I remember as if it was yesterday, the first time we travelled to Wolfe Island on the ferry. Would the island become our home? Could we accept the ferry schedule as a way of life?
The ferry that September day did not leave cars. Travellers seemed happy. People walking about were in a holiday mood. I took note of women, I assumed were islanders quietly knitting/ crocheting, who to this day offer items for sale at island events and Craft Shows. And, of course, I noticed the many readers on the boat.. Islanders obviously not new to the ride. Interesting to note the Island library, rates as (one of) the busiest in Frontenac County. And in the cabins both sides, Islanders were sharing conversation, catching up on the news, and making the best of the daily ferry ride home from work or school, appointments, medical and otherwise, or from shopping. Very many of them walked off the ferry as it docked in Marysville fanning out to different streets. Obviously they lived there. Tourists wandered off through the village
It was a different time. There were many dairy farms still operating. The Kraft Plant was then open. There were more working farms. Tourism was important but it was the Island’s “Cottager” guests the island seemed to welcome. … those that stayed awhile. There were more Bed & Breakfasts and a Camp Ground. The General Wolfe Hotel was the place of choice for graduations, special dinners. There was Woodman House and Ernie’s. There was excitement around events, the annual Road Race, the Plowing match, Crime & Pumpkin Fests etc., Big Sandy Bay was still a private gem. There was even a “should we open the canal period.” A doctor came from the city, there was a volunteer ambulance service. Church and school communities worked together. A new Library and Ambulance Fire Hall were built.. The Tourist Centre opened.
With amalgamation Wolfe and Howe Islands became Frontenac Islands. The Province downloaded the highways. More houses are being built annually. There is more work on the island. And more people work off the island. A new Medical Clinic and County Paramedic Service are in operation.. Big Sandy Bay, Riverfront Golf Course, the Corn Maze, Horne’s ferry are very popular tourist destinations. The Island Grill has been revamped. We have Metal Craft. Wind Towers and Solar panels dot the island. White’s Horse Rides, a Boat Club, Music Fest, Horne’s Ferry, bicycle rentals, Village walks, a summer Art Gallery, the Old House Museum a covered rink, and more are there to attract visitors . But there is a problem.
And it is the ferry . Since our first idyllic day on the ferry to the island there have been two public service strikes that deeply affected islanders. The Wolfe Islander has gone out for refit 4 times (7-10 weeks). The Charlevoix became the 33 car, Frontenac ferry for Amherst Island, replacing the Wolfe Islander III as required.
At least 7 studies about the ferry service have been undertaken by the Provincial Government ( MTO) under the leadership of Premiers Peterson, Rae, Harris, McGuinty and Wynne. The option each time has been for a lengthened “boat.” most recently for a new faster boat operating with the WI 3, and (maybe) a bridge when Kingston has a bridge over the Cataraqui, but when?
There have been improvements. Docking mechanisms were replaced on both sides; improved parking at the winter dock. Cameras at Marysville/ Dawson Point. Newer trailer at Dawson Point and a new Marysville passenger waiting area, flower boxes benches. etc. Better communication between MTO and the Township regarding ferry demand management (park & ride, cycling, parking, etc.) But as the Frontenac II continues to operate from Dawson Point Islanders are stoic about it all. They say very little about it. But hose who can’t take/risk the long wait in line ups’ may leave the island for awhile or move outright. Too much to loose in time, jobs, appointments. All this while the population mix has shifted to fewer children, more off/on Island workers, more seniors retired, which has added to ferry demand.
Even with the effort of the crews to stay on schedule, the regular 55 car ferry service does not meet the demand and has not for years. While grateful for the use of the 33 car Frontenac II, now it’s even worse. Islanders wait in line and hope … Maybe this time, with a government that has transit projects on its mind, Wolfe Island will finally see the recommendation, and the end of studies, with a larger, faster ferry fulfilled sooner than later…… It’s been 26 years, Imagine..
Around Town: The signs are up announcing the 2015 Canadian Plowing Championships August 26-29 th to be held at Pykeview Meadows, 1495 Road #95, Wolfe Island . during Frontenac County’s 150th Anniversary Aug. 28-30th, Centennial Park, Harrowsmith. * The WI Classic 5-10 k Run/Walk Sunday July 5th , sponsored by the WI Medical Clinic. .* The May1st Wellness Clinic and Specimen Collection Dates coming up. The Art Gallery opens in June.
Following a recent article about the Wolfe Island Land Fill site and the announcement of its closure as a Dump in early September, Island history buff Brian MacDonld informed me with a picture taken in the 1920s that the site was originally an active quarry. The Wolfe Island Landfill site is soon to become instead , a serious “Recycle Centre and Transfer Station”, a goal the township has been working toward over many years under the direction of engineer Guy Laporte - AECOM. For many, all this has come too quickly. For others, it can’t come soon enough. The rule however is that it “the dump part of the site” must close.
In 1991 Guy Laporte then with Totten Sims Hubicki undertook a detailed assessment of the site. “Wolfe Island has been dealing well with the recommendations for the proper management of a landfill site and is planning for a recycling depot,” his report said. The landfill site always under close scrutiny by the Ministry of the Environment at the time, caused Reeve Hasselaar to say , “we are very serious about all this in spite of the difficulties that arise.”
Personally I remember the Wolfe Island waste site the way it was when we moved from Toronto to the island. Very busy with regular burning, and garbage left at the gate for the site attendant to pick up, many times particularly over weekends spilled out and blowing in the wind. That was then, 20+ years ago. And this is now.
Early last month Laporte, now a Wolfe Island resident presented an outline of the (Sept. 8 th) site closure with temporary alterations allowing for the Transfer Station to operate until its re-constructed re-opening before the end of October 2015. AECOM will provide the draft and final design for the landfill cap of the pit and for the Transfer Station (hauling and disposal of wastes) with input from the Wolfe Island Waste Management committee. AECOM will also provide part time inspection as work is undertaken.
Recently Councillor Barb Springgay chaired a Waste Site Transition Committee meeting where Guy Laporte provided an overview of key areas to be concluded: site closure itself; Transfer Station design/operation; waste hauling/disposal; waste acceptance levels; a schedule and Public Notification. He said some levelling at the site needs to happen; fencing is in poor condition and a swale designed to manage water runoff is required. Design, moving the hut, the fence , entry and exit locations as well as the placement of the many bins (paper, cardboard, metal, electronics, glass , bottles, plastic, Styrofoam ,compostable waste) will all be considered. CAO Plumley will research prices of compactors to reduce haulage trips.
Springgay noting the the importance of reducing waste presented ideas from of a brainstorming session: clear bags; bag limits, User fees, hours of operation, signage, roadside dumping fines. She was quick to acknowledge that developing a long range plan for communicating with the public and providing information and education is of prime importance as the township moves forward.
Frontenac County Warden, Frontenac Islands Mayor Denis Doyle, is the elected County Caucus representative to AMO Waste Management Task Force “We have been doing behind the scenes work at the county, and the Eastern Ontario Warden’s caucus (EOWC) and had asked to participate with AMO at the provincial level,” he said. “We are looking for support from cities to work together on a long term collective approach to waste management, how to handle our garbage 15, 20 years down the road. Municipally it has been too easy to dump the garbage in a hole in the ground. We have to change. County Council solidly endorsed that we must address this issue,”Doyle acknowledged.
Islanders who may not have expected the closure of “the dump” so soon, have come a long way in dealing with garbage. Slowly but surely it’s the environment , the reuse of resources and the future that are considered.
Around Town:* You have to see it to believe it. The line up’s for the 33 car Frontenac II ferry particularly at Peak Periods are quite incredible. Congratulations to the ferry Crew for taking the time to load so efficiently and for the little if any time lost.. Park and Ride is becoming increasingly more popular on both sides. Parking spots are limited in the city… difficult on the island particularly if you have a lot to carry…** Howe Island’s Pitch In, April 25 is a wonderful introduction to spring on Howe Island - please contact Bill Worona (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to volunteer to tidy up a stretch of road. *** Howe Island’s Community Yard Sale will be held at Howe’s Township Municipal Building parking lot on May 9, 2015 - for further info or to book a table contact Bruce Burgess (613.544.3079), George Hughes (613.531.8631) or Dan Truesdell(613.549.3304). *Take note there is no formal Pitch In program on Wolfe Island announced so far this year. However as in the past Islanders who have always Pitched In with road side clean up will continue to do so as they walk their regular stretch of road each day. Thanks. * Check out the Community Centre on Face Book for Spring Time programs. **Local WI Artist Debora Krakow has a new Face Book Page. Look for it..
The Heritage- Frontenac Islands will “approve or reject” the township’s 2015 budget at their April meeting of council on Howe Island. Budget meetings, five in all, were held to meet with department and board leaders and to review and discuss operation costs. All of these meetings were advertised and open to the public. Throughout the final meeting budget numbers were closely scrutinized in order to present a tax increase that is palatable to the taxpayers of Frontenac Islands. With the increase in the price of policing plus the costs involved with asset management along with the increased costs of regular municipal services, a tax increase was inevitable.
1. Mayor Denis Doyle reminded council members of the successful ‘Senior housing’ meeting. What was of greater concern to him was a Ontario Rural School Alliance meeting he attended where he heard that the Minister of Education was threatening to close rural schools, based on enrolment, of anything under 650 students.“That’s for elementary. I am not sure what it is for high school,” he said, “but we have two elementary schools on Wolfe Island. Mayor Doyle was looking for a $500. membership funds to participate in a coalition forming to save rural schools.
2. Roads: Mayor Doyle invited Dan Fencott, an engineering consultant, to review the proposed public works projects in the 2015 budget for the purpose of preparing tender documents for roads surface treatment. Fencott said that no projects, other than regular road maintenance will happen on Howe Island but recommended that funds be placed in reserves for work as it comes up (Spithead/ North Shore). Since the Ontario Community Infrastructure funding (OCIF) must be used for capital projects Howe Island’s estimated amount of $6000. will be used on Wolfe. Deputy Mayor Nossal and Councillor Higgs believe some of the concerns with regard to Spithead Road could be dealt with using one way trafficsigns. Fencott reminded council that all asset management projects have to be handed into the province, “so you have to determine if a particular project is a priority and undertake saving for them (roads, vehicles)” How much to set aside? Increase Taxes? Its now at 1 % . The township authorized the continuation of 7th and 8th line Wolfe Island road work as originally proposed. Ditching and culverts on Oak Point Road will also continue.
Deputy Mayor Nossal summed up the question of asset management and priority projects this way. “The fact that we have a Howe Island plan and roads identified, added to the fact that we have begun to contribute to a capital replacement fund, and increasing taxes brings us to where we want to be positioned,” she said, “ because we may be paying a 1% tax increase this year but in 3 years, if we successfully compete for funding, this 1% will seem like nothing because it won’t be grant money we have to raise from taxpayers.”
3. Councillor Springgay brought council up to date on the closure of the WI landfill site and the costs involved in its change over to a Recycling and Transfer Station. The Landfill as a land fill site is slated for closure Sept. 8th.
4. Council will seek funding through the Echo Tourism Fund to proceed with a dock, community garden changes and for further eligible projects. *WI Fire will repay their $50,000 amenities loan over 5 years rather all at once as originally proposed in 2014. *The township will tender for the Howe Island foot ferry deck and railings replacement.
5. The township will undertake the development of a business plan for the purchase and installation of a Card Lock System for the provision of fuel on Wolfe Island and will authorize the municipal solicitor to determine the terms of a lease agreement. A grant proposal has been submitted to FCFDC. Amenities (wind) funding will also be required to support the project. More information to follow when available…
6. WI Community Rink. The Township will use $150,000 of the monies transferred to them from the Community Centre Board account to reduce the amount to be borrowed for the Rink ‘ROOF’ When a 2014 completed audit, the net difference will be transferred to a reserve for capital Community Centre projects. Rust proofing is a priority. A difficult search for appropriate ‘surround’ curtains is ongoing.
7. FYI: * There was a Transfer from wind monies in the amount of $160,000 to offset a further 7% WI tax increase * Also A 1% Asset Management levy of the net overall budget amounting to $19,541.19. *Approximately 2% can be attributed to increased policing costs. *The Howe Island percentage increase 7.49 = increase per $100,000 assessed value
$46.46. * The Wolfe Island Percentage increase is 7.499 = increase per $100, 000 assessed value $54.52
Around Town: *WI welcomes back the Osprey. *The Frontenac 11 from Amherst Island is operating from Wolfe Island’s winter dock as of April 9 while the Wolfe Islander is in Hamilton, dry dock. The MTO cameras are working so it’s possible to keep up with the traffic. * Water still low so ferry will stay at winter dock.. instead of moving to the village just yet.
Coming Events : WI HISTORICAL SOCIETY PRESENTS ASTRID MUSCHALLA MASTER GARDENER, The Organic Land Care – The Science behind Best Practises, Wednesday, April 15th at 7:30 pm Wolfe Island United Church Hall. * WI Walk In Medical Clinics Tues. 4:45 pm; Athletic Therapy Thurs. 2 pm ; Specimen Collection Friday April 17th at 8 am.
The continued planting of diverse tall grasses and flowers on Wolfe Island and throughout Ontario remains imperative for the birds and the bees and their conservation. That was the reminder brought to the island by Kyle Breault, biologist and former program coordinator for Tall Grass Ontario.
“ I’ve been a volunteer for Ducks Unlimited for 29 years and met Dr. George Merry who was on the board,” Breault said. “So when we had an opportunity for grass lands in Eastern Ontario George was the first one to raise his hand and say come out to Wolfe Island we will find you some donors and, I have some grass land you can use. So four years ago we did, found some interested land owners, and established grass lands on a number of properties including at (Mayor) Denis and Betty Doyle’s property. I am now working with Barrie Gilbert to find some more or less public lands.” (Breault was present at the invitation of Barrie Gilbert Frontenac Stewardship Council)
Breault has had a varied career with Ducks Unlimited, Tall Grass Ontario, etc. but now works as a free lancer in conservation and grass lands development. In the last two years he and DU have put in about 600 acres of rare and native grass lands, “ incredibly rare and so important for grass land birds, such as the Bobolink, Meadow Lark and for the pollinators.”
“ But for as much lands as we may plant, there is as much or more land ruined in a week by bulldozing in Ontario, even large tracts of Carolina forest, home for so many different species of birds and animals.” Breault said. “We have to do more to offset this kind of mind set although, some municipalities have set a minimum level (30 percent) of forest cover in their county, perhaps a happy medium between conservation and development.”
He noted a shift from a grass land focus on birds to pollinator habitat because of the Neonix, the pesticide coating every raw seed (canola, corn, soybean) used by farmers, (needed or not) blamed for bee die offs. He believes that if native flowers were planted in every nook and cranny, every roadside available honey bees would not have a problem. “The grassland I would plant for Bobolink and Meadow Lark would be what I would plant for bees and butterflies.. Expensive to do ? I don’t believe it is.” Breault added that the US is far ahead on conservation, grass land and roadside planting “Just Google Iowa Roadside for Wild Life to see what they do with the 66 feet from telephone post to telephone post.
“So how do we put in these native grass plantings on road sides or any where?” Breault referred to a a book, now out of print but availablke on line as the place to find out everything needed. “The book is called Planting the Seed by Allen Woodliffe. From start to finish it is where to go to find what is required for wetland meadow to tall grass prairie planting and conservation.”
At this point the slide show focused on the variety of plants and flowers some known, others not familiar and to Walpole Island “ where the most diverse (6’) tall grass prairie on the planet grows due to cultural management The island people have set fires to their fields every spring for hundreds of years. And every year the fields came back lush, diverse and healthy,” Kyle Breault said. “Now because of new rules, they continue with what are called ‘prescribed burns’ so important to maintaining that diverse land growth.“ He spoke of Big Blue grass, Virginia wild rye, etc. and of the 100’s of different species of wild flowers noting that a grass land out performs a rain forest in the hundreds of species of wild life that are dependent on it for survival.
Breault noted a change in attitude, that many companies doing heavy construction, involving digging up land for wind farms, roads ,housing, etc. have been eager to pay for the cost of developing habitat and conservation lands. (Bobolink, Meadow Lark). And home owners have begun to see the possibilities the parks and buildings in their communities in terms of tall grasses, specific flowers, plants and shrubs can all contribute to protecting wildlife, birds, bees, butterflies, “for instance the Monarch It is possible to turn a field to grass land with seed collected each year,” he said. A Show& Tell of plants, flowers, grasses and a Q &A rounded out an informative evening.
For more information; contact Barrie Gilbert
Around Town: + The General Wolfe has opened.* All are on watch for departure of the Wolfe Islander to dry dock.
Coming Events: Budget Time - Frontenac Island Council meeting April 13th, 6:30 pm. Howe Island.