A Watershed Year in Review: RRCA Looks Back at 2021

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By Nick Seebruch
A Watershed Year in Review: RRCA Looks Back at 2021

From tree planting to 3D laser-scanning, the last twelve months saw the Raisin Region Conservation Authority (RRCA) continuing its mission to conserve and restore the local environment, protect people and property from natural hazards and support sustainable development within its jurisdiction in eastern Ontario.

“Working with the community is key to securing a better environment and healthy future,” says Bryan McGillis, chair of the RRCA’s 8-member Board of Directors. “We really want to thank our staff, summer students, volunteers, and community partners, for their role in all of our accomplishments this year.”

The RRCA reviewed a record number of permits and Planning Act applications in 2021. “Many waterfront residents chose to initiate improvements to their properties this year,” says Phil Barnes, the RRCA’s Watershed Management Team Lead. “By working with homeowners, developers and municipalities, we help ensure the impacts of flooding are minimized and that the local environment is protected.”

Another important achievement was initiating the acquisition of watershed-wide aerial LiDAR technology, which uses laser pulses to accurately map the local topography. “It will be an invaluable tool to help us and municipalities make more informed planning and development decisions,” says Barnes.

Land in the RRCA jurisdiction also saw the addition of nearly 60,000 trees, a significant portion of which were planted in riparian zones by local watercourses. “There is great enthusiasm in our region for tree planting, and this year was no different,” says Lisa Van De Ligt, RRCA’s Communications and Stewardship Team Lead. “Next year we plan on adding an additional 65,000 trees to the local landscape.”

While the RRCA’s tree planting success is in large part due to partnerships with private landowners and municipalities, the Conservation Authority also acquires lands to conserve sensitive ecological habitat, enhance forest cover, and provide recreational opportunities to the public. The RRCA currently owns and conserves 1,664 acres of environmentally significant land, a number which was augmented in 2021 by land donations such as the gifting of a 100-acre wetland by the Township of South Stormont.

A substantial portion of the RRCA’s 1,680 km2 jurisdiction consist of agricultural lands. Building on its strong rapport with local farmers, in 2021 the RRCA was able to deliver various stewardship programs to the agricultural community, such as the Agri-Action Advisory Service, which provided funding towards pairing 10 farmers in the RRCA’s jurisdiction with local farm stewardship expert advisers. The RRCA also virtually hosted three agricultural stewardship workshops and joined with six area farmers to produce two virtual farm tours in which the farmers guide viewers through some of the stewardship best management practices they have implemented on their lands.

 The RRCA’s three Conservation Areas – Gray’s Creek, Charlottenburgh Park and Cooper Marsh – experienced an increase in visitors this year. With their combined 25 km of nature trails, available year-round at no cost, the Conservation Areas are cherished by residents and visitors alike. “We are proud to provide these opportunities for residents to connect with nature, whether you are birdwatching at Cooper Marsh, camping at Charlottenburgh Park, or accessing the St. Lawrence River through Gray’s Creek Marina,” says Pete Sabourin, the RRCA’s Field Operations Team Lead.

In 2021, just under 114,000 vehicles made their way to Cooper Marsh and Gray’s Creek Conservation areas. The nature trails at Gray’s Creek recorded close to 40,000 visitors.

This year, the RRCA launched the Cooper Marsh Biodiversity Project, a three-year, biodiversity-enhancement project featuring initiatives such as habitat planting and enhancement, invasive species control, biodiversity monitoring, and outreach and education. At present, a citizen science monitoring initiative has logged 588 observations of plant and animal species at the Marsh.

The RRCA hosted various community events this year, including the Family Fishing Week Scavenger Hunt, Cornwall’s Eco Day, and the ongoing Raisin Region GeoAdventure. The latter is a geocaching tour where participants must find 20 caches hidden in environmentally significant sites in Cornwall and surrounding area of SDG. Currently, the caches have over 730 logged finds. The RRCA also hosted two community tree planting events in partnership with the City of Cornwall and the Township of South Stormont, adding 300 trees to Cornwall’s Chevrier Park and the South Stormont Municipal Office grounds.

The RRCA also recently renewed its longstanding lease with the Township of North Glengarry to manage the three dams on the Garry River. In total, the RRCA manages and operates eight water control structures within its jurisdiction. The RRCA also manages the Raisin-South Nation Drinking Water Source Protection Program, engages in regular source and ground water monitoring, and assists its partner municipalities and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry with Flood Forecasting and Warning and Low Water Response.

“I’m proud of our team’s accomplishments this year,” says RRCA General Manager, Richard Pilon. “Despite the unique challenges brought on by the pandemic, we were able to consistently adapt to continue delivering our programs and services to the residents and municipalities in our jurisdiction.”

 The RRCA is encouraging the community to stay up to date with its plans for 2022 by subscribing to its monthly newsletter at rrca.on.ca.

For more information, please visit rrca.on.ca or contact (613) 938-3611 or info@rrca.on.ca.

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