Alex Denonville

Super Santas running Nov. 18 in support of local conservation



Special to the RTT


Bells will be ringing in downtown Amherstburg as hundreds of jolly participants run and walk in support of the local environment at Essex Region Conservation’s annual Super Santa Run Nov. 18 starting at 5 p.m.

A sea of Santas will flood the streets along the five-kilometre route, which winds its way through downtown Amherstburg and highlights a number of historic sites, including Fort Malden and Navy Yard Park. The event also kicks off the spectacular Amherstburg River Lights Festival, which runs until Dec. 30.

Santas cross the finish line on Richmond St. at the end of a snowy 2016 race. (Submitted photo)

“This is event is fun for the whole family. In addition to promoting healthy and active living, it is a great way to kick off the holiday season,” said Essex Region Conservation Foundation President Susan Stockwell Andrews. “Last year, it was amazing to watch nearly five-hundred Santas fill the streets in support of conservation efforts.”

Registration fees are $40 per adult and $30 for children under 16. All participants will receive a free Santa suit to wear for the run, including a jacket, pants, belt, beard, and hat. Teams of ten ore more will receive $5 off per participant, so grab your friends, cousins, and co-workers to join in the jolly fun – and save!

Santas run northbound on Dalhousie St. during the 2016 Super Santa Run in Amherstburg. (Submitted photo)

If you are not able to participate, consider being one of Santa’s helpers as a volunteer marshal along the route. The event is a great opportunity for high school students to fulfill their required community hours.

All funds raised support the efforts of the Essex Region Conservation Foundation in enriching the Place for Life. Recent successes include opening the Cypher Systems Group Greenway, and creating the Rotary (1918) Centennial Hub, to bring the community’s vision of a region connected by trails to reality. So join in the jolly fun and register your entire family today at

For more than four decades, Essex Region Conservation has been sustaining and enriching the environment of the Windsor-Essex-Pelee Island region to ensure it is the Place for Life.


Bike Tour raises approximately $20,000 for Essex Region Conservation Foundation


Cyclists from near and far celebrated the Essex region’s trails recently for the sixth annual Essex Region Bike Tour.

A sixth route was added this year to include the brand new Cypher Systems Group Greenway, the trail that connects Amherstburg and Essex. It was a fundraiser for the Essex Region Conservation Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA).

Approximately 275 people participated in the event, said ERCA events planner Alex Denonville, with the event raising about $20,000.

“We’re really happy with it this year,” he said.

Councillor Rick Fryer, who is also the chair of the Essex Region Conservation Authority’s board of directors, was one of the participants in the recent Essex Region Conservation Foundation Bike Tour. He took a break in Malden Centre before heading out for the rest of the ride.

The bike tour included a 15 km beginner ride, a 32 km intermediate ride and a 64 km route along the Chrysler Canada Greenway trail. The 15 km event began and ended at Schwab Farm Community Entrance on the Arner Towline. The 32 km intermediate ride began and ended at the Harrow Community Entrance, and the 64 km route was based from the Caesars Windsor Community Entrance on Country Route 8, just west of Walker Road. An 80 km “Extreme Greenway” ride began at the Sadler’s Pond Park Entrance in Essex.

The road routes are largely part of the County Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS), and include a 104 km advanced ride began and ended at the Vollmer Culture and Recreation Centre in LaSalle. The 58 km road route began and ended at the Essex County Demonstration Farm, located next to Holiday Beach Conservation Area on County Road 50.

The tour welcomed riders from all over southwestern Ontario, Michigan, and the Greater Toronto Area.

All funds raised will support regional trails development and maintenance in the Place for Life.

“Our trails and conservation areas are one of our region’s greatest gems and most important assets,” said Charlotte Loaring, a foundation board member.

Bob Hedrick of LaSalle rides his recumbent bike near the Essex County Demonstration Farm on County Road 50 during the Essex Region Conservation Foundation’s Bike Tour. Amherstburg was on some of the routes that cyclists took.

The bike tour once again welcomed the Windsor Tandem Cycling Club with a two-for-one discount. The Club gives blind, partially-sighted, deaf-blind and fully-sighted cyclists an opportunity to share an enthusiasm for cycling. The tour offered discounted rates to the club to promote accessibility and ensure all can enjoy and celebrate the region’s trail system.

The event also implemented a brand new “Bike Tour Ambassador” program, which invited community leaders and local athletes to promote the tour and lead the ride from their starting location. This year’s ambassadors included ERCA Board Chair and Amherstburg Councillor Rick Fryer, ERCA board member and Councillor Fred Francis, Councillor Rino Bortolin, Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Lakeshore Councillor Dave Monk, ERCA’s 2016 Athlete of the Year Carrie Lee and City of Windsor 2016 Commuter of the Year Paul Dubois,.



Festival of Hawks draws hundreds to Holiday Beach Conservation Area



By Jolene Perron


The Festival of Hawks is Essex Region Conservation Authority’s annual celebration of the great migration.

Described as one of the hidden gems of the Essex Region, Holiday Beach is home to one of the most spectacular animal migrations in the natural world. With the cooperation of the timing and weather, thousands of hawks soar overhead. Members of The Holiday Beach Migration Observatory are on the hawk tower from September to early November and the festival is designed to add some more family friendly elements.

Bob Hall-Brooks with The Holiday Beach Migration Observatory speaks to a crowd of birders at the Festival of Hawks Saturday about the birds they have recently caught and banded.

Events planner for the Essex Region Conservation Authority, Alex Denonville explained this is his third year being involved with the festival. He said his favorite part is seeing the families who come out and experience the event.

“One of the first families that was here this morning, they were here at 8:45, they came from South-East Michigan and we had the bander, Bob Hall-Brooks, capture a hummingbird, something they had never seen in their lives,” said Denonville. “To be able to experience that up close and personal, and for me to be a part of that and kind of facilitate that interaction, that’s the more rewarding part. When I see little kids just in awe of that, I know it’s making a difference and it’s getting them to think about it and hopefully when they grow up they will want to protect that.”

Hall-Brooks said the organization was started in 1974, when a group found Holiday Beach to be the best place to watch the fall migration. The tower itself, he said was set up in 1987, and he came along just two years later. At the time however, he was not a birder.

Cindy Cartwright member of Holiday Beach, founder and lead researcher for hummingbirds Canada looks for hawks on the hawk tower at Holiday Beach during the Festival of Hawks Saturday. Cartwright is one of the official counters of the hawks. She was on location Saturday and Sunday answering questions.

“I used to laugh at birders but my wife and I were driving around the county and we found Holiday Beach conservation authority, came in, saw the sign that said Hawk Tower,” said Hall-Brooks. “We climbed up and this was about mid-October and the fella up on the tower showed us, and shared with us, four different species of hawk flying about 20 feet over my head. I was doing a high-stress job at the time … and it just seemed to be a nice place to come and de-stress. Looking out at the marsh, looking up and counting the hawks, so that’s how I started.”

From there, he came out every Sunday to watch the hawks. He began helping with the counts two years later, and continued with that for 15 years before taking over the songbird banding. Hall-Brooks is one of only three people in all of Ontario who is able to band a hummingbird.

Elaine Guitar van Loo works with sepia ink during the Festival of Hawks, doing an ink study of the trail.

“I’ve been coming here for the past 10 years with my kids,” said event attendee Emma Poirier. “We love nature and I just like to bring them here so they can experience nature and experience the birds and learn about whatever the Essex Region Conservation Authority has to offer. It’s just a good way for them to learn all kinds of things about nature and interact and ask questions. This was the first time that they saw the birds of prey up close, so that was really exciting. They really love birds of prey and we actually saw some hummingbirds on the way here too.”

The Festival of Hawks continues next weekend, Sept. 16-17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Holiday Beach Migration Observatory will also be on location for an additional weekend. For more information on the festival, visit People can also visit

About 160 runners get “wet and wild” at Hawk Run


By Ron Giofu


Runners and walkers returned to Holiday Beach Conservation Area again this year and were doused with water along the way.

The “Wet and Wild” Hawk Run was held Sunday morning at the County Road 50 conservation area, with ERCA event planner Alex Denonville stating about 160 runners and walkers took part overall. That figure included the kids’ dash that preceded the run itself.

Runners get drenched with water as they compete in the "Wet & Wild" Hawk Run Aug. 20 at Holiday Beach Conservation Area.

Runners get drenched with water as they compete in the “Wet & Wild” Hawk Run Aug. 20 at Holiday Beach Conservation Area.

At least that many volunteers were on the route itself, spraying runners and walkers with water, throwing buckets of water on them or arranging that they walk through a makeshift tunnel of foam. The Amherstburg Fire Department was also on hand to make sure the participants got wet.

“We have a great group of volunteers,” said Denonville.

Denonville added he was pleased with how the event turned out.

“It was awesome. You couldn’t ask for better weather,” he said. “Holiday Beach is an incredible place to be. It’s all about friends, it’s all about bringing family out. It’s a great event to host.”

ERCA partners with Walkers and Runners From Around the County of Essex (WRACE) and has other area sponsors as well, Denonville noted, with ERCA’s proceeds from the event to stay at Holiday Beach. He noted such projects as the eco-washroom and new cottage that will be soon available for renting as projects done at the site.

Megan and Heather Gagnon cross the finish line at the end of the kids’ dash as part of the "Wet & Wild" Hawk Run held at Holiday Beach Conservation Area Aug. 20.

Megan and Heather Gagnon cross the finish line at the end of the kids’ dash as part of the “Wet & Wild” Hawk Run held at Holiday Beach Conservation Area Aug. 20.

“This is one of the great events that highlight our conservation areas,” Denonville added.

Each participant received a medal and children received water guns as well with a free lunch also offered, thanks to the sponsors. The run/walk itself was 5K and took place within Holiday Beach.

To see the RTT’s photo album on the event, click here.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Over 500 participate in Super Santa Run



By Ron Giofu


The Christmas season got started with the arrival of Santa Claus Saturday night… 500 Santa Clauses as a matter of fact.

The Super Santa Run saw over 500 people walk, run or jog through the downtown streets of Amherstburg with all proceeds going to the Essex Region Conservation Foundation. Alex Denonville, events planner with the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), told the River Town Times Saturday night that a final fundraising total was not available as pledges were still coming in.

Participants, including dogs and babies, leave from the starting line at the Nov. 19 Super Santa Run.

Participants, including dogs and babies, leave from the starting line at the Nov. 19 Super Santa Run.

The money will go towards foundation projects, which bolster local conservation efforts as well as habitat restoration. It is possible, Denonville indicated, that some proceeds could benefit the Cypher Systems Greenway trail that is under construction from Amherstburg to Essex. That trail still needs community entrances, similar to what is on the Chrysler Canada Greenway.

“We have a great partnership with River Lights,” said Denonville. “It gets all the Santas downtown. We’re happy to partner with them.”

The "Stilt Guys" entertained during the Super Santa Run and also encouraged the runners and walkers.

The “Stilt Guys” entertained during the Super Santa Run and also encouraged the runners and walkers.

The snow that fell towards the end of the run added to it, Denonville believed.

The Super Santa Run just completed its eighth year. Two of the people watching this year’s run were a pair of 11-year-old exchange students from Bogota, Columbia. Camilo Reyes-Bueno has been staying in Amherstburg while his friend Jason Segura has been staying in Woodslee but both attended Saturday night’s Super Santa Run.

“It was pretty crazy,” said Segura.

Segura said he has seen Santa Claus before but not 500 in one place.

Runners head in both directions down Dalhousie St. during Saturday evening's Super Santa Run as some were closer to the finish line than others.

Runners head in both directions down Dalhousie St. during Saturday evening’s Super Santa Run as some were closer to the finish line than others.

The two boys have been in Canada for two months and leave for home Friday. The cold temperatures were relatively new to him, but Reyes-Bueno said he has felt the cold during the night before. Both enjoyed Saturday night’s activities.

“It’s been good,” said Reyes-Bueno.