This is a guest post by Mike Robbins, a Board member with the Escarpment Corridor Alliance

The Niagara Escarpment, one of Ontario’s natural wonders, has been described as a “masterpiece of living art.” This spectacular landform was designated in 1990 as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

UNESCO defines biosphere reserves as “learning places for sustainable development.” They are intended to be the models for how we can conserve biodiversity. And in this era of a climate emergency and global biodiversity crisis, these reserves play an especially critical role.

The Niagara Escarpment should be protected. There is even legislation, the Niagara Escarpment Plan, that is intended to do so.

And yet…prime sections of the Niagara Escarpment in the South Georgian Bay area are now at risk.

Several major developments, some of which were approved under outdated environmental standards over 40 years ago, pose a major threat to prime areas of the Niagara Escarpment in the Blue Mountains and Beaver Valley.

These developments include the 1,600+ unit Castle Glen development near Collingwood and a major development on the slopes of the former Talisman ski resort in the Beaver Valley.

If these go ahead, the result will be:

  • Mature eastern hardwood forests – cleared.
  • Pristine fresh water creeks and cold water fisheries – jeopardized.
  • Sensitive aquifers with porous “‘karst” topography on top – irreparably damaged.
  • Critical and sometimes endangered wildlife habitat/corridors – destroyed.
  • Active agricultural land – gone.

All of this environmental damage to build more homes, hotels, golf courses and resort centres for affluent seasonal residents.

Take Action: Protect the Escarpment from Inappropriate Development

Unfortunately, if you’re wondering how this could happen, right on the Escarpment’s prominent brow and slopes – the most critical areas to protect in order to preserve biodiversity – you are not alone. These developments would never be allowed today – they are the result of outdated planning decisions.

Enter the Escarpment Corridor Alliance (ECA).

The ECA is a group of community members who are alarmed by the fate of the Escarpment, and who are determined to keep it green. The Escarpment Corridor Alliance was created to PROTECT the Niagara Escarpment’s celebrated landscapes, prominent slopes, and globally unique natural features and forests. And in doing so, form natural corridors and a protected park system from Beaver Valley to Castle Glen, and from Devil’s Glen through Blue Mountain to Georgian Peaks.

We’re a grassroots organization funded entirely through community donations on GoFundMe. Every dollar helps as we compete against the vast resources of wealthy developers. Find out more here.

We need to protect this critical natural corridor – the Escarpment brow and slopes – from the onslaught of developments that threaten its ecological integrity.

The efforts of the Escarpment Corridor Alliance are intended to:

Stop irresponsible development on the Escarpment brow and slopes

The Castle Glen project would be the largest development of its kind along the brow of the Niagara Escarpment since the inception of the Niagara Escarpment Commission.

The plan is to develop a brand new resort town encompassing:

  • 1600 residential units
  • 300 hotel units
  • 3 golf courses
  • 2 resort village centres
  • 54,000 sq. ft. of retail commercial space

Protect and Conserve a green corridor

We need to ensure development in the region is responsible, preserves our existing green spaces and critical natural assets, and that this is done in consultation with the community under today’s environmental conservation standards and regulations, not those of last century. We shouldn’t allow private interests to turn a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve into a monster development for financial gain.

That’s why ECA is working closely with other leading environmental and conservation groups to bring awareness to the threats this sensitive Escarpment area is facing. ECA encourages strategic land acquisitions and promotes private land conservation, to protect the green Escarpment for future generations.

Stimulate creation of a strong, vibrant conservation economy

In a conservation economy, local communities take over stewardship of natural resources and ecosystems for the benefit of future generations, and help to stimulate new local employment/business opportunities, to benefit the local economy.

Together, we can build an interconnected system of natural spaces to support conservation in the area and create a protected and sustainable multi-seasonal, multi-use trail system for all to enjoy for decades to come.

We’ve come so far but the heaviest lifting lies ahead. We are up against a huge corporation with deep pockets and an uphill battle with a pro-development government but with your help we can keep building public support to pressure all to do the right thing.

We’re not against responsible development; we’re fighting FOR our most important natural asset – a green Escarpment. Join us – Please sign our petition to stop inappropriate development on the Niagara Escarpment.

Mike Robbins is a long time resident of the Town of Blue Mountains. Mike has been an active advocate for protecting the natural environment in the Collingwood/Blue Mountain area for close to 30 years. He was an early Board member with the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust in the 90’s, he was one of two Resident Parties that pushed Castle Glen Development Corporation to the OMB in 2002, and he is currently a Board member with the Escarpment Corridor Alliance and a member of the Georgian Bay Geopark Network.