Early in the wee hours on September 15th, three concerned citizens entered Colliery Dam Park and chained themselves to a tree in a final effort to stop the removal of trees set to start that day. As it sits now the bylaw officers have issued them and a few other protesters refusing the leave the area tickets. Local media outlets were threatened with tickets and asked to leave and just a few moments ago the RCMP showed up.
The issue that started this protest has been ongoing for years and recently we saw our city council forced into a decision by the provincial government. They had a few different options none of which these protestors, or portion of our community in general, saw as appropriate or fair. All three options offered meant a heavy price ticket for the taxpayers and all involved destruction of at least part of the Colliery Dams. All of this because the provincial government has labeled Colliery dams a high risk, should we ever see massive record breaking rainfall (which has yet to happen in the 100 years that the dams have stood there).
However none of the governments reports or inspections have been fully completed, due to time and financial restrictions. In fact they don't even know what the dams are constructed of as the records from when it was built have been lost.
The council was forced into a decision so they decided to take what they felt was the least expensive and intrusive option to add an auxiliary spillway, which still means a rough estimate of up to $5 million and the loss of around 40 trees (although when looking at the purposed site many of us speculate they will need to remove more than that). Next they awarded a contract, one which I like to call a "blank cheque" contract as there is no definite plan in place and it was awarded as a "cost-plus" deal.
So basically our city has approved a plan to remove a lot of trees to add a giant slab of cement (which we may never need) based on a report that was never finished and now a contractor holds in his hands a blank cheque (of tax payer money) with absolutely no plan in place. The best guess puts the cost around $5 million and again I'll repeat this is for something that has never been proven that we even need.
Colliery Dams is a heritage site, there are old growth trees, it feeds numerous streams and rivers, houses fish and numerous species of wildlife. There are never ending trails enjoyed by many, multiple fishing and swimming spots, an off leash area for dogs and community picnic areas. People have spent over three years of their lives fighting for this park through every legal means possible feel like they have been left with little options to save this beautiful park. One of the protesters issued a ticket this morning is Jim Kipp one of our city councillors, anther councillor Gord Fuller is a huge supporter and spends almost every Sunday at the Dams for an ongoing potluck lunch with other community members.
Someone said to me today, "Well that's just ridiculous. You know I have an issue with all the clear cutting they are doing up on Dumont by the dirt biking track but you don't see me chaining myself to a tree to stop it." My response was simply "Maybe you should." There are those who view the whole protest and ongoing resistance as ridiculous or unnecessary, but I for one am proud to live in a community that fights for what they believe in and that doesn't just accept a fate handed down unfairly without proper proof.
Our government will never come to citizens and ask "Are you OK with this?" they will go ahead with what they think is right in the name of profit or corporate wants. Unless people stand up against them and say "No this is not okay" they will continue to clear cut and demolish our forests and land, they will continue to add more pipelines and oil tankers. They will continue to push the boundaries of our environment.
As I nervously wait to hear the fate of the Colliery Dams construction and the brave protesters, I am at least elevated with a sense of pride that I live in a community with such passionate and engaged community members.
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