Tide of development threatens glorious Holland Marsh muck
Erosion, pollution from urban sprawl encroach on some of Canada's richest agricultural land
Apr 29, 2008 04:30 AM
There are several important growing areas for Toronto's food. Most are in Latin America. But closer to home, we have the Niagara region, Prince Edward County, southwestern Ontario (roughly from Guelph to Windsor) and, closest of all, Holland Marsh, just 50 kilometres north of Toronto.
Mary Ruth McDonald, associate professor at the University of Guelph's department of plant agriculture, says the marsh is an extremely important area for vegetables, the source of 40 per cent of the nation's onions and carrots, 25 per cent of the celery and almost all of Toronto's locally produced Asian greens.
McDonald says the area produces an estimated $50 million worth of vegetables a year. Not bad for 22,000 acres with a short growing season. The relatively small area is so bountiful because of a condition which, admittedly, doesn't sound terribly promising – muck soil. This super soil is left over from the marsh that was once there and is now drained.
First on many local residents' minds is the wild, unchecked development in Newmarket, Bradford and Schomberg. Holland Landing is right in the middle of this burgeoning area and while the marsh itself is protected from development, nearby construction is a concern.
Much of the "unchecked development", in fact I'd say a lot, is driven to meet the needs of mass immigration. As the latest census reveals many immigrants are moving into the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), the area just outside of Toronto which includes Newmarket. Also, mass immigration has contributed to rising housing prices in Toronto forcing many to leave the city to find accommodation. If it weren't for mass immigration fueled rapid population then the Holland Marsh may not be facing the threat of development, at least not this soon.
Farmers also have been burdened with silt and debris in drainage canals from construction projects – many for the development of nearby bedroom communities. Of late, they have finally been given financial help to clean the canals and assurances of strict silt mats and fences. But now the concern is shifting from construction debris to the runoff from residents. According to Art Janse, former drainage superintendent commissioner of Bradford-West Gwillimbury, each new house is responsible for six times the amount of runoff that would occur naturally, which could exacerbate existing flood hazards.
Every environmentalist in this country should be an immigration reformer. We need to pressure the government to reduce Canada's immigration targets. If you continue to remain silent on the issue the you might as well enjoy the Holland Marsh while it lasts.
To show you the extent to which urban sprawl has reached the Mash, start a journey at the southern most end of Bathurst Street. This will be located in the city of Toronto near the north shore of Lake Ontario. If you travel northward you will encounter development, be it business or residential or both, all the way to Highway 9 which runs east and west. Travelling a short distance east on highway 9 will take you right into the heart of Newmarket. Travelling a short distance west will take you to the Marsh. Now tell me that mass immigration has nothing to do with this development.
On a similar note this article is typical of the Schizophrenic character of the Toronto Star and I'd say the left in general. On the one hand, the paper champions green initiatives and the preservation of the environment by publishing such articles as the one I just blogged about. On the other, it chastised Ontario Environment Commissioner Gord Miller for saying the same thing only he commited the unpardoable sin by accussing rapid population growth - and thus mass immigration by implication - for being at the source of the threat. If the heads of the editors at the Star weren't screwed on...