Nature at Trent: Fighting for its Future

Students and community members protest development in Trent's wetlands during Head of the Trent on September 29, 2018. Photo by Mac Marzolini.

Photo by Mac Marzolini.

Nature at Trent. It is a powerful classroom: a place to learn, to play, to clear your mind, and reconnect. As the famous naturalist John Burroughs once said, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

So, during Head of the Trent concerned students and citizens of Peterborough joined the festivities – sharing their concerns about the degradation of Trent’s campus and Nature Areas. Local First Nation communities and Indigenous students also shared the powerful message of Waasa Niigaa Inaabidaa – looking ahead for the next seven generations.

First Nation communities and Indigenous students oppose the wetland development. Image via Debbie Jenkins.

Of immediate concern is the development of a Twin Pad Arena and Swimming Pool Complex in our Wildlife Sanctuary, the diversion of water from ecologically significant wetlands, and the degradation of wildlife habitat, including species that are at risk of extinction. So here are a few things you need to know.

Wetlands (in dark blue), the Twin Pad Arena Site (red), and the location of 4 culverts along Pioneer Road which previously maintained north to south water flow (orange and green dots). Two culverts (1 & 2, orange dots) were not replaced. Culvert 2 – previously carried water south from the Archaeology Centre Wetland to the wetland complex within the Wildlife Sanctuary. Light blue outlines the study block for the Arena development (mostly Wildlife Sanctuary). Image via Debbie Jenkins.

Over the last two years large developments have been approved and moved forward at Trent University – under the guise of “green.” But the evidence shows otherwise. For example:

  • The Twin-Pad Arena and Aquatic Complex will overlap with the Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Over 500 parking spaces will pave over and pollute this Nature Reserve.
  • Wetlands will be filled in to accommodate the building footprint.
  • Habitat will be lost and traffic will increase wildlife mortality.
  • Water has been diverted from the surrounding wetlands by not replacing culverts on Pioneer road. Over 6 million liters were diverted from the wetlands and Wildlife Sanctuary in April 2018 alone.
  • Habitat loss, noise, pollution, traffic, and water diversions threaten the integrity of the Wildlife Sanctuary and wetland complex far beyond the Arena Site.
  • Small buffers of 15 meters have been applied to the development – even though regulations and policy (even the Municipal Plan) indicate 30 meters buffers for wetlands and 120 meters buffers for Significant Wetlands and Natural Features. Notably, the literature suggests that buffers up to 300 meters may be necessary to protect wetland species that spend part of the life cycle on land.

So guess what? Trent University did not evaluate the wetlands on campus prior to planning and approving the Arena Development – a practice that was also evident with the CleanTech Commons development – an 85-acres Industrial Park also approved on Pioneer road. Here is what the City and University had to say about the ecologically significant wetlands that surround the Arena Site:

“The approval of the Site Plan application (an application under the Planning Act) was considered in the context of the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). The PPS prohibits development and site alteration in a provincially significant wetland. At the time of approval, the wetland has not been designated as provincially significant, nor has it been designated as provincially significant at this time (Trent University Lands Tour – City Construction Project Q & A).”

How convenient for development!

But “convenient for development” is not “convenient for wildlife.” In fact, we know that it is impactful and that development and site alterations are not permitted in habitat of endangered and threatened species (except in accordance with provincial and federal requirements). Notably, a number of Species at Risk, including federally endangered and threatened species, have been identified at the Arena Site (a variety of birds, amphibians and reptiles — see here). Recently an article in the Peterborough Examiner – written by the Chair of the Trent Lands Committee and a member of the Board of Governors, falsely suggest that this is not true. But data are data and this is a university after all!

So, at a time of dramatic and global wildlife declines – unprecedented changes in our climate – long-term planning and application of our best conservation practices are imperative. We need Trent to be an example for society, and start by relocating the Arena to a more appropriate site.

Please help to protect the future of our natural campus. Sign our petition and check our Facebook page for updates and more information.