Have Your Say: Trent Lands and Nature Areas Plan Update

Trent University is embarking on a review and update of the Trent Lands and Nature Areas Plan – the strategic plan for the stewardship and use of Trent’s Symons Campus. Phase one of this two-phase initiative is underway now, and is focused on understanding and mapping the natural, cultural, and archaeological features and functions on the campus. This includes the location of wetlands and woodlands, species, habitats, and areas of significance to Indigenous People. We are inviting input from students (as well as the campus and community) through a series of public sessions, meetings, pop-up events, and online tools.

One of Trent University’s most significant assets is its approximately 1400 acres of land, consisting of the core campus, endowment lands, and Nature Areas. Trent’s vision is of a sustainable and inspiring campus community, thoughtfully integrating the natural and built environments, with vibrant spaces to learn, innovate, be active, and live. These lands were acquired during Trent’s inception in the 1960s, for the long-term growth and sustainability of the University.

Since the 2013 update to the Trent Lands Plan, the provision of land to the City of Peterborough to build an arena and aquatic complex, and the extension of servicing to create the Cleantech Commons research and innovation park, there has been strong interest in the planning and governance of Trent Lands. The questions and feedback from students and others on campus and in the community have profoundly shaped this current planning process.

The first major difference is the total ecosystem approach to the planning that starts with a review and updating of the 2002 Nature Areas Stewardship Plan. Trent’s Nature Areas, along with buffers and corridors, comprise 60% of Trent’s lands and are appreciated for their aesthetic, ecological, cultural, and academic value. They contain wetlands and woodlands; their biodiversity includes Species at Risk such as Monarch butterflies, Eastern Meadowlark, and Butternut trees; there are also 30 kilometres of trails for recreation and observation. All-season field studies are also underway on a number of endowment land parcels to better understand the natural features and appropriateness of the current designation of these lands. Working with the Nature Areas Stewardship Advisory Committee throughout this process, we will assess the boundaries of the Nature Areas based on natural features, and identify areas for remediation, enhancement, and protection.

As a leader in Indigenous education, Trent University is committed to ensuring that Indigenous people’s input into this planning initiative is meaningful, culturally appropriate, and collaborative. We have engaged an Anishnaabe expert in community engagement to work with the Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers Council to design and implement an Indigenous engagement process.

The plan update began with a land blessing by the Elders, and in December we hosted our first Indigenous Traditional Knowledge (ITK) workshop. Gikendamowin Akiing (knowledge from the land) discoveries with Elders are underway, and we will be travelling to Michi Saagiig communities to provide additional opportunities for input, alongside a dedicated sharing meeting for Indigenous students, faculty, and community members. A master archaeological study is also underway to further build our understanding of the cultural heritage features on our land, and to inform future land use decisions.

We are also committed to providing students with experiential learning opportunities throughout the plan update. Students from the School of the Environment and Biology programs recently participated in mammal tracking and nocturnal owl surveys. We welcome further involvement in the upcoming Spring and Summer studies.

The findings from Phase 1: Understanding the Land will be compiled and made available in September 2019 for consideration before we seek input on Phase 2: Campus Vision. This two-phase process arose from feedback saying that any land use decisions must start with a better understanding of the land. We invite you to contribute to that understanding now.

You can find a full history of the Trent Lands Plan (including the foundational 2006 Endowment Lands Plan) at trentlands.ca, along with a more detailed overview of the current planning process. Find details about the engagement sessions, as well as the online feedback tools, on social media (follow @trentlandsplan on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and the website. Additional questions or thoughts can be sent to trentlandsplan@trentu.ca.

Julie Davis is the Vice President of External Relations and Advancement for Trent University.