FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Protect Rondeau Provincial Park
The Ontario government recently announced its intention to extend cottage leases inside ecologically sensitive Rondeau Provincial Park by an additional 21 years, reneging on an earlier declaration that the leases should be terminated in 2017. This proposal, which would see leases remain in place until 2038, undermines the number one priority clearly stated in the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, which is to maintain ecological integrity. Please register your concerns and recommendations about Rondeau Provincial Park before November 18, 2010.
Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Rondeau Park is a refuge for dozens of species at risk that depend on protected habitat within the heavily developed landscape of southern Ontario, including the prothonotary warbler, Acadian flycatcher, Fowler's toad, spiny softshell turtle, nodding pogonia and red mulberry. Its provincially and nationally significant habitats include coastal marshes, buttonbush sloughs, oak savannah, eastern cottonwood savannah and Great Lakes shoreline sand dunes.
While the leasing of private cottages is part of the park's long history, the government decided in 1986 to extend the leases one last time -- until 2017 -- as recommended by the Provincial Park Advisory Council. Currently, 287 leaseholds, over half of which have changed ownership since the final lease extension in 1986, are located inside park boundaries. All cottagers entered into their leases with the full knowledge that the leases would not be renewed after 2017.
Here is a list of the key reasons why Ontario Nature is asking the government to reconsider the proposal to extend the Rondeau cottage leases to 2038.
1. Protected areas are key to conservation and the protection of biodiversity.
As recognized in Ontario's Biodiversity Strategy, introduced by the McGuinty government in 2005, parks and protected areas are one of the cornerstones for biodiversity conservation strategies. In southern Ontario, where less than 4% of the landscape is protected in parks and conservation lands, few opportunities exist for the expansion of protected areas. This means that protected areas are especially critical to the protection of wildlife. Rondeau is renowned for its biodiversity. To the extent possible, its unique vegetation-landform features should be free of human structures and manicured landscaping and restored to a natural state where wild, native species thrive.
2. Maintaining ecological integrity is the guiding management principle for Ontario's provincial parks. Ontario's Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, passed in 2006 under the McGuinty government, enshrined the maintenance of ecological integrity as the first objective and the first guiding principle of park management. Extending the cottage leases would contradict this clear, legislated management priority for the park system in Ontario. Maintaining Rondeau's ecological integrity is an enormous challenge, given its small size and location within the heavily developed landscape of southern Ontario.
3. The current approved park management plan states that the cottage leases will be terminated in 2017. The current park management plan for Rondeau Park is the result of considerable public consultation regarding the best management direction for the park. The extension of the cottage leases was a highly contentious issue during the preparation of the plan (late 1980s/ early 1990s), and the extension of the cottage leases to 2017 was a huge concession to cottagers at the time and strongly opposed by conservation organizations. Another such concession is unacceptable, especially given the provincial government's commitments to protecting biodiversity, recovering endangered species and maintaining the ecological integrity of protected areas.
4. The cottages have a negative ecological impact. The cottages in Rondeau, which extend along most of the park's western shoreline and a portion of the eastern shoreline, are located on some of the most environmentally significant portions of the park. Simply by occupying a good portion of the land base, the cottages impede its use by wildlife. Direct harm to wildlife has also been documented. The recovery strategy for the threatened eastern foxsnake notes, for example, that some cottage owners have admitted to killing foxsnakes. Another negative impact has been the introduction of invasive non-native species, identified as a key threat to various species at risk and rare habitats found within the park. A 2008 survey of the eastern dunes of the park found numerous invasive plant species, many intentionally introduced by cottage leaseholders.
You can use the points above to draft comments and either submit them online here.
or send a hard copy to the address below before November 18, 2010. Be sure to reference the EBR No. 011-1300
Manager, Ministry of Natural Resources
Natural Heritage, Lands and Protected Spaces Branch
Parks and Protected Areas Policy Section
300 Water Street
To view the EBR posting, click here.
To view the Rondeau Provincial Park Management Plan (1991), click here.
Please send a copy of your comments to Ontario Nature at 366 Adelaide St., W., Suite 201, Toronto, ON M5V 1R9 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.