ERCA holds 40th annual general meeting, present Conservation Awards

 

The Essex Region Conservation Authority presented its annual Conservation Awards last Thursday night. Among the winners were (from left): LaSalle director of recreation and culture Terry Fink, Mike Mailloux, Hiram Walker facility manager John Beattie, Claude Radley, Lisa Pavan, Maia and Isaac Nitschke, Kathy and Jim Dowling, Rick LaBonte and LaSalle councillors Sue Desjarlais and Ray Renaud.

The Essex Region Conservation Authority presented its annual Conservation Awards last Thursday night. Among the winners were (from left): LaSalle director of recreation and culture Terry Fink, Mike Mailloux, Hiram Walker facility manager John Beattie, Claude Radley, Lisa Pavan, Maia and Isaac Nitschke, Kathy and Jim Dowling, Rick LaBonte and LaSalle councillors Sue Desjarlais and Ray Renaud.

By Ron Giofu

 

The Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) held its annual general meeting last Thursday night and, as has become tradition, the meeting also saw the annual Conservation Awards presented.

A total of nine awards were presented to individuals, groups, companies and municipalities as part of the meeting.

“Conservation Awards have been presented annually since 1992 to recognize organizations and individuals who have made tangible contributions in creating a healthy and sustainable environment for the Essex Region,” remarked Joe Bachetti, who will continue as ERCA’s chair in 2014. “It’s always rewarding to review the many nominations that are submitted and learn more about the ways our community is striving to improve our environmental future.”

The Conservation Farm Award, sponsored annually by ERCA, the Essex Soil and Crop Improvement Association and the Essex Conservation Club was presented to Mike Mailloux Farms. The farm was recognized for incorporating best management features such as no-till cropping, crop rotation, precision GPS grid soil sampling as well as buffer zones along water ways, rock chute spill ways, and taking part in other conservation-themed practices.

“It’s a great honour to receive this award,” said Mailloux.

Mailloux said there are numerous government programs that can be accessed if farmers want to use them for such projects.

“They’re there, use them and help the environment,” said Mailloux.

Kathy and Jim Dowling of Colchester received the John R. Park Homestead Award for the preservation of the John Snider House and the celebration of its 200th anniversary.

“This is a great honour,” said Jim. “We savour every minute we have at our house in Colchester.”

Maia and Isaac Nitschke, ages 13 and 11 respectively, were honoured with the Youth Award.  The brother and sister pair, who attend École Ste. Ursule in McGregor, have been volunteering since birth at the John R. Park Homestead, and this year, expanded their volunteer efforts to other conservation areas as well.

Isaac said they only found out that night that they had been named recipients of the award.

“Our parents kept it a secret for I don’t know how long,” said Isaac.

Claude Radley, vice president of the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory (HBMO),  teaches interns from the University of Windsor and other volunteers the detailed processes involved in ethical bird banding. He was honoured with the Education Award.

Radley, a former air traffic controller and aviation weather forecaster, was also credited for helping to secure grants to convert the old park store at Holiday Beach to HBMO’s head office. He also helped get funding for to build a new “green washroom” at Holiday Beach, a project now under construction.

Radley thanked ERCA for its support of the HBMO and also said he appreciated the HBMO and those within whom he works with.

Volunteer Award winner Rick LaBonte is a lifelong environmentalist. He has served the chair of the CAW Local 444 (now Unifor) environment committee for more than 15 years, and works vigilantly around the region to recruit and inspire environmental advocates.

LaBonte stated ERCA is a well respected organization.

“Things get done and are well organized,” he said.

LaBonte thanked his family as well as Unifor Locals 200 and 444 for their support.

“We know that labour has to be engaged as part of the future,” he added.

The Friends of Point Pelee work tirelessly to raise funds, education, and contribute to the environmental sustainability and visitor experiences at the national park. They were honoured with the Volunteer Award for an organization.

Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. was recognized with the Environmental Achievement award for their operational greening efforts. They completed restoration work on property they own in the Pike Creek watershed in 2007, created a native tree planting plan in 2009, restored more than six acres of land adjacent to a provincially significant wetland and planted trees on an acre of land behind its processing building adjacent to the Detroit River in 2012. The company was also credited for removing railroad tracks west of its riverfront property and donating a portion to the City of Windsor.

The Town of LaSalle, a regional leader in the protection and improvement of our environment, was honoured with the Robert Pulleyblank Award for Municipal Achievement. LaSalle was credited for being the first municipality in the region to undertake a Canadian Natural Heritage Study, something that dates back to 1996. In recent years, that town acquired a riverfront property and turned it into Riverdance Park, a park that ERCA states has shoreline habitat restoration, a fishing platform, a canoe/kayak put-in and a research facility through a partnership with the University of Windsor.

LaSalle was also credited for its role in “significant upgrades” at River Canard Park, a park and project also supported by Amherstburg.

The Dennis Chase Staff Award was presented to Lisa Pavan, who was described as “the first face and voice that people generally encounter at ERCA.” This award is presented to a staff member who exemplifies Dennis’ qualities: dedication, commitment, conscientiousness, kindness, enthusiasm, pride in a job well done and good humour.

“Dennis embodied kindness, optimism, integrity and commitment,” said Pavan. “I loved his enthusiasm and upbeat demeanor. I am deeply moved and it’s a great honour to be the first recipient of an award named in honour of a man we deeply loved.”

The evening’s guest speaker was Rob Keen, CEO of Trees Ontario. Keen outlined the importance of trees to the environment and noted his group’s efforts in helping to plant 50 million trees in Ontario by 2025. He said all trees, whether planted in an urban or rural environment, “are so important to us” and said it is important that “mechanisms” are there to protect them.

Keen said more money is needed for reforestation across the country and emphasized that health and wellness are impacted by healthy environment.

“Why can’t we take a little out of our health care budget and put it into our environment?” he asked. “The message has to go out to make people aware of how important the natural environment is.”

Highlights for ERCA in 2013 included the planting of 135,000 trees, which included the sixth millionth since ERCA began in 1973. ERCA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also signed agreements to create a priority natural area land registry.

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