Green Space, Recreation & the Environment
Building our Tree Canopy & Enhancing Tree Protection
Markham has a goal to increase the city’s tree canopy to thirty percent of the land area of the city. This is a challenge in face of significant new infill and subdivision development. To reach the goal it is essential that trees on private property are protected. This goal has also been challenged in the past two years by the LDD Spongy Moth infestation and before that by the Emerald Ash Borer.
The city’s tree preservation bylaw is currently being reviewed and improvements are expected. Anticipated changes include: the price of replacement trees will likely increase (i.e. the fee to be paid for replacement trees not planted); tree cutting permits will need to be posted publicly like a building permit; tree protection zones will not need to be established until much closer to the time that construction begins. Currently they can be established for months, even years, before any construction, becoming eyesores in the meantime and affecting local property values and others’ enjoyment of the neighbourhood.
Reid is also fighting for the licensing of arborists in the city, to prevent the work of unqualified “tree butchers” who dupe unsuspecting residents and severely damage healthy trees when pruning them, to say nothing of their unsafe practices, sometimes requiring the intervention of Ministry of Labour inspectors.
Also the city’s Tree Protection Technicians were recently moved into the bylaw enforcement unit. A consultants’ report is in progress regarding improvements in our bylaw enforcement standards and capacity. Improvement in our tree protection capacity needs to be included so that responses to illegal tree cutting activity are quicker and monitoring of tree protection during infill construction is proactive.
Enjoying our Trails All Year Long: New Winter Pathway Plowing
At Reid’s urging, in the winter of 2021 a small number of pathways were ploughed in eight city parks. Based on that success, the program was expanded to 30 km of pathways in winter 2022.
Reid is now working with the Cycling and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (CPAC) to expand the winter network even further in future winters. The challenge is particularly with unpaved paths and those in the valleys close to creeks and rivers. He is pleased to say that the trail through Toogood Park is slated to be widened and paved and then added to the winter pathway network.
The city is also reviewing its policies with respect to pathways that lead to school yards. There are complex issues of cost, liability and school board responsibilities involved.
New and Better Parks for Ward 3, Finally!
The pace of construction of new parks is far behind where is should be, particularly in Markham Centre. New City staff have been hired and progress is finally being made. Wardenview and Debbi Wilkes Parks are under construction. Debbi Wilkes is due to open to the public early in the fall, if not sooner. And the budget for Dragonfly Park (north side of the Rouge River between Sheridan Nurseries and Birchmount) has been approved. Design and public consultation for Dragonfly will take place during 2022.
More Off-Leash Dog Parks!
Dogs are more and more common in homes of all types, including high-rise apartments. A new off-leash dog park will likely be proposed for Dragonfly Park, noted above.
City Staff will soon undertake a study to locate one off-leash park in every ward.
In Reid’s view one off-leash dog park per ward is not enough. They will still be “drive-to” facilities for most dog owners. Therefore, each will require a parking lot, driving up the cost needlessly.
There should be an off-leash park within a 15-20 minute walk of most residents in Markham – without expensive parking lots, where not already in place. Reid will be working with our staff and fellow councillors to revise the Staff plan.
Even Better Waste Management
In 2020 the city issued an RFP for a new waste collection contract, in contrast to the previous contract in 2014 that was awarded without a competitive bidding process. The new service was implemented in March of 2022, with Miller, our previous contractor, having won the bid to provide waste collection services until 2030. The new contract includes improved services and protects for the need to hand over Blue Box collection to a new provincially-regulated industry organization in 2025.
Waste collection is the largest single contract awarded by the city, costing over $13M per year, and growing as the city grows. Here is a link to the staff recommendation report for the new contract.
Reid sits on the Waste Diversion subcommittee of Council. He was pleased to vote in favour of the new waste collection contract. He was also involved in drafting the City’s Best of the Best II, a revised waste reduction strategy which reinforced Markham’s position as one of the recycling leaders in Canada. One of the successful new policies in the strategy is the mandatory recycling of packaging Styrofoam.
New Blue Box Recycling System. Will it Work?
The province is implementing a new Blue Box recycling system beginning in phases in 2023. It will be managed and paid for by producers of recyclable materials. Markham’s system is scheduled to change over in 2025. In the meantime, Markham’s blue box materials are now picked up by a dedicated truck in anticipation of handing over just that part of our waste collection system in 2025.
With the rest of Council, Reid will be watching closely the implementation of the new Blue Box recycling system and across Ontario. On the positive side, costs for the system should be paid entirely by waste producers. Currently they pay only about 40% in Markham; property taxpayers pay the rest.
Also, we should be able to put more types of materials in our Blue Boxes (e.g. plastic bags and black plastic packaging).
However, the city’s analysis shows that the new system is overly complex, as confirmed in a March 2022 Toronto Star article. Markham is not scheduled to switch to the new system until 2025. A great deal can change between now and then. Reid will be watching and advocating for a system that is at least as effective as the current one, such that Markham residents remain among the leading recyclers in Canada.
Keeping up the Fight for Skating on Toogood and Milne Ponds
Beginning in about 2012 the City ceased maintaining Toogood Pond for skating. Skating was still allowed with residents clearing the ice on their own. In the winter of 2021 the City started enforcing a No-Skating policy even as people flocked to opportunities for outdoor recreation during the pandemic.