The first thing many students note about Trent upon their arrival is the overwhelming presence of nature. While city-bound universities are like a concrete jungle, Trent is a beautiful balance: not only incorporating the natural essence of the nearby drumlin and Otonabee river, but being mindful of it too; leaving space for birds to nest, for groundhogs to live nearby the newly developed Enweying building, and deer to stroll by old LEC and Champlain. There is more to just what you see on the Symons campus.
Trent has its own Nature Areas, as they explain on the Trent website: “With approximately 1400 acres of land situated on the banks of the Otonabee River and over 30 kilometres of nature trails, Trent boasts one of the most picturesque university campuses in the country. The combination of lush forest, drumlins, streams and open fields provides a unique learning and recreational environment that is used by Trent students, faculty and staff as well as by members of the Peterborough and surrounding communities.”
Down Nassau Mills Road and towards East Bank, if you turn down University Road, you’ll find yourself between the two trails that are up-kept by Trent Nature Areas and their levy fee. Since 1997, each full-time undergraduate student has paid a yearly total of $2.33 ($1.17 Fall term, $1.16 Winter). The TCSA website goes into further details on the levy fee. However, to get to the specifics of the levy, Arthur contacted the chair of the Trent Nature Areas Stewardship Advisory Committee, Dr. Cheryl McKenna-Neuman.
“The levy is exclusively used to support students working in the Nature Areas during the summer months,” she wrote in an email. “The tasks can be quite varied depending on the priorities each year, e.g. trail maintenance, boardwalk construction, surveying invasive species, mapping, assisting research projects in the [Nature Areas], etc.”
However, there has been some uncertainty for the future of the trails. This past year, Trent sold a portion of these trails to the city of Peterborough, further detailed in the Peterborough Examiner by Gwyneth James, a member of the Trent University Board of Governors:
“Building on decades of planning and approvals, there are a number of exciting projects underway at our campus. The City of Peterborough Arena and Aquatic Complex, located on 24 acres of land formerly owned by Trent, will provide significant recreational services for the community: The site, selected through an open public process in 2013, currently houses a busy facilities depot, storage sheds, a baseball diamond, and former farm fields. The site is adjacent to Trent’s impressive 30-kilometre trail system.”
Despite the pre-existing buildings on site (Trent-owned facilities and storage sheds), the development of the area into an Arena and Aquatic Complex will greatly affect the surrounding nature areas and more specifically, animal’s habitats. In an area that sees plenty of action from animals great and small, the increase of motor and foot traffic will further isolate these species to smaller areas of land, much to the dismay of Trent students.
A student who wishes to remain anonymous spoke to Arthur on the lack of respect in relation to the treatment of the space, including issues that arose in terms of Indigenous peoples who use that space.
“Local Indigenous peoples were not consulted, and the lands being developed were important for spiritual and ecological purposes,” the student said. “There are many endangered species that live in the wetlands in the area where the arena would be built.”
Indigenous Sharing Circles occurred as part of consultations, in hopes of conflict resolution between the stakeholders about the issues at hand.
“At the Indigenous Sharing circle, any questions about the arena were deflected. They kept saying the land was already sold to the city and the arena was the city’s project so they could take no blame, and only wanted to move forward from past mistakes,” they said.
In relation to the development of the area, James made claims that the development would have no impact.
“The City of Peterborough has conducted many independent environmental studies on the site, finding no species at risk and no areas of natural or scientific interest. All studies are available on the city’s website. The city designed the site to minimize environmental impact, and the landscape plan features extensive plantings of native species including 1700 eastern white cedar.”
Upon delving into the report further, there are indeed species that will be affected by the site. Specifically, the destruction of on-site habitats for species in the area would contribute to the further endangerment of species currently with the “Threatened” status, according to Ontario’s official page on Species at Risk. One of which is the Barn Swallow, a species that, in their study, was determined to live nearby and that the site holds habitats for the species. The site also holds habitats for four other species considered threatened, or of special concern to the Ontario government. In terms of what directly affects these species and what makes them threatened, the Ontario government’s website specifically lists one of the threats as “Loss and degradation of habitat due to urban development and/or changes in how the forests are managed.”
It has become increasingly evident that it has become the students’ responsibility to continue paying their fees and help maintain our green space, lest Trent decides it would rather put more money in its wallet. What would stop Trent from selling more and more of our green space, otherwise? Would then come, a factory? More overnight parking? Another residence that unlike the others, would destroy habitats rather than incorporate them?