopy is required, say 30 percent as an initial target (and this could be revisited with a view to increasing the target, say every four years, this in keeping with the term of council). Councillor Olson states that we need a target such as set by the Champion of Trees Award. He suggests this might come with the Town’s membership in an accrediting body. We wholeheartedly support Councillor Olson’s recommendations in such regard.

Further, just as we have been advised that the Region of Niagara is now in the throes of conducting a comprehensive study of exactly what lands they possess where trees could be planted, the Town needs to expeditiously do the same. One would presume that given the Federal government’s commitment to plant 2 billion more trees across Canada in this decade that any available public land in the Town could be dedicated towards this objective.

However, growing the Town tree canopy cannot simply rest with the Town administration, and as Councillor Olson refers to, a tree policy should build upon relationships with other government and NGOs, along with agricultural enterprises and others. As to what “others,” we would also add the development industry. Many trees can be lost to development and their numbers are often not replaced. We need development to become part of the solution versus being part of the problem.

Further as to “others,” the fact is that much of the land in the Town is privately held. It is thus our opinion individual landowners must also become part of the solution to preserving Pelham’s tree canopy. Just as many other communities in Ontario have undertaken (i.e. Niagara-on-the-Lake), it is our recommendation that a bylaw be struck to govern the protection of trees on private lands while setting forth a procedure should residents have concerns/issues with a tree on their property.

In conclusion, we of the PTCS along with many other citizens of Pelham, are prepared to act boldly in protecting and growing the trees of Pelham. We therefore appeal to the Town to join us in fomenting bold action! Let us together, in the spirit of cooperation and inclusiveness, make Pelham the greenest envy of the Niagara Region, and by doing so together leave a flourishing tree canopy that future generations can be proud of.

Mike Jones, Acting Chair
Pelham Tree Conversation Society


COMMENTARY / OP-ED | Dennis Edell

Pelham’s important Sulphur Spring Drive decision

Years after it washed out due to erosion from the Twelve Mile Creek, Pelham is attempting to repair and reconnect Sulphur Spring Drive. It must proceed with caution. Twelve Mile Creek downstream of the Fonthill urban area is Niagara’s only year-round cold-water stream capable of supporting a fragile population of native Book Trout. Brook Trout are a key indicator species for cold-water stream ecology— the canary in the proverbial coal mine. The Niagara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada is a not-for-profit, volunteer-led cold-water conservation organization. Over the past ten years, the Chapter has been studying, monitoring, and working in Twelve Mile Creek in order to protect and preserve this fragile natural heritage resource.

Recent urban growth in Pelham in the upper reaches of the Twelve Mile Creek, and deforestation and unique weather events associated with climate change have wrought havoc on the natural balance of the stream. Simply stated: too much water is flowing into the stream from too many hard surfaces —roads, parking lots and driveways. With this excess water comes flooding, erosion, and washouts like we have seen at Sulphur Spring Drive. Many other properties within the watershed have also been damaged from recent flooding.

The area in question —where the road washed out — is one of the most sensitive Brook Trout habitats within the upper Twelve. Residents in the area still speak of catching Brook Trout in this stretch. Today Brook Trout and other fragile cold-water fish and insects have become scarce because of the degradation of their natural habitat.

A road washout is often not a desirable thing but, in this case, there was an unintended benefit. A route favored by weekday heavy truck traffic and weekend motorcycle riders was transformed into a quiet, naturalized walking or cycling path. And in the years since the road has been closed, many stream-side residents express preference for the current situation.

Trout Unlimited had hoped that a bike and hike trail would become the new normal. We advocated for this option to Pelham Town Council and the Active Transportation Committee. But to no avail. The Town is determined that road traffic should be restored.

Given this mandate, the Town must now choose between a typical “hard” solution, or a design that is sympathetic to the environment and the unique cold-water ecology of Twelve Mile Creek.

Any repair must respect the issue of water balance and not exacerbate what is already a serious problem of a stream out of balance. Twelve Mile Creek cannot tolerate “old school” fixes like hard surfaces such as armour stone, or devices to deflect the stream away from the road. These designs ignore the larger problem by simply redirecting water flow and moving the erosion problems to properties downstream.

The Town must direct the contractor to devise a more considered solution, like vegetated slopes. These natural walls filled with native plants are a proven long-term solution to erosion and slope stability. Vegetative slopes enhance the environment while absorbing and diffusing the energy of flood waters. Locations that have adopted vegetative slopes have found them both visually appealing and much more cost- effective than typical old-school approaches.

Any solution must also ensure that the stream is shaded by vegetation to address the warming of the stream that threatens its very existence as a cold-water ecosystem. Hard surfaces such as armour stone are contrary to this best practice.

With the support of the Mayor, Town Councillors, the CAO, and municipal staff, the Town has embarked on a more progressive approach to stormwater management by promoting the adoption of Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development strategies (LIDS) and policies. With the decision to reconnect Sulphur Spring Drive the Town now has an obligation to preserve a valuable natural heritage feature that adds to the Town’s appeal and ultimately to the quality of life of its citizens. It can only do so by adopting a more progressive and ecologically relevant design that recognizes the need to reverse the serious decline of Twelve Mile Creek. Anything less would be a step backward.

Dennis Edell is Chair of the Niagara Chapter, Trout Unlimited Canada.



PELHAM AND COVID-19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin

Vaccine hesitancy must be overcome

Covid cases in Niagara remain low, with our town also experiencing low numbers. There is currently just one active case in Pelham with no new cases or active outbreaks. Sixty-seven percent of Pelham residents have their first needle with 57 percent being fully vaccinated. In the Region as a whole, 70 percent have had one needle while 53 percent are completely vaccinated. The reproduction rate in Pelham is at 1 percent, which is in the acceptable range for this indicator while other areas within the region are over 2.5 percent.

Although there is concern over the Delta variant, specialists say we should, with our level of vaccinations, fare better with a lower rate of serious infections than we have in the past. We will see an increase in case numbers but the corresponding number of hospitalizations will be lower.

It is somewhat troubling that our vaccination rollout is plateauing with huge swaths of the population still unvaccinated. This situation is occurring either because of personal choice or due to a lack of access. With all provinces striving to reach out to their residents by offering multiple walk-in sites and reaching out to individual community groups by having specific language sites in their inner cities, I think a large number of remaining people who are unvaccinated have made the decision not to be vaccinated. All levels of government are continuing to reach out to this group in an attempt to convince them to change their stance, though their level of success in accomplishing this remains to be seen.

This past week Canada surpassed the United States in percent of population whom are totally vaccinated as the vaccination program in that country has also hit a plateau which is at a lower number than Canada’s.

On the Town front, one of the items which was to be discussed during this Monday’s council meeting was a revamped tree policy. Some citizens had contacted me as they were concerned that staff had not listened to public input as the report had not included some very good suggestions that were put forward by members of the public. In fact what had happened was that these suggestions had reached staff after they had finished writing their report. As a result, council was set on Monday to send this report back to staff with instructions to include a number of these suggestions.