Super Santa Run takes over the streets of Amherstburg



By Christian Bouchard

While Christmas is still a month away, Santa Claus paid a visit to Amherstburg.

At least a lot of lookalikes that is.

Over 400 Santas hit the streets of Amherstburg for the annual Essex Region Foundation’s Super Santa Run Nov. 17.

Over 400 people dressed up as Santa Claus participated in the ninth annual Super Santa Run. The event, presented by the Essex Region Conservation Foundation, helps raise money to support conservation efforts in the Essex region such as tree planting and trail development.

The Super Santa Run partnered with the opening night of the Amherstburg River Lights Festival. The community saw hundreds of jolly participants decked out in lights, kids in strollers and dogs dressed up in Christmas outfits run or walk the five-kilometre route along downtown Amherstburg.

“We are so thankful to partner with the River Lights Festival. It’s a great day that helps everyone get into the holiday spirit, said Danielle Stuebing, director of communications and outreach services for Essex Region Conservation.

Stuebing told the River Town Times Saturday night that a financial fundraising total was not available as funds pledged were still coming in. She noted she is expecting to have raised over $10,000 at the end of the day.

“It really does get you into the holiday spirit,” said Stuebing. “It is always fun to see hundreds of Santa’s fly to that start line and run down the beautiful streets of Amherstburg.”

According to Stuebing, there were people who traveled from as far as Toronto and the United States to participate in the event.

The streets of Amherstburg were packed Saturday night with runners and walkers in Santa suits with dogs even part of the event.

“It’s a different event from some of your more traditional runs. It looks at the holidays, the spirit of giving and conservation all tied together.”

Following the run, hundreds of Santas made their way to the Navy Yard parkette where Mayor Aldo DiCarlo would help with the ceremonial countdown as the town would officially kick-off the River Lights Winter Festival.




Horses being kept off the Cypher Systems Greenway for now



By Ron Giofu


While horses are allowed on the Chrysler Canada Greenway, the same can’t be said for the Cypher Systems Greenway.

The latter stretches from Essex to Amherstburg and the Essex Region Conservation Authority’s board of directors decided at their most recent board meeting that equestrian use would still be prohibited. Kevin Money, director of conservation services with ERCA, noted that there are no adequate parking facilities along the Cypher Systems Greenway to accommodate horse trailers so the idea was shelved for the time being.

“We don’t want to cause safety problems by them parking on the road and create hazards that way,” said Money.

The Chrysler Canada Greenway does have those type of parking facilities, so horses are allowed on that trail. Money acknowledged “we do have a lot of equestrian users in the county.”

ERCA is not allowing horses on the Cypher Systems Greenway at the present time.

ERCA conducted a survey over the summer to gauge feedback on allowing horses on the Cypher Systems Greenway. Over 850 people responded, he said, with 42 per cent identifying as cyclists, 30 per cent as walkers, eight per cent as runners and 16 per cent as equestrians. Results showed that 43 per cent of respondents indicated some concern with sharing the greenway with horses while 35 per cent had no concern. About 22 per cent did not respond.

In a written report to the ERCA board, Money stated there were concerns over manure and signage requiring riders to remove it, concerns from cyclists over damaging the trail surface and corresponding concerns from equestrians about cyclists staying off the trail when it is wet.

Money said that work is being done with the Essex Region Conservation Foundation, ERCA’s fundraising arm, to try and raise funds for additional amenities like parking lots.

“It’s very expensive to build parking lots of that size,” said Money.

Bird watchers, curious nature lovers converge at Festival of Hawks



By Ron Giofu


The first weekend of the 2018 Festival of Hawks is in the books and it brought bird watchers and nature lovers from around the area and some from the United States.

Presented last Saturday and Sunday at Holiday Beach Conservation Area, the hawk tower and the area that surrounds it was busy with bird watchers looking out for the various hawks and other birds that flew overhead with hummingbird banding, owl holding, photography lessons, seminars and other nature-themed activities keeping people busy also.

The Festival of Hawks is a co-production of the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) and the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory (HBMO).

Rachel D’Eon and Melissa
Debevc came in from Chatham do do some bird watching at last weekend’s Festival of Hawks. The event continues this weekend.

Nate Soucie with Kingsport Environmental Falconry said response was “fantastic.” He noted Saturday morning was a bit slower due to fog that was in the area but things picked up once that cleared.

“It’s been a good turnout,” said Soucie last Saturday afternoon. “Now that the sun’s out, more and more people are coming out.”

Ericka Greenham brought her young son Grady on the hawk tower with Ericka noting the event was recommended to the family by her husband’s former grad student that now works for ERCA.

“This is our first time,” she said. “It’s great. We are really enjoying it.”

Rachel D’Eon and Melissa Debevc from Chatham came down to the event, noting they don’t come to the Festival of Hawks every year. They noted they often bird watch at the Pinery or Rondeau Provincial Park but enjoy the Festival of Hawks when they do come.

Bob Hall-Brooks shows a magnolia warbler during one of his talks last Saturday at the Festival of Hawks.

“It’s the only place where you can see a lot of raptors congregate at the same time,” said Debevc. “The bonus about here is not just the hawks but everything else too.”

D’Eon added that Holiday Beach is “a well-rounded place to bird.”

Bob Hall-Brooks, a hummingbird bander with HBMO, also said early Saturday fog impacted the event but that things got better when the sun came out. He indicated a number of hawks went over, adding that when he was at Holiday Beach Friday there were monarch butterflies and broad winged hawks that joined the sharp shinned and red-tailed hawks.

Hall-Brooks said the Festival of Hawks is a great opportunity to share their passion with other birders and the general public and show people birds they would normally not get to see.

“People seem to be interested. That’s always exciting,” said Hall-Brooks. “It’s so nice to place a bird in a kid’s hand. It’s nice to show them birds they wouldn’t otherwise see.”

Ericka Greenham and her son Grady take a look off of the hawk tower at Holiday Beach Conservation Area during the Festival of Hawks Sept. 15.

The Festival of Hawks continues this Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can also enjoy lunch provided by the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Blue Kestrel Café or HBMO’s BBQ Booth.

All programs are free with the festival admission fee of $15 per vehicle. The final list of programs is available at

The best raptor viewing time is from 9 a.m. until 12 noon when the hawks fly low. The Holiday Beach Conservation Area is located on County Road 50, on Lake Erie near Malden Centre.



Festival of Hawks returns to Holiday Beach Conservation Area



Special to the RTT


All eyes will be on the skies this September as local birders and nature lovers take in one of North America’s greatest migrations.

These watchers will call the Holiday Beach Conservation Area home as they take in a grand spectacle: tens of thousands of hawks and raptors flying overhead on their annual journey to nesting grounds in the south.

In recognition of the amazing sight, Essex Region Conservation, in partnership with the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory (HBMO), will host the 2018 Festival of Hawks. The festival, which takes place over the weekends of September 15-16 and 22-23, features a range of free educational activities and nature-themed programming.

HBMO experts will be on-site conducting hawk banding and adoptions. Event goers will get up close and personal to a variety of raptors as experts measure, tag, and then release these birds back into the wild. Visitors will also be in awe at the live raptor display of Kingsport Environmental, a local organization that rescues and rehabilitates raptors and promotes falconry through education programs.

The Festival of Hawks returns to Holiday Beach Conservation Area Sept. 15-16 and 22-23.

Free educational programs will complement the ongoing banding and live hawk display throughout both weekends. Local experts will be on-site to teach on a wide range of birding and nature-related topics. These programs include:

  • HBMO’s Bob Pettit will be on hand to provide expertise on identifying hawks in flight.
  • Ted Kloske, of Henry’s Windsor and Maple Grove Studios, and Glenn Gervais, of Southshore Outdoor Photography, will help budding photographers get their best nature shot.
  • Jeremy Bensette will share stories of his travels across Ontario in 2017 while breaking the current ‘Ontario Big Year’ record, locating and documenting 346 bird species.
  • HBMO’s Jeremy Hatt will share his tips and tricks on using mobile applications like iNaturalist
  • ERCA’s Gina Pannunzio will host an interactive workshop focusing on the mystery of one of our local iconic species, the Monarch Butterfly.

“Holiday Beach Conservation Area has been identified as one of the 10 best sites in all of North America to experience the raptor migration,” notes Danielle Breault Stuebing, ERCA’s director of communications and outreach.  “Whether an expert birder or nature-loving family, there’s something for everyone at the annual Festival of Hawks.”

The Festival runs from 9am to 3pm on September 15-16 and 22-23. Visitors can also enjoy lunch provided by the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Blue Kestrel Café or HBMO’s BBQ Booth.

All programs are free with the festival admission fee of $15 per vehicle. The final list of programs is available at

The best raptor viewing time is from 9 a.m. until 12 noon when the hawks fly low. The Holiday Beach Conservation Area is located on County Road 50, on Lake Erie near Malden Centre approximately 15km southeast of historic Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada, a half hour drive from Highway 401 and only 40 minutes from the Ambassador Bridge for those coming from Detroit.

ERCA seeking feedback on horseback riding on local trails



Special to the RTT


The Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) is hoping to hear from a variety of greenway user groups on the matter of expanding horseback riding on the greenway trail system.

“Some equestrians have approached ERCA about expanding the sections of trail upon which horses are permitted,” explains Kevin Money, ERCA’s Director of Conservation Services. “We want to hear from all user groups in order to ensure we are making a balanced decision.”

Presently, horses are permitted on rural sections of the Chrysler Canada Greenway. The rules for horseback use are that riders of horses must use the grassed area to the side of the trail and clean up their horse droppings.

ERCA is seeking input on whether users of local trails would like to see them available for horseback riding. The entrance to the Cypher Systems Greenway, looking east from Thomas Road, is photographed.

The new Cypher Systems Group Greenway, which stretches 26 kilometres from Essex to Amherstburg, does not currently permit horse use.

“The Cypher Systems Group Greenway was just opened last year, and the trail needed an opportunity to settle prior to considering horse use. Currently, we are researching rules, design and maintenance standards of other trail owners such as municipalities and Conservation Authorities to help with the decision making process,” said Money.

The survey is available online 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.