Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Can Divine Intervention Save The South March Highlands

It appears that Ottawa City Council does not have the political will to stand up to the developers and save the South March Highlands. Indeed, City Council does not appear to even have the political will to stand up to City staff.

So it is now left to divine intervention, and by divine intervention I mean higher levels of government. I have attempted to get the National Capital Commission to act by emailing NCC CEO Marie Lemay, who has shown political will in other areas.

So far, my first email, here, as well as my follow-ups below have had no success.

TO: National Capital Commission CEO Marie Lemay
FROM: Richard W. Woodley
RE: Saving the South March Highlands - URGENT ACTION REQUIRED

Dear Ms. Lemay

I am writing to you again due to the fact that recent decisions by Ottawa City Council have made it evident that they simply do not have the political will to save the South March Highlands from development and destruction (even as many questions regarding the developers fulfilment of development conditions are unanswered and the legitimacy of the environmental assessment processes followed is uncertain and new archeological evidence has been discovered).

Indeed, as you read this, the chainsaws may already have started to destroy the Beaver Pond Forest. If not, it's destruction is imminent barring an immediate intervention from a higher level of government.

At the same time, other parts of the South March Highlands are moving through the development process and each day action is not taken to save the remaining SMH lands we risk the destruction of more of it.

The community has organized itself and waged a valiant battle but simply does not have the financial or legal resources, such as expropriation, necessary to save it.

These are resources and powers that the National Capital Commission does have. The NCC also has you. And I have to tell you that since your appointment I have been very impressed with the leadership and vision you have shown, particularly regarding cycling issues. You have shown more vision and leadership than the vast majority of elected political leaders in this community.

The community, and the South March Highlands, needs you to show that kind of vision, leadership and political will to save this environmental and cultural heritage jewel of the National Capital Region.

For the sake of this precious land the community needs the NCC to expedite the decision making process to acquire the remaining undeveloped SMH lands through purchase or expropriation.

I implore you to make this a top priority of the National Capital Commission and to do all you can to halt further development in the South March Highlands until these lands can be brought into public ownership and protected for posterity.

Sincerely,

Richard W. Woodley
Kanata, Ontario

TO: National Capital Commission CEO Marie Lemay
FROM: Richard W. Woodley
RE: Aboriginal Archeological Site in Beaver Pond Forest May Be Destroyed

Dear Ms. Lemay

I apologize for writing to you again so soon before you can fully address my previous emails but time is running out for the Beaver Pond Forest.

The developer, KNL/Urbandale, has made it known that they plan to clear cut the forest in early January. Not only is the worse time possible for wildlife, particularly hibernating species, but it is also before new archaeological concerns can be properly addressed.

Serious information has been brought to both the developer and the City of Ottawa's attention regarding sites of aboriginal cultural heritage, including a possible burial site, but this information is not being given the attention it deserves.

As the National Capital Commission (NCC) has a role, even a responsibility, in protecting, not only Canada's natural heritage but also it's cultural heritage, I wanted to bring this to your attention immediately.

The following email from Paul Renaud of the South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc. to Ottawa City Council outlines the matters of archeological concern:
Subject: Missing Info on Dec 15 Staff Presentation To Council
To members of City Council,

This is to advise you that the presentation made by staff on Dec 15, 2010 appears to be incomplete. In particular the 2 slides on archaeology do not contain the following important facts regarding the Beaver Pond Forest in the South March Highlands.

The Ministry of Tourism and Culture has said that their role is simply to review the studies provided to them. The Minister of Culture said that their prior approval was based on the info available in 2004 and that any requirement for further study falls under the authority of the City.

Some might wonder if it is disingenuous for staff to stretch this interpretation to mean that the MTC sees no merit in Dr. McGhee’s review. That was NOT what the Minister said and given that the Minister’s letter did not even mention Dr. McGhee, it is difficult to understand how this could even be implied by the attached letter.

Under KNL’s Condition 86 of subdivision approval, and in accordance with the Planning Act, the City may reasonably request that any study be redone if they have a reasonable basis for doing so. Condition 57 specifically requires KNL to perform an Archaeological Assessment – to the satisfaction of the City – as well as to the satisfaction of the MTC. It also requires that “no demolition, grading or other disturbances shall take place until any archaeological resource conservation concerns have been addressed.”

It is evident that a reasonable basis exists in light of all the NEW evidence that has surfaced since KNL’s original study was done in 2004:

1. Discovery of a significant find by Ken Swayze less than 1 km away Richardson Ridge in 2006 that was refuted by the developer and is currently being disputed in court. This site was previously confirmed as 10,000 years old by Dr. Muller-Beck, Professor Emeritus of Paleohistory and Archaeology of Hunting Cultures, when he visited the site in 2007;

2. Scientific discrediting of the thoroughness of the KNL study provided by Dr. McGhee, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and past president Canadian Archaeological Association, in June 2010.  The MTC has expressed no opinion on this review;

3. Aboriginal declaration in August 2010 by the most senior Algonquin Elder, William Commanda, that the area is significant to his people. This is the same Elder who was granted the Keys to the City of Ottawa out of respect that the city has for his position and for his contribution to preserving Ottawa’s cultural heritage;

4. Discovery of a similar significant site at the same elevation less than 1 km away on Huntmar Ridge in July 2010. This has been reported to Jim Mountain but to-date nothing has been done to evaluate this site because the city has not allocated funds for such purposes – despite its obligation to do so under the Ontario Heritage Act;

5. Discovery of the stone circle in Beaver Pond Forest in 2010. The protection of the medicine wheel site will only protect the immediate vicinity (a few meters on either side of it).

Our concern is that it is highly likely that there are several other undiscovered sites nearby that may be destroyed if KNL/Urbandale is allowed to proceed.  This view is substantiated by the City’s own assessment in its cultural resource database that the area is high in archaeological resource potential. In fact, Mr. Mountain has wisely proposed that the City should execute an archaeological master plan for the entire Carp Ridge, including the South March Highlands.

Mary Jarvis at Urbandale has stated in the press that they will get their archaeologist to do another walk through the forest, however, what can he possibly see through the snow? It appears that KNL also plans to use the same archaeologist whose 2004 summer study effectively ignored pre-contact archaeology, according to Dr. McGhee. One might question why he would do a more thorough job in winter?

Meanwhile, city staff are inexplicably refusing to acknowledge that the KNL study needs to be redone - despite overwhelming evidence that they should do so.

It is very important for the City to insist that, in accordance with Condition 57, no site alteration (such as cutting trees and blasting) be permitted until a full and proper archaeological re-evaluation of this site has been done in the spring once the snow is gone. We strongly recommend the participation of first nations when this survey is done.

Is it too much to expect that our city responds to facts and acts responsibly on them to protect cultural heritage?

Paul Renaud
South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.
The Following extract from an article in the Kanata Kourier-Standard also outlines the archaeological concerns:
Beaver Pond burial ground?
Residents call for new archeological assessment

BY LAURA MUELLER
laura.mueller@metroland.com

The discovery of a possible 10,000-year-old aboriginal burial site is unlikely to halt or even delay a KNL subdivision slated for construction on land north of the Beaver Pond, said Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson. “It’s not a way of saving the lands,” Wilkinson said.

Steve Hulaj, president of the Kanata Lakes Community Association and a leader of the Coalition to Save the March Highlands, discovered a circle of stones in the Beaver Pond forest a few months ago and took a video of it with his iPhone. When he brought it to a Christmas party last Saturday, Dec. 11, he showed it to one of his wife’s friends, John McCormick, an advisor for the aboriginal affairs secretariat for Parks Canada. Hulaj said McCormick told him it could be a burial circle and should be assessed.

Hulaj has called on the city to require KNL Developments to re-do an archeological assessment for the site. Requiring another archeological assessment wouldn’t necessarily prevent construction, Wilkinson said. It would just delay it and lead to more assessment. “Someone should take a look at it,” she said. “The community is looking really hard to find ways to save the land and I applaud them for their effort, but I can only do so much here.”

It’s the second time the group has pushed for KNL to re-do the archeological assessment. In August, Paul Renaud of the Coalition to Save the South March Highlands said the archaeological study of the lands prepared for KNL in 2003 fails to consider the heritage of the Algonquin Nation

Robert McGhee, a former curator of Arctic archaeology at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, said the 2003 KNL report ignores the land’s archaeological potential.

“The major problem with this report – and I see it as a fatal flaw – lies in the fact that is statements regarding prehistoric land use appear to be based on an assumption that the local geography and physiography described at the time of European settlement continued unchanged from the ancient past,” said McGhee in written comments about the 2003 KNL archaeological assessment. McGhee said the report ignores the fact the region underwent significant physical changes since the last Ice Age over 9,000 years ago.

In August, Algonquin elder William Commanda called for a stop to development in the area: “We are adding our voices to call for a halt of the expansion of Terry Fox Drive and housing development at this ancient sacred site,” said the 96-year-old Algonquin elder and spiritual elder. “This special area is also a place of extremely important archaeological significance to the nomadic Algonquins of the Ottawa River watershed and beyond,” he said. “Evidence has recently emerged regarding its occupation by our ancestors 10,000 years ago.”

“This was obviously a very significant island, which we’ve allowed to be developed,” Hulaj said. “We’re missing the opportunity to potentially have something significant within this forest, which one of the most noted and experienced archeologists in the country has said to the city, ‘You need to require a new archeological
assessment.’”
The full article can be read here:

http://www.runge.net/TempDownload/DownloadFiles/1292684160/kk-101216.pdf

Doctor Robert McGhee's review of the developer’s archaeological study can be found here:

http://southmarch.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/archaeological-assessment-of-knl-study.pdf

As well, further information on possible archaeological sites within the South March Highlands including The Video of the Stone Circles found within the Beaver Pond Forest is here.

http://www.ottawasgreatforest.com/Site/Archaeology.html

I trust that the National Capital Commission will be concerned that the developer wants to clear cut the forest before these archaeological findings can be properly assessed and will do whatever it can to stop the clear cutting of the forest until a proper assessment can be done.

Sincerely,
Richard W. Woodley

Who do you think should intervene to save the South March Highlands.

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