BY JOHN BUTLER FOR SOUTHGREY.CA — At four municipally-sponsored online visioning sessions on the future of the Beaver Valley Corridor held on April 28, a number of residents of Grey Highlands voiced their concerns about a proposal to create a municipal-private sector partnership to develop lands in the ecologically rich but vulnerable valley.
The proposed partnership first set off alarm bells in the minds of conservationists when Grey Highlands announced the partnership, couching development of the lands entirely in terms of private sector profit opportunity, with no mention of any role civic or environmental groups might play in shaping the future of the properties. In October 2020, Grey Highlands Council announced it intended to "maximize the development potential" of the former Talisman Resort, and in March, 2021, a Joint Agreement was signed by the municipality and the owners of the former Talisman, packaging two properties currently owned by the municipality with the former Talisman-owned lands to jointly market the properties to developers, to "maximize profits."
In response, a core group of residents was formed to bring together conservation, education, service organizations and other stakeholders to negotiate to purchase the properties. Group member Joyce Hall recently said, “Many citizens are already expressing concern that development will destroy the already fragmented wildlife corridor, increase pressure on the water supply and watershed, and undermine the fragile beauty of this unique valley... Grey Highlands has the opportunity here to pursue the maximum public good for precious public land, especially given all we now know about the links between COVID, the destruction of our environment and the value of nature to our health.”
In advance of the visioning sessions, the core group circulated a petition addressed to the Grey Highlands Municipal Council that said, in part:
“Whereas the Beaver Valley lands once known as Talisman Mountain Resort are contiguous with a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, and are a much beloved and high profile public asset; and whereas many well-established stakeholder groups exist and have a productive role to play in the future of these properties; we ask that Council delay any sale of the three parcels, in order to give the citizens leading this effort, for three months to bring together nature conservation, education, service organizations and other stakeholders to develop an appropriate and realistic plan for the properties. We need time.”
The Municipality’s response to this petition may be an indicator of whether Grey Highlands sees its civic sector as an integral partner in development, equal to the private sector — or merely an afterthought. The petition can be signed online.
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