Barrie Residents Walk to Proposed Sports Field Site to Protest Council's Astroturf Waterfront Plan

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Barrie Residents Walk to Proposed Sports Field Site to Protest Council's Astroturf Waterfront Plan

Barrie City Council has cleared the way for a sports field at Allandale Station Park, but residents are not backing down and want the decision to be reversed.

Last month, Pollinate Barrie organized a walk through the park to highlight the potential consequences of converting the park into an astroturf field and the benefits of rewilding the area instead.

Ashley Hammell, Co-founder of Pollinate Barrie, who guided the residents through the park, warned of the catastrophic consequences of converting the last naturalized portion of the Barrie waterfront into a controlled, paved space.

Hammell expressed concern over the proposed astroturf field, stating, "We will be losing so much. It's kind of staggering to think about, in addition to the overwintering and migratory grounds for several different migratory bird species, and a whole bunch of different natural habitats for important pollinators." She emphasized the environmental roles these plants play, such as improving water drainage and sequestering carbon.

Moreover, Hammell warned that astroturf releases microplastics into Lake Simcoe contrasting sharply with the natural benefits provided by green spaces. 

Pollinate Barrie advocates for transforming the park into an oak savanna, one of North America's most endangered habitats. This approach aligns with a city council decision from two years ago to renaturalize the park with native plants. Hammell hopes to reverse the recent decision to pave the area, stressing the need to protect this valuable ecological space.

Hammell warned that “taking the last naturalized portion of our waterfront and turning it into this controlled paved space would be catastrophic.” 

“We would lose so much of what we have hung our tourism department and our identity as a city on,” she concluded. 

Ecologist Geri Poisson has raised significant concerns regarding the City of Barrie’s claims about Allandale Park.

“Well, replanting trees can be a way of compensating for the removal of trees. But it takes a long time for those planted trees to grow up and then start replacing the ecological functions that those mature trees were providing,” Poisson stated. He emphasized the importance of mature trees like red oaks, which are keystone species. “If you remove a 100-year-old oak tree, well, you know, it takes 100 years for it to grow back. And so we won’t see those benefits for another 100 years.”

Poisson also criticized the city's compensation policy. “The city's own compensation policy states that when you remove woodlands, they have to be replaced on an area basis, not per stem,” he explained. “So if they're removing a hectare of woodland, they have to replant another whole hectare of woodland. And the city says that will result in a net benefit. But I don’t see that as a net benefit; all that is a pure replacement.”

He also highlighted the issue of survival rates of replanted trees.

Furthermore, Poisson expressed disappointment in the decision-making process, urging the council to reconsider their plans. 

“Most city staff reports come with several options when proposing something,” he said. "This city staff report for this site had no other options being proposed, only this one. And I don’t know why they didn’t consider other options. There are many other places within the city limits or out in Midhurst to build an artificial sports facility.”

Poisson’s insights call for a reevaluation of the city’s approach to environmental compensation and decision-making processes, emphasizing the need for more comprehensive and sustainable planning.

“What I’d like to see is council to reconsider as soon as possible the decision to locate this field here and look at other options,” he said. 
 

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Video Upload Date: July 5, 2024

Simcoe Community Media is a non-profit media organization based in Barrie, Ontario, specializing in civic journalism. Our mission is to foster an informed, connected, and vibrant community by amplifying diverse voices and perspectives, promoting transparency, and encouraging public discourse.

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