Essex Region Conservation

Kusmierczyk takes over for Fryer at ERCA chair



By Ron Giofu


There is a new chair at the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA).

Windsor city councillor Irek Kusmierczyk moved up to the chair’s position after spending two years as vice chair. Kusmierczyk was acclaimed as chair while Tecumseh councillor Tania Jobin was elected as vice chair. LaSalle councillor Sue Desjarlais was the other candidate for vice chair.

The positions alternate between the County of Essex and the City of Windsor every two years.

Kusmierczyk takes over from former Amherstburg councillor Rick Fryer. Before departing the board, Fryer paid tribute to his fellow board members.

“Together, we have done a great job in advancing environmental sustainability in the Place for Life,” he said, referencing the ERCA slogan. “I am pleased we had strong relationships with each other over the past few years.”

Fryer also praised ERCA administration, noting they are busy throughout the year. He said Windsor-Essex County is comparable to the Toronto area in terms of the number of permits issued for work being done in their respective areas.

Noting he went to a “dark place” in his own life, Fryer also promoted mental health initiatives including the “Bell Let’s Talk” day happening Jan. 30.

New ERCA chair Irek Kusmierczyk presents a framed photo of Big Creek to outgoing chair Rick Fryer during last Thursday night’s annual general meeting of the Essex Region Conservation Authority.
(RTT Photo by Ron Giofu)

“I don’t want anyone to go to that place,” he said. “It took a toll on me and it took a toll on my family.”
Fryer added it is “very, very difficult” to be an elected official in the age of social media and encouraged others to keep loved ones in the loop if there is something bothering them.

“Hug your family,” he said. “Talk about what is going on.”

Kusmierczyk thanked Fryer “for his leadership and courage, especially tonight,” and presented Fryer with a framed photo of Big Creek as a token of his appreciation for his time as the chair.

Kusmierczyk said a healthy economy and healthy citizens are linked and said he is looking forward to working with his colleagues around the ERCA board table. He considered it “an honour” to be named as the chair.

“The leadership ERCA demonstrates on things like flooding, climate change, urban forest restoration, urban management in terms of managing the growth in our cities as well is absolutely critical to the health of our community,” he said.

Kusmierczyk added that ERCA is in a “great place to demonstrate leadership” as it relates to implementing policies to combat flooding and climate change.

Registrations still being accepted for Nov. 17 “Super Santa Run” in Amherstburg


Special to the RTT


As the holiday season approaches, the Super Santa 5K Run and Walk, an Amherstburg tradition is set to take place in support of Essex Region Conservation on Saturday, November 17, starting at 5 p.m.

A sea of Santas will make their merry way through downtown Amherstburg along a beautiful route that highlights a number of historic sites, including Fort Malden and Navy Yard Park. The Super Santa Run kicks off the spectacular Amherstburg River Lights Festival, and participants can enjoy the jolly festivities, which include fireworks at the end of the run.

The annual event in support of trails and trees was launched with a generous donation of $5000 from Richard and Colleen Peddie, who are long-time supporters of the Santa Run.

Super Santas will once again fill the streets during the Nov. 17 5K Run/Walk through Amherstburg. (Special to the RTT)

“We are so incredibly grateful to Richard and Colleen Peddie for their incredible support of the Super Santa Walk/Run,” stated Richard Wyma, Executive Director of the Essex Region Conservation Foundation.  “There’s already been some fundraising momentum from other participants as a result, and we’re hoping that with everyone’s participation, the Peddie’s generous gift will be matched.”

In fact, to encourage more of the nearly 500 Santas to obtain pledges, prizes incentives for top fundraisers have been introduced.  “The top youth fundraiser will receive 10 free passes to the Adventure Bay Family Water Park,” Wyma said.  “And for adults, the top fundraiser will receive a $250 gift card to the Devonshire Mall to help with holiday shopping!”

Registration fees are $45 per adult, and $35 for children under 16.

All participants will receive a free Santa suit to wear during the run, and a delicious post-race meal, courtesy of Sobeys Amherstburg.

All funds raised support the efforts of the Essex Region Conservation Foundation in enriching the Place for Life by planting trees and creating trails, so join in the jolly fun and register your entire family today at .

Santa’s ‘nice list’ already includes Union Gas, Kingsbridge Developments, Richard and Colleen Peddie and Sobey’s Amherstburg for supporting this event.


High lake levels at Holiday Beach eliminate large portion of beach



By Jolene Perron

“Holiday Beach as lost approximately 50 feet of sandy beach. There are still sandy areas, but it is much more limited now.”

Director of conservation services for Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) Kevin Money said what’s left of the beach is still accessible but there is a short drop off where waves have worn into the shoreline.
“We are not aware of higher lake levels having any effect on bacteria levels,” said Money. “The Health Unit tests regularly and we post our beach accordingly to make sure swimmers are aware of the health risks.”

Currently, they are looking into beach nourishment, which means to import and place more sand on the beach. Additionally, the are looking into shoreline protection, which would involve hardening the shoreline with rock or other designed structure to prevent further erosion, which Tim Byrne, director of watershed management explained is a very large concern based on past history.

“In 1986, those were all-time record high lake levels,” said Byrne. “In 1985/86, we lost several trees, we lost the sand beach and the shoreline eroded and moved landward. As lake levels started to recede, sand came back but the shoreline had receded several meters from its starting point early in 1985. The shoreline stayed relatively stable until 1998 when again, in 1998 we have a briefer high-level period and during that period of time, the beach was lost, some erosion had taken place, we didn’t lose any trees at that point in time.”

During this high lake level period, Byrne explained the lake started to elevate in 2015, increasing over 2016 and now into 2017. Currently, we have lost approximately a meter and a half of shoreline, which is nearing the amount lost in the 1985/86 high lake levels.

Holiday Beach has been impacted by higher lake levels.

Holiday Beach has been impacted by higher lake levels.

Historically, the beach does tend to return according to Byrne. However, the underlying clay and till gets lost and the shoreline overall will move closer. Previously, it took about 12 months after the lake levels were noticeably lowering for the beach level to return to a “normal” state.

“Once you’re at that period of time when lake levels were elevated well above average levels, your coastal process has changed dramatically,” explained Byrne. “There’s something that’s called lateral drift, and that is the capability of the shoreline and the near shore to carry sand and move sand around. Once your area immediately off shore exceeds a meter of depth, that all changes and that’s why the sand kind of disappears, because the waves behave differently. The calmer water periods where you have shallower water is all different, timing is different, and how the lake reacts during storm events is different and it causes sand to be removed, to be pulled out and it causes the underlying soil to erode. When the sand is not there to protect the clay and the till, then the lake actively erodes it.”

Byrne said ERCA doesn’t want to talk all “gloom and doom” because they want people to still come out and enjoy the properties that are available. The beach will return, and ERCA is already putting steps in place to prepare for the beach, which will reestablish itself over time. In the meantime, the remainder of the beach is still open for use, along with their hiking trails, fishing, the hawk tower, and much more.
Holiday Beach is open from dawn until dusk daily.


Essex Region Conservation approves 2017 programs and budget


Special to the RTT

Essex Region Conservation has approved the 2017 work plan of projects and associated budget. Improving and streamlining customer service, opening the Cypher Systems Group Greenway, rehabilitating a significant Lake Erie coastal wetland at Sturgeon Creek in Leamington, and proposed water and erosion control infrastructure projects totaling $1.2 million are just a few of the projects and programs proposed by the Essex Region Conservation Authority for 2017.

The budget was passed at ERCA’s meeting last Thursday night.

The budget totals just over $11 million and includes a levy contribution from member municipalities of approximately $3 million.

“For every dollar contributed through the levy, ERCA is successful in raising $2.66 dollars from other sources,” said ERCA general manager Richard Wyma. “Projects like the much anticipated Cypher Systems Group Greenway were acquired and developed without any local tax dollars.

According to ERCA, a recent review of return on investment identified that for the period of 2007-2016, the conservation authority received approximately $25 million in levy funding, but in return, provided $35 million in funding from external grant sources for regional environmental improvement projects.

“This is over and above the services we provide to improve the environmental health of our community,” stated Wyma.


Following an internal review process and some adjustments to programming, a broad range of projects and programs are included for 2017, including:

  • Work with partners to fund the creation of a 70 acre managed wetland cell at Cedar Creek Conservation Area and a new 10-acre experimental wetland at Hillman Marsh.
  • Restore at least 125 acres of land, plant 120,000 trees, 20 acres of prairie and collect 2,000 pounds of seed to propagate and replant
  • Continue our comprehensive water quality monitoring program while identifying projects to address phosphorus runoff and resulting Harmful Algal Blooms
  • Work with municipal partners to coordinate a regional Climate Adaptation strategy
  • Coordinate a Western Lake Erie Student Conference to educate students about the challenges facing Lake Erie
  • Create the Oldcastle “hub” to connect ERCA’s greenways to the Herb Gray Parkway Trails, and the trail systems in the towns of LaSalle and Tecumseh
  • Create comprehensive ‘Place for Life’ policies to make the Strategic Plan operational
  • Update tangible capital asset inventory and associated capital plan to inform next phase of Sustainability Plan and guide future investment and facility replacement
  • Improve ability to respond to permit applications and improve customer service by adding technical capacity

These special projects are all in addition to the significant work that Essex Region Conservation undertakes annually, such as habitat protection and restoration, water quality projects and monitoring, flood response, education and recreation to create a future of sustainability and a region that is the Place for Life, the conservation authority stated in a press release.


Nominees sought for conservation awards


Special to the RTT
Do you know of an organization or individual who has made a significant environmental contribution to the Essex Region?

If so, then Essex Region Conservation wants to hear from you.

“Recognition of the importance of environmental sustainability continues to grow at all levels,” explains Danielle Breault Stuebing, ERCA’s Director of Communications and Outreach Services.  “Essex Region Conservation wants to recognize and celebrate those who are making contributions at the local level.”  ERCA is calling for nominations for its 2016 Conservation Awards.  These awards honour and recognize those in the community who have made outstanding contributions towards improving our natural environment, sustaining and enriching the Essex Region as the Place for Life.
“We hope others will be inspired by the efforts being made,” Breault Stuebing adds.   The annual awards will be presented to individuals and organizations in four categories:

The Youth Award recognizes a youth leader who has undertaken habitat or conservation projects or activities and is a student in the elementary or secondary schools of our region.

The Education Award for excellence in conservation education programs or projects in schools, organizations, companies, youth groups, etc.

The Volunteer Award for outstanding effort in volunteering time and services for conservation programs and projects;

The Environmental Achievement Award for programs or projects which have enhanced the region’s environment in a significant way.  In addition to individuals and organizations, municipalities can also be nominated for environmental achievements.

Nominations can be submitted online at, or by clicking the About ERCA page and the ‘Conservation Awards’ tab, or nominators can simply write a one page summary of the individual or organizational accomplishments that merit the receipt of the award.  Please be sure to include the category, name, address and phone number of the nominee, in addition to your own name, address and telephone number.

Nominations close on Friday, December 16, 2016.

The awards, presented since 1992, will be announced at ERCA’s Annual General Meeting in January 2017.