Richard Wyma

Essex Region Conservation Authority confirms 2018 priorities

 

 

The Essex Region Conservation Authority confirmed its priority projects and programs to create a healthier and more sustainable environment for 2018 as it unanimously passed its annual budget Feb. 15.

Initiating a regional Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, improving floodline mapping in response to a changing climate, creating over 100 acres of new habitat including an innovative wetland project and continuing to tackle phosphorus loadings in Lake Erie are just a few of the projects it has planned for the coming year.

“A robust suite of high priority projects and programs to protect and restore the natural environment of the region will be undertaken,” said Richard Wyma, ERCA’s general manager. “These include programs to increase habitat and forest cover, maintain and expand conservation areas and trails, aid our member municipalities in protecting people and infrastructure from the dangers of flooding and erosion particularly in the era of a changing climate, and to provide meaningful education and engagement opportunities for our residents.”

The 2018 budget totals $9,271,600, which includes a proposed levy contribution of $3,148,752. This represents an increase of $101,019, or $0.09 per household.

Of that, $51,000 is allocated for operations, and $50,000 for future asset replacement. ERCA states that this levy funds less than 30 per cent of its operations, placing ERCA in the bottom five of all conservation authorities, and well below the provincial average of approximately 45 per cent.

“ERCA is unlike any other agency, board or commission in that it generates tremendous revenue for the region,” Wyma adds. “Between 2007 and 2017, ERCA received $26.5 million in total levy contributions, and generated $35 million in new outside funding to the region in support of regional environmental programs and projects. This is in addition to the significant value of ERCA’s programs and services it provides to municipalities.”

“The knowledge and skills that ERCA provides is a cost effective way to manage regional environmental priorities,” added ERCA board chair and Amherstburg Councillor Rick Fryer. “Without the technical expertise that ERCA is able to offer from a regional perspective, each municipality would have to fund this expertise on its own. This relatively small contribution is an excellent investment in ensuring that our region is the Place for Life.”

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.

erca-logoweb

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.

 

Essex Region Conservation identifies 2017 programs and budget

 

 

Special to the RTT

 

Opening the Cypher Systems Group Greenway, rehabilitation of a significant Lake Erie coastal wetland at Sturgeon Creek in Leamington, and proposed Water and Erosion Control Infrastructure Projects totaling $2.1 million are just a few of the projects and programs proposed by the Essex Region Conservation Authority for 2017.

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 Richard Wyma, General Manager.  “Projects like the much anticipated Cypher Systems Group Greenway were acquired and developed without any local tax dollars.

“As well, ERCA has been extremely successful in bringing capital funds for water and erosion control infrastructure programs to our local region. There is only $5 million available for all 36 Conservation Authorities, and over the past decade, a significant amount of the total allocation for the entire Province of Ontario has been directed to the Windsor/Essex region.”  Wyma goes on to note that these are just two of many examples of the extraordinary return on investment that ERCA brings over and above the environmental work they do.

erca-logoweb

Originally, a comprehensive review of ERCA programs and the environmental needs of this region was undertaken, and a levy increase of over $300,000 was identified to meet these challenges.  “In attempting to strike a balance between meeting the sustainability needs of our community while recognizing the fiscal realities of our municipal partners, a number of changes have been proposed to our programs, fees, and organizational structure,” Wyma reports.  “Through this internal program review process, adjustments to programming, and a review of our fees for service, more than $200,000 was cut to reduce the 2017 requested budget increase to $90,900.  The proposed budget attempts to address some of our most pressing challenges and improve program delivery in these areas, but will also result in some service delivery impacts in others.”

Wyma notes these include added capacity to respond to requests for permits and development; and ERCA’s outdoor education program, while reducing on-the-ground outreach services, re-aligning fundraising responsibilities, and adjusting some operational standards at Holiday Beach Conservation Area.

2017 also marks the final implementation year of ERCA’s five-year Sustainability Plan and the elimination of the accumulated operational deficit, which was nearing $480,000 five years ago.  “It is important to note that we introduced our capital and operational reserves, deficit reduction and organizational stabilization programs with no increase in levy contributions to those outcomes,” Wyma added.

Even with the budget reductions, there are many remarkable programs included in the 2017 workplan.

These include:

 

  • 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
  • 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 operationalize the Strategic Plan
  • 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.

ERCA, ERCF launch new visual identity

 

 

Special to the RTT

 

The Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) and Essex Region Conservation Foundation (ERCF) have launched a new visual identity to demonstrate the strengthened relationship between the two organizations.

“Through our strategic planning effort last year, we heard over and over that the public wants to better understand who we are and what we do,” explained Ed Sleiman, ERCA Chair.  “We have been grateful for the work of the Essex Region Conservation Foundation and their many successes over the past four decades.  Indeed, many of the conservation projects and programs we have accomplished would not have been possible without the tremendous leadership and financial support of the Foundation and its many volunteers, participants and donors.”

ERCA chair Ed Sleiman, Essex Region Conservation Foundation president Susan Stockwell Andrews and ERCA GM Richard Wyma unveil the new visual identity for the Essex Region Conservation Authority and Foundation.

ERCA chair Ed Sleiman, Essex Region Conservation Foundation president Susan Stockwell Andrews and ERCA GM Richard Wyma unveil the new visual identity for the Essex Region Conservation Authority and Foundation. (Submitted photo)

Throughout the public consultation process for the Essex Region Conservation Authority’s 2016–2025 Strategic Plan, the message to strengthen ERCA’s image as a customer service-based, valued, and knowledgeable organization, and enhance integration of extension programs such as the Essex Region Conservation Foundation, resounded.

Concurrently, the Essex Region Conservation Foundation was undertaking research to determine a plan of action to position itself as the environmental foundation of choice in the Windsor-Essex-Pelee Island region.

Throughout these processes, the two agencies stated it was determined that strengthening the relationship between the two organizations, rather than differentiating them, was the best path forward.  ERCA implements the conservation projects and programs, while ERCF raises the funds to support this important work.

“There was some confusion in the public about which organization did what,” said Susan Stockwell Andrews, President of the ERCF.  “But, we heard loud and clear that who does what is less important than what we achieve together.  And what we are doing together is making the Windsor-Essex-Pelee Island region the Place for Life.”

In fact, the two organizations have embraced the Place for Life concept as part of their formal identity. The Place for Life reinforces that all elements of a place are interconnected – our community, its environmental health, healthy lifestyles for our citizens, and our economy. Life recognizes our living, thriving, sustainable natural systems. Life refers to the people of our community; their health and protection, and our shared heritage. The organizations say it shows they “embrace this place and make it our home. For life.”

An overarching Essex Region Conservation visual identity has been created, which promotes the Place for Life.  As well, both the Authority and Foundation logos have been updated and modernized with unique but complementary icons and messaging that strategically portray the spirit of the Place for Life.

“We are so excited that after more than four decades, we embrace a new visual identity to better reflect the conservation work we do and the strength of our relationship with the Essex Region Conservation Foundation,” said Richard Wyma, ERCA’s General Manager and Executive Director of the Foundation.

erca-logo

Essex Region Conservation has also launched a social media contest to build community excitement and pride in our region, and showcase all of its special places.  “The Essex Region is truly a special place,” Wyma added.   “Our region is the most southerly, and biologically diverse in all of Canada. We are at the centre of the Great Lakes, which supply more than 20% of the world’s fresh water, and are stewards of more than 290km of Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and Detroit River shoreline.  Every person has a story about their place; and we want to learn why you choose to make this region your #PlaceforLife.”

Essex Region Conservation is urging residents from this region and beyond to tell their story or send a photograph via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the #PlaceforLife hashtag for a random chance to win an outstanding prize package.

Wyma cautioned that as a responsible public agency, this new visual identity will be implemented over time.  “As our signage, vehicles and other materials require replacement, the new look and logos will be incorporated,” he said.  “However, we will not be replacing our assets before they come to the end of their useful life, so the old ERCA goose will be around yet for a bit of time.”

Cypher Systems Greenway construction to resume this summer

 

By RTT Staff

 

The Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) is preparing to complete the Cypher Systems Group Greenway, with construction expected to start this summer.

Nearly 20 kilometres of multi-use trail will be constructed, stretching from Amherstburg to the urban centre of Essex, and intersecting with the existing Chrysler Canada Greenway. A small stretch has already been constructed near Essex.

“In 2015, the Essex Region Conservation Foundation was successful in meeting its $1 million target to develop the Cypher Systems Group Greenway, with support from Cypher Systems Group, the Town of Essex, Canada 150 Grant, and funds raised through its Trail ON! campaign,” explained ERCA general manager Richard Wyma.  “Currently, structural analysis of bridges and culverts is under way and the tender for this project is scheduled for mid-July.”

ERCA celebrated the $1 million target being reached last October when the Cypher Systems Group gave a $250,000 “gift” and received the naming rights. The new trail will intersect with the existing Chrysler Canada Greenway.

As part of the construction process, ERCA is reminding neighbouring landowners to remove any personal items, fencing or structures from the ERCA-owned corridor.

“ERCA has owned and paid taxes on this property since 2004,” adds Kevin Money, ERCA’s director of conservation services.  “As we move forward with the construction of this long awaited and much anticipated community amenity, ERCA will be reminding neighbours of property boundaries to ensure that any encroaching structures are removed prior to the commencement of construction.”

Cypher Systems GreenwayWEB

ERCA officials state that they will also be planting native trees and shrubs within two feet of the property line in some areas to improve aesthetics, biodiversity, water quality and connect core habitats. ERCA will also identify and confirm farm crossings, where property is owned on both sides of the Greenway, and ensure appropriate easements are in place for these crossings to continue.

“This is consistent with process undertaken to develop the Chrysler Canada Greenway in the late 90s, which has proved to be a remarkable success,” Money added.

“We are very excited to break ground on this project in the coming months, and look forward to working with our neighbours to ensure that construction can begin in a timely manner,” Wyma added.

Wyma added that donations are being accepted as community entrances will still have to be built. He noted that some may be constructed during the building of the trail but the Essex Region Conservation Foundation (ERCF) is still accepting donations through its “Trail ON!” program.

“There are still opportunities and we are still seeking opportunities (for donations),” said Wyma. “There will be about four or five (community entrances) along that stretch.”

The end of the trail in Amherstburg will be near the Verdi Club, though Wyma stated there is still 800m of land ERCA owns near the Detroit River. He aim is to eventually link the Cypher Systems Greenway to that waterfront portion.

“Those (waterfront) lands aren’t going to be developed right away,” he said.

Work on the trail is expected to begin in August and will last for several months. Those still wishing to donate can do so via www.ourgreenlegacy.org or by contacting Wyma at 519-776-5209.