Ball's Falls. NPCA

Community input sought for new strategic plan

The CEO of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), Chandra Sharma, can barely contain her enthusiasm when discussing her organisation’s top-priority project, a new strategic plan. The document will be the blueprint which guides the NPCA’s mission over the course of the next decade.

“We took a fresh approach with the strategic plan’s design, seeking out a high degree of community engagement in the formative stages, so as to achieve a shared vision,” said Sharma.

“NPCA staff are integrally involved in the planning and implementation activities, as is the board of directors, and our public advisory committee. And I must say that public input so far has been incredible, and very encouraging.”

NPCA CEO Chandra Sharma. SUPPLIED

The organisation’s current strategic plan, entitled Partners In Conservation – A Shared Responsibility, ends in 2021. Commencing in 2019, the NPCA took the first steps to create a new plan. One of the outreach components was a survey available to the public in an effort to gather input on potential goals and priorities.

“Over 4300 people visited the NPCA website to review information on the plan, and 501 completed the survey directly, indicating overall positive support for the proposed strategic priorities,” said Sharma. “Staff reviewed the feedback, made adjustments to the proposed strategic priorities, and have refined the key components of the draft plan.”

“More work needs to be done to create an understanding of conservation authority roles and responsibilities out in the community, so we are going to be working on that,” said Sharma. “From the survey responses, it was clear that there is a lot expected of the NPCA. We know that people really wanted us to focus on protecting, enhancing, and restoring the watershed. One of the takeaways was that we need to use plain language, even though we are a technical organization that sometimes uses complex, scientific terminology. We are community-based, grassroots organization, and need to remember to keep information easily understandable.”

Sharma has arranged for a virtual public information session this Thursday, August 19, at 6:30 PM, to discuss the evolution of the plan, and seek additional comment prior to presenting the draft document to the board of directors in the fall. The completed strategic plan is set to be released in October.

“This is our second point of direct community engagement, allowing participants to hear a summary of survey results. We want to provide a first-look at the key components of the strategic plan before it’s finalized. People will have an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on what we have prepared thus far—we are looking forward to that.”

The link for the virtual information session is accessible through the organization’s website, at getinvolved.npca.ca. Participants are encouraged to pre-register online.

The NPCA has been in existence for 60 years, serving as a natural resource management agency with a mandate to protect and sustain healthy watersheds. It offers services that focus on flood and hazard management, source water protection, species protection, ecosystem restoration, community stewardship, and land management. NPCA is one of 36 conservation authorities in Ontario, and manages 41 conservation areas within the Niagara Peninsula.