Council has given formal support to the goals of the South Shore Joint Initiative.
Resident John Hirsch asked council to support the SSJI’s goals during a deputation at the March 1 committee of the whole meeting where council asked for a staff report. That report was presented to councillors at their March 13 meeting and says the SSJI “conforms to the corporate strategic plan by maintaining rural character in preserving the county’s natural assets and existing wildlife.”
The report says preservation of the south shore could present a chance for natural education and engagement and could promote increased eco-tourism.
While the majority supported the initiative, some councillors shared some skepticism.
Councillor David Harrison said he couldn’t support the project, saying the shore and marine ecosystems were already protected by a number of agencies such as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
“We’re outside of our jurisdiction totally on this and it’s bad enough that we’ve got layer upon layer upon layer of agencies put on the land to start with,” he said. “To start adding more layers on the water as well, I think on both counts it’s not necessary.”
Harrison feared SSJI’s efforts to protect the south shore from industrial development could also impact existing commercial uses such as fishing.
“Industrial and commercial, there’s a pretty fine line there and that could spill over to the angling side, the tourist side pretty heavily too,” he said. “They could say, ‘well, we’re not going to have any fishing for smallmouth bass in that area’ — I just don’t like the smell of it.”
Councillor Steve Ferguson was among those who supported the SSJI’s goals. He said the group’s efforts weren’t meant to prevent residential development, but to prevent industrialization.
“The south shore is the last remaining undeveloped north shoreline on Lake Ontario,” he said. “This group is being formed to ensure that industrialization of that land doesn’t occur — that’s all — it’s not to prevent people from building a house if they want to build a house, it’s to make sure that it’s protected from incursion from other groups.”
The SSJI is seeking to protect the south shore’s marine and terrestrial ecosystems, including the territory covered by the 26-square-kilometre Important Bird Area. Among the SSJI’s initial goals are to increase protection for the south shore’s public lands by having them declared conservation areas.