REAL Host 6th Annual Showcase of Local Foods by Chris Must, Inside Ottawa Valley, Sept. 7, 2016
Ceremony marks D-Day, Environment Week in Victoria Park, by Tara Gesner, Smiths Falls Record News, June 8, 2016
Community members, veterans inducted into Evergreen Avenue by Ashley Kulp, Smiths Falls Record News, June 10, 2015
Community builders, veterans to receive permanent honour on Evergreen Avenue June 6 by Stacey Roy, Smiths Falls Record News, May 19, 2015
Big thank you to those who have pitched in by Stacey Roy, Smiths Falls Record News, April 25, 2013.
REAL sets sights on local directory expansion in 2012 by Stacey Roy, Smiths Falls Record News, February 16, 2010
Junk Art installation date nears at REAL Deal by Stacey Roy, Smiths Falls Record News, September 22, 2011.
Looking back at a REAL successful year, by Andrew Snook, Smiths Falls This Week, June 30, 2011
REAL Deal’s junk art installation to be complete by this fall by Stacey Roy, Record News EMC, June 2, 2011.
Something old and something new: Repurposing makes new use of unwanted items, by Andrew Snook, Smiths Falls This Week, December 9, 2010.
REAL Deal mural looks into environmental future by Stacey Roy, Smiths Falls Record News, December 9, 2010.
Volunteer Fair Planned for September by Diane Pindermoss, Smiths Falls Record News, August 12, 2010.
Long-time community volunteer leaves Smiths Falls in June by Marla Shook-Johnson, Smiths Falls Record News, June 3, 2010
Resident prompts municipality to take closer look at illegal burning by Ashley Kulp, EMC, Apr 22, 2010
Contaminated soil on site of REAL Deal Store leads to further testing, by Diane Pinder-Moss, Smiths Falls Record News, November 19, 2009
REAL/RCM hire Volunteer Co-ordinator, Launch Rideau Volunteers, EMC and Smiths Falls This Week, Sept. 12, 2009
Canada’s Environmental Hometown Hero announced, Earth Day Canada, June 29, 2009
Local REAL group dubbed Hometown Heroes by Jennifer Van Alstyne, Smiths Falls This Week, June 2009
Environmental group proves it’s the REAL Deal by Tom Van Dusen, Ottawa Sun The Valley, March 26, 2009
Take Part in Earth Hour this Saturday, by Stacey Roy, EMC March 26, 2009
Elva Corless – local recycling pioneer retires from REAL board by Stacey Roy, EMC June 24, 2008
REAL works to make new location the REAL Deal by Rosanne Lake, Smiths Falls This week, May 2, 2008
REAL funding receives blessing of Smiths Falls council committee by Michael Jiggins, Brockville Recorder and Times, Dec. 13, 2005
REAL makes suggestions following Pitch-In event by Ryland Coyne, Smiths Falls Record News, June 22, 2005
Soggy weather fails to dampen local efforts for Pitch-In Day by Stacey Roy, Smiths Falls Record News, April 27, 2005
Environment watchdogs by Ryland Coyne, Smiths Falls Record News, January 19, 2005
Appeal for more space goes to council Tuesday, by Stacey Roy, EMC, December 31, 2004
More work needed to reduce littering in town, REAL concludes by Ryland Coyne, Smiths Falls Record News, May 19th, 2004
A strategic planning exercise helps a community-based environmental group achieve its goals, by Jake Berkowitz and Kara Symbolic, Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition, Spring 2004
Volunteers make repairs to Evergreen Avenue project by Ryland Coyne, Smiths Falls Record News, July 14th, 2004
Even small steps can help reduce smog, expert says by Marla Shook-Johnson, Smiths Falls Record News, July 7, 2004
PM talks ‘new deal’ with area politicians by Bruce Peever, Smiths Falls Record News, March 3rd, 2004
Funding crisis puts charities on the edge by Kathryn May, Ottawa Citizen, February 29th, 2004
Put cap on old wells, Toronto Star, May 5th, 2004
A showcase of the best that local food producers have to offer will once again be presented at the Gallipeau Centre as the Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) hosts its sixth Local Foods Harvest Dinner.
The event is set for Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Ballroom of the Gallipeau Centre on Queen Street just outside Smiths Falls. As well as providing a showcase for local producers and encouraging environmental awareness, the annual dinner is also REAL’s major fundraisers for the year, said president Barb Hicks.
In addition to a buffet-style dinner, silent auction of donated items and live music by The British Invasion, this year’s event will feature a new attraction. “This time we’re going to try to do appetizer tasting stations,” said Hicks. The tasting stations will be set up during the social hour from 6 to 7 p.m., and guests will have the opportunity to meet some of the local producers who made the ingredients used in the appetizers.
“We try to make sure all those foods have come from Lanark, Leeds and Grenville,” said Hicks. In past years the dinner has included some exotic offerings, such as goat, rabbit, and bison. Organizers also plan to offer a vegetarian option.
The cash bar will feature a selection of local beers and Ontario wines.
Guests are invited to take advantage of a special early-bird offer. Anyone purchasing a ticket before Sunday, Sept. 18 will receive a $5 discount. After Sept. 18 tickets are $60 each, with $20 eligible for a charitable donation receipt.
For anyone interested, tours of the Two Rivers Food Hub, also located at the Gallipeau Centre, will be available from 5:30 to 6 p.m.
Hicks said the fundraiser normally raises about $5,000 for REAL each year. This is largely due to the support of sponsors, with local businesses, organizations and some families providing varying levels of financial support. “It is the same core of people year after year, which is very gratifying,” said Hicks.
Musical entertainment during the cocktail hour and following the dinner will be provided by The British Invasion. This three-piece band plays a selection of favourites by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd and other well-known British bands of the 1960s and ‘70s. The band was part of the line-up at this year’s Rideau Paddlefest in Smiths Falls, and recently provided the music for a sold-out dinner and show package at The Brigadoon Restaurant in Oxford Mills.
Master of ceremonies for the evening will be Wayne Cavanagh.
The Rideau Environmental Action League was founded in Smiths Falls in 1989. The mission of the non-profit organization is “to project, preserve and enhance our environmental for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations through advocacy, education, recognition and projects within Eastern Ontario.”
Tickets are available at Modern Thymes, 11 Russell St. E. in Smiths Falls; the REAL Deal store at 85 William St. W. in Smiths Falls; and from Barb Hicks at 613-283-9966.
Under sunny skies in Smiths Falls’ Victoria Park Saturday morning, June 4, the aim of the well-attended ceremony was twofold: commemoration of D-Day and Evergreen Avenue celebration of Environment Week.
Festivities also encompassed the colour party for Royal Canadian Legion Branch 95 in Smiths Falls, the singing of O Canada and God Save the Queen by Larisa Robbins, opening prayer by Doug Kilpatrick and a tribute to the new inductees named on the memorial stones at Evergreen Avenue.
Mayor Shawn Pankow served as the master of ceremony.
“Evergreen Avenue is dedicated to all veterans and peacekeepers of the Armed Forces, in addition to residents and families in the Smiths Falls area,” he said.
Evergreen Avenue was a millennium environment project initiated in 2000.
Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) vice president Karen Schector spoke about Environment Week (June 5 to 11) as well as the environment aspect of Evergreen Avenue.
“Evergreen Avenue is a great example of a local environment project,” she said, “and Environment Week is a time for community action – to help preserve, protect and restore our environment.”
Doug Kilpatrick honoured his father, Fred J. Kilpatrick, and on his dad’s stone are the words: Canadian Corps Cyclist Battalion, Passchendaele 1917.
“Dad never sat me down and told me about what he did in the war,” Doug said. “However, little bits came out over the years. Dad once described going into a front-line trench at night…he was told by a hardened NCO (non-commissioned officer) that there were dead men in there but not to worry about stepping on them because they could not be hurt now. An example of what war can do to regard for human life.”
On another occasion, Doug recounted his father feeling a hand at the head of his bayonet one night. Turning to reprimand the culprit, under the light of a star shell, he discovered “it was a hand and wrist protruding from the trench wall.”
“The limb may have belonged to one of the more than 11,000… Canadians killed in France who have no known grave,” Doug noted. “Their names are engraved on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.”
Although wounded, Fred eventually came home from the war.
“Like others, Dad had nightmares well into the 1930s… and he once told me that ‘any man who suffered or survived Paschedale finds himself forever living with a stranger’,” Doug said.
Former councillor Ken Graham spoke for Cathryn Davidson, honouring her late husband, Dan Davidson.
“Dan was a great community builder,” he said, “and he was a much-loved elementary school teacher.”
Hobbies included fixing computers and scuba diving, and Davidson was actively involved with REAL.
“His pride and joy was always his family,” Graham said. “He was a loving husband and proud father to four children.”
Marilyn Dunlay told those in attendance about “Nanny Gail.”
“Gail Dunlay was my dear friend and sister-in-law,” Marilyn said. “She was loved by our family, and she could always be counted on for support.”
Gail loved spending time with her nieces, nephews and great nieces and great nieces.
“Victoria Park was chosen because Gail loved to be by the water, and it gives us great peace and joy to come here and remember her,” Marilyn said.
Coun. Jay Brennen paid tribute to Smiths Falls Rotarians “for service above self.”
“Locally, we have supported our community in many ways: hospital, library, youth, Merrywood Easter Seals Camp, recreation facilities and many other causes,” he said.
Frank Healey spoke about his late mother Donna Healey, indicating “my family is proud and honoured to preserve her memory in the park.”
Donna was married to Ray and they had seven children.
“She played music with my dad in a local dance band and helped build a successful family business – Healey Transportation,” Frank said. “As well as commitment and support to her family, she boosted this community always and often.”
Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute student Ben Seward offered a commemoration of D-Day – June 6, 1944 – the day during the Second World War in which Allied forces invaded northern France by means of beach landings in Normandy. Too, he spoke about the Vimy Oaks Legacy Project.
The year 2017 will be a special year for Canada.
“One hundred years ago Canada participated in the victory at Vimy Ridge,” Seward said, “and 150 years ago Canada became a nation. In Smiths Falls there is a special opportunity.”
At the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Lt. Leslie Miller from Scarborough discovered several dozen French oak acorns on the ground in the area where he was stationed.
“Before the battle he gathered up these acorns and sent them home,” Seward explained. “Miller survived the war and returned to his fruit farm to plant these acorns.”
On his farm the trees prospered; however, with the expansion of the Toronto area, most of the century old trees were cut down.
“Today only nine of these Vimy oaks remain,” Seward said.
Two years ago the Vimy Oaks Legacy Project began, a commemoration initiative “to keep the memory of Vimy alive through the symbolism of these trees.”
Currently, 300 saplings from these Vimy oaks are growing in a nursery in Hamilton.
“A new oak forest will be planted on Vimy Ridge next year and several communities across Canada will receive one of these saplings,” Seward said.
Smiths Falls will receive a sapling.
“Vimy holds a special place for Smiths Falls,”said Seward. “Several soldiers from this area fought at Vimy.”
He highlighted Elton Megert who fought and died at Vimy Ridge as part of the 38th Battalion. Megert was only 20 years old when he was killed on April 9, 1917.
“Elton was a former student at the high school that I now attend, and the school has two of his textbooks,” Seward said. “In many ways a Vimy Oak will be a symbol to remember his sacrifice, and since he was fighting for Canada it is fitting the tree is also a commemoration for Canada’s 150th birthday.”
Smiths Falls must decide where to plant, how to commemorate its Vimy oak sapling.
“We as students want to be involved in this process so that the next generation can work to be active citizens in our community,” Seward said.
Evergreen Avenue coordinating committee co-chair Peter Au appealed for involvement with Evergreen Avenue (donors, volunteers and committee members).
“Evergreen Avenue is a nice place for families and young people as well as residents and visitors to come,” Au said, noting the gathering place could definitely be used more. He suggested guided walks along Evergreen Avenue to tell the stories of the exemplary citizens of Smiths Falls.
“Let us build an even better Sensational Smiths Falls,” Au said.
The park features a shaded walkway with benches and granite dedication stones, with native trees and shrubs which are explained at an interpretive panel kiosk at the west end of the walkway near the Tourist Information Centre. The environmental focus is to encourage residents to use native plants in their yards and to consider that plants act as greenhouse.
Nestled inside of Smiths Falls’ Victoria Park is a tranquil spot designed for remembrance and reflection and on Saturday, June 6, nine more community members and veterans were given a permanent spot on Evergreen Avenue.
“This location is a gathering place for families, young and old, residents and visitors, where many inspiring stories can be told in their names,” stated Evergreen Avenue committee co-chair Peter Au.
Ninety-eight individuals are recognized on Evergreen Avenue, which was first established with lights in 2000, but were eventually replaced by paver stones.
This location is a gathering place for families, young and old, residents and visitors, where many inspiring stories can be told in their names.~ Evergreen Avenue committee co-chair Peter Au
Barb Hicks, secretary treasurer of the Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) spoke about Foulkes, Fraser and Manson, who were all dedicated members of REAL and understood the importance of giving back to their communities.
“REAL was very fortunate to have the commitment of Pat, Carolyn and Larry in our organization,” she remarked.
Evergreen Avenue committee co-chair Dick Donaldson, inducted Banford, his good friend Rabb, the Hudsons, Wilson and Beckett. Beckett’s daughter, Kim McKenna, and family were on hand for the ceremony. She remembered her father as a true ambassador for Smiths Falls who was a lifetime member of the Smiths Falls Royal Canadian Legion Branch 95 and along with friend Harold Smith, helped start the popular Shriners face painting initiative. He also earned Citizen of the Year honours in 1982.
“This idea (Evergreen Avenue), I believe, took place in the Sunday school hall of my church, Trinity United, watching men and women, with their shovels, work gloves and bug spray put together this vision of a beautiful place…” she commented. “My father truly was a man for all seasons.”
One of the most poignant moments in the ceremony came from Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute students, Carlin Henneberry and Jared Hayes, who talked about their experiences with the school’s Lest We Forget program.
Last year, Henneberry travelled to France with classmates to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day and visit the grave of the soldier she researched through the program, George Gill. When she found it “I sat in front of his grave and I started to cry,” she said. “When you sit in a classroom and learn everything about a person, you become attached. He was like an old friend to me…the whole journey had come full circle.”
Plaque unveiled. Prior to the start of the ceremony, members of the Evergreen Avenue committee and the Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) unveiled a new interpretive plaque at the entrance to the avenue. Evergreen Avenue is a project of REAL
“This new plaque replaces an old interpretive panel,” REAL president Shawn Merriman noted, adding that it outlines the native plant species found on Evergreen Avenue. “…Evergreen Avenue brings together the allure of nature, with trees and shrubs, to provide what I want to call a restful walk and reflect on the community builders of this town.”
Red and sugar maples, white oak, red ash and white pine tree varieties can be found on the avenue.
Runners and baby strollers walk along Evergreen Avenue and past the yellow Harvard plane every day, but few realize the popular pathway and greenery honour community builders and military veterans from Smiths Falls. This June 6, the walkway of honoured citizens will include six new names when the Evergreen Avenue Committee celebrates its most recent induction.
For Peter Au of the Evergreen Avenue Committee, the names serve to create a living story of the great lives and achievements of the community.
“All the potential stories are there. You can actually have a walk at Evergreen and tell stories,” Au said.
The committee selected Canadian Forces veterans and original Evergreen Avenue members: Omar Beckett, Alex Banford and Jack Rabb, as well as community builders: Pat Foulkes, Carolyn Fraser and Larry Manson to receive the new granite markers. All honoured citizens are receiving this marker posthumously.
Tom Foulkes, husband of the late Pat Foulkes, said he was touched with the Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) voluntarily planted a birch tree beside the park shelter on Evergreen Avenue months after his wife died in 2013.
“I was very emotional about that. It’s beautiful,” Foulkes said.
Pat Foulkes was a regular supporter of REAL who was not afraid to roll up her sleeves and be part of the change she wanted to see. Foulkes recalls his wife working to clean, paint and wash what was REAL’s new location on William Street when the organization moved into its current home.
Foulkes said there wasn’t one REAL project his wife liked most, but “I think it was the whole idea of what REAL stood for.”
He said he is looking forward to returning to his wife’s tree on Evergreen Avenue and celebrating all new honoured citizens June 6.
The upcoming ceremony completes this gesture of acknowledgement and the ceremony will take place rain or shine at 11 a.m. inside the outdoor shelter. It’s marking Environment Week and D-Day to honour the inductees. The event will also publically unveil a new durable information panel at the west end of Evergreen Avenue during the event.
Au said he is pleased to have the youth from Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute’s Lest We Forget program included in the services, as Evergreen Avenue raised funds to send one student to Europe during the early days of the program. This year’s Lest We Forget participant will share their experiences in Europe and what it has meant to know his soldier in that way.
“Young people have to remind us what it means to them,” Au said.
The special event will consist of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 95 Colour Party, greetings from dignitaries and the unveiling, a brief presentation from local youth and a social barbeque with funds going to charities supported by the Smiths Falls Firefighters.
Committee recruitment. The Evergreen Avenue Committee welcomes new members. Currently, only four original members continue to do the work for this special commemorative project. Evergreen Avenue began in 2000 as a multi-partnership Millennium Project by Trinity United Church, but its management has since been transferred to the Rideau Environmental Action League who continues to manage the project. Au invites anyone who is passionate about this public space and in providing a long-term acknowledgement of community leaders and builders, to volunteer for a seat on the committee. He sees great promise in Evergreen Avenue to become a place where special events are held, but emphasized new members are needed to make this vision a reality.
“Hopefully, when we have new blood there will be new directions too,” Au said.
Anyone who is interested in more information on the committee can call Dick Donaldson at 613-283-3274 or go to www.realaction.ca.
EMC Editorial – The annual Pitch-In weeks are well under way in Smiths Falls and across the country with the results already making the community sparkle.
Monday, school children from both public and Catholic boards were out in force tidying up the community’s parks, school yards and areas close to their hearts. Add to this the number of adult community members who I’ve seen walking the streets of major routes, yellow bags in hand, working to make the town as welcoming as possible for the start of spring.
It looks like back-breaking work, but it is absolutely appreciated by all of us in town who enjoy the public spaces being spruced up. I had the best of intentions in heading out to Ferrara Drive last weekend to pitch in, but the rain kept me indoors with my wee one. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt when I went to get groceries later that day and saw the yellow and black Pitch-In bags along the side of this particular street.
Pitch-In is a time of year I have always looked forward to as it really renews the community in time for the summer. The heralding of the warm weather is the second and most delightful reason I cheer when Pitch-In season comes around again.
This Saturday, the Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) will be hosting its own community clean-up on its property (William Street) during the final weekend of Pitch-In Week. The clean-up kicks off at 10 a.m. and runs until 3 p.m. All Pitch-In participants from this year’s campaign are encouraged to head down to the store between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. when REAL will host a free BBQ. Volunteer recognition awards will also be presented starting at 12:30 p.m.
REAL has been the go-to organization to rally the area for this worthy cause for many years and deserves our thanks for all their hard work.
Pitch-In Canada has thanked all participants this year for being among the more than 500,000 in the 2013 campaign. The national arm welcomes photos from our events to be emailed to [email protected] to be published on their website next month.
Canada’s efforts to remove litter from its streets and public areas began in 1967 in Victoria, B.C. when a group of residents became concerned with the amount of litter and marine debris in the area. They worked to clean up the waterfront and tidal area, which was a great success.
Locally, our waterfronts and parks have never looked so good. Thanks to everyone for their part in making the town shine in the summer sun.
EMC News – The Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) is looking to expand its virtual take on its core mission to divert waste from landfills this year.
For a couple of years now REAL has been offering through its website an online directory of locations where unwanted materials can be taken back for recycling.
“It really is meant to make it easy access to return things to retailers and non-profits,” explained Susan Brandum, REAL executive director.
The directory is available to Lanark and North Leeds and Grenville communities through the website (www.REALaction.ca) and is broken down into categories, which then lists the local drop-off spots for unwanted materials.
So far the municipalities of North Grenville, Perth, Mississippi Mills and Smiths Falls have signed on to participate in the program. Doing so means a $1,500 entry fee (this fee has been taken out of Smiths Falls’ ongoing support of REAL) and $350 maintenance fee per municipality. This will help the organization in updating the system and conducting the first community-wide review of possible drop-off locations. REAL also welcomes community tips on any drop-off locations not posted on the directory. Please email those to REAL at [email protected]
The task for this year is to reach out to several other municipalities who have expressed interest in the program and others in the hopes of acquiring the minimum participation of 12 municipalities. This level of interest will make the system self-sustaining.
Mayor Dennis Staples expressed his interest in learning more about the Take It Back directory, while REAL council representative, Ken Graham applauded the group on their efforts to keep the region clean and launch programs like Take It Back that benefit the environment as a whole.
“Our investment has made me very proud as a councillor of the municipality,” councillor Graham said.
Brandum did note that there’s been a major shift in the reduction movement from municipalities addressing the need to recycle to retailers taking responsibility to remove what they put into consumer’s hands.
The REAL Deal has been doing some great work to reduce, reuse and recycle materials. Barb Hicks, REAL president, noted the William Street storefront has removed 30,000 kilos of material from landfills last year and welcomed 6,000 customers through the door (many of whom are from Smiths Falls).
FUTURE PLANS. In addition to the every-day activities of the organization, REAL has some long-term plans it would like to address this year, including investigating the possibility of adding a second social enterprise venture to the group. This would be something that supports its mission, generates revenue and helps the community as the REAL Deal does.
A second long-term project is the vision of creating an environmental centre at the William Street site. Currently there are a couple of acres of unused space at the site that REAL staff would like to see developed into natural attractions. This would include creating an Osprey nest, planting native plants, introducing a habitat pond and detouring the Rideau Trail system off the road and onto its property.
“We thought it would be neat if it could divert it to the swale through our property,” Brandum said. The centre would offer greater demonstrations and other hands-on opportunities that promote the mission of REAL.
“We’re still trying to find some dollars that will assist with that,” she said.
Councillor Dawn Quinn congratulated the organization on all its work in 2011, including a special feature on Regional Contact.
“You put the name of Smiths Falls out there,” she said.
The REAL Deal Store on William Street will be enlisting the help of a piano player, cat and other permanent volunteers in sending the message of recycle and reuse to Smiths Falls and area residents.
These characters form part of the soon-to-be installed junk art pieces that will hang on the exterior of the REAL Deal Store. “The panels should be up by Sept. 30, we’re hoping,” said Val Hudson, local artist and creator of the seven panels.
Each panel is weather proofed, bolted and glued on for security and features their own unique theme such as: Cat on a hot tin roof, The Piano Man, the garden, pond, waste and the queen. What makes these colourful images so spectacular is that they are constructed out of items from around the house and industrial plants.
“Everything on here is from something that was going to be thrown away,” Hudson said. She hopes the panels will spark discussion about our throw away society particularly in a time when the largest population is aging and looking to downsize.
“There’s going to be a tremendous amount of junk,” Hudson suspects.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many ways to use unwanted items if we just get our creative hats on. That was the challenge before Hudson these past four months when she worked on the gathering and development of each panel.
“My biggest asset has been Bruce (McLeod),” Hudson added of her partner who has worked to secure each item to the hollow door canvas. “It’s wonderful to have Bruce work with me.”
The easiest panel for Hudson to create was the Cat on the Hot Tin Roof. That involves two panels with a flower pot complete with a potato masher turned flower.
“What an amazing process,” Hudson said of the project’s development. “You go and try to find a way to make your imagination and the object, come alive.”
Some items had a touching life of their own before being integrated into the exterior art panels. Hudson gently touched one of the wooden ducks that is perched on the reeds in her pond piece. These pieces were made by her partner’s father who has since passed away.
Name That Junk. The panels are made up of a multitude of items that have found a new home in Hudson’s art work. To launch the fantastic art project, a public contest will be held called, Name That Junk, from Sept. 30-Oct. 22, 2011 visitors will be encouraged to head down to the REAL Deal and guess what each panels is made of. The person with the most correct guesses will win a prize! Seeing some new faces at the store will the ultimate prize for REAL members.
“We’re hoping that the art work will bring much more people in to discover the REAL Deal,” said Karen Schecter, REAL board secretary, in a previous interview. All the panels will be weighed by REAL to go towards the amount of waste they have been able to divert from the landfill. The art project came to life this spring when an anonymous benefactor donated $5,000 for this purpose.
The Rideau Environmental Action League held its annual general meeting on Wednesday June 22, at the REAL Deal Store in Smiths Falls. The focus of the AGM was looking back at successful projects from the past year and acknowledging its hard working volunteers. REAL board member Barb Hicks said the main projects touched on at this year’s AGM were its community garden, the Rideau volunteers’ program, and REAL being granted charitable status.
“In the community garden we went from four plots last summer to eight plots this summer” she said. “We’ll have to wait and see what kind of interest we stir up next summer.”
Long-time volunteers Carolyn Fraser, Pat Foulkes and Tom Foulkes were handed lifetime memberships for their hard work and dedication. Fraser was REAL’s treasurer for the past 12 years, while Pat and Tom were recognized for their generosity and being “good advocates for REAL.”
Hicks said Tom convinced Smiths Falls council to create a liaison position between REAL and the town. Coun. Ken Graham is currently the REAL liaison for the town. REAL also played host to Bob Argue from ECOPerth, who was a guest speaker at the meeting. Argue spoke about solar panel installations. Hicks said the organization is considering installing solar panels on the roof of the REAL Deal Store.
Landfill Diversion. According to Susan Brandum, REAL’s environmental project manager, the REAL Deal Store diverted 26,000 kilograms of waste from landfills. Although Smiths Falls residents made up the highest percentage of donations and purchases of the year, several other municipalities utilized REAL’s services, including the Township of Rideau Lakes, Township of Drummond/North Elmsley, Montague Township, Perth, Merrickville-Wolford, Prescott, Westport, the Township of Elizabethtown-Kitley, Carleton Place and Tay Valley Township.
Future Goals.Hicks said some of REAL’s goals for the future are offering energy audit services for local residents and businesses, a storm water reduction program, creating a rainwater garden at the Smiths Falls Public Library and continuing to improve the Take It Back Recyclopedia.
Board Names. The current REAL board of directors is comprised of Peter Au, Larry Manson, Karen Schecter Betty Davis, Scott Lumsden and Barb Hicks.
Volunteers Needed. Hicks said, REAL is currently looking for a volunteer coordinator. She said the organization is not certain they will be able to find funding to pay anyone for the position , and is hoping someone will step forward and volunteer. REAL is also looking for new board members, particularly someone interested in the role of treasurer. Anyone interested in volunteering with REAL, or looking for more information about its programs, can visit www.realaction.ca, or contact 613-283-9500, or [email protected]
Sixteenth century philosopher Thomas Hobbes has said that the body is made of strings and things. This is a theory local artist Val Hudson has taken to heart in her efforts to create an exterior junk art display on the wall of the REAL Deal.
A select group of strings, springs and other unwanted things in the Smiths Falls community are currently being collected by Hudson to create large exterior art display. Anyone with items like old nails and screws that may be helpful, are asked to call Hudson at 613-284-9404. “Junk ‘s got a bad name, but junk is wonderful,” Hudson added of the project. “It suits what they (REAL) do.”
The display will be framed in four doors and four windows that will be installed on the north-facing wall of the building across from the existing high school mural. Karen Schecter, REAL board secretary said the project was given life thanks to a $5000 donation from an anonymous donor who selected Hudson for the project.
“They felt strongly about her work and wanted her to be the artist to do it,” Schecter said.
This project has been in the planning stages since March, but the administrative documentation has just recently been finalized. Schecter said REAL hopes the project will be completed by September. “We’re hoping that the art work will bring much more people in to discover the REAL Deal,” Schecter said.
Each door and window frame will contain a different image such as one Hudson is calling the piano player. This will show an image of a piano player sitting at her instrument.
“The shutters form a piano,” the artist said.
Hudson will be using different pieces of metal and hard junk pieces to create the pianist, including a pot for her hat and spoons to form her hands. The same approach will be taken for other elements of the piece, including a swamp scene where Hudson will break up pieces of mirror to create the image of water.
The experience has been an extremely creative on for Hudson who is in the process of learning how to connect each piece and protect it from the weather.
“I can’t wait to see the first panel,” Schecter remarked.
Community Art. In addition to this project, Hudson will be working on creating a community art piece under the existing high school mural. This project will be four feet high and four feet across with ceramic tiles covering much of the space. The remaining area will be available for members of the public to add their personal item to the junk wall.
“Let your kid pick out a little rock and we’ll put it in the wall,” Hudson added. It “is very community oriented.”
The local artist us excited to bring this form of art to the community, particularly to the REAL Deal whose mandate is to reduce the amount of usable items from the landfill.
“It will definitely be something that’s different,” Hudson said.
Her hope is that this project will be the first junk art project the town will see. Hudson would like to work with the business community to establish a junk art sculpture contest in the future.
Customers at the REAL Deal Store, 85 William St., were turning junk into jewels at a re-purposing workshop held on Friday Nov. 26. The idea behind the workshop is for people to meet and exchange a variety of used goods.
We took about half the people that signed up,” said Lynn Preston, an employee at the store. “About a dozen people took interest. We’re taking stuff people discarded and saying, ‘Why can’t it be beautiful again?’” People attending the workshop shared ideas and pictured of previously created items. Nancy Simpson said she built a new bookshelf out of b-fold closet doors and plywood. “We went and looked at Ikea and thought we could do better,” she said.
Brenda King, another workshop participant, said she built a headboard out of a collection of old doilies, created by members of her family, a quilt frame and a curtain rod. “It took me a year, on and off,” she said. “This way they’re (her family’s doilies) not lying in a drawer.”
Norman Lloyd, a recently retired horse racer, shared pictures of a three-and-a-half-foot tall pony with carriage, he built out of used goods. He currently displays outside his home. The horse’s torso is built mainly from and old toboggan and boards, while old belts were used for the carriage harness. The carriage was constructed from mostly glass and then painted with tar.
The REAL Deal Store was built with the help of three organizations, the Rideau Environmental Action League (manages and runs the store), the Town of Smiths Falls (donated the building) and Parks Canada (who lease the land). The store also received a grant through the Trillium Foundation so it could afford to pay for a full-time manager.
Really Popular. “Been here two-and-a-half years now,” Preston said. “Over the last year it (the store) has been really popular. Some days it’s (donated goods) coming, going out the front door as quick as it’s coming in the back door.”
The store received a wide variety of goods from people, including housewares, construction materials, games, seasonal items, sporting goods and many other products. The man purpose for the store is to reduce the amount of items going into local landfills. The store keeps track by weighing everything that get donated to the store, then weighing the items as they’re sold. In 2009, 59,168 kilograms of goods were donated to the REAL Deal Store and 30, 506 kilograms sold back to the public.
The store is almost entirely run by volunteers. In 2009, it had 27 volunteers who worked a total of 3,505 volunteer hours. Susan Brandum, the manager for various REAL projects, said that people who volunteer at the store have the opportunity to develop additional skills. “The whole operation is really dependant on volunteers,” she said.
“If we didn’t have them, it couldn’t function.”
Brandum said that she was happy to see the workshop get such a positive response. “We will definitely be looking at having a few more, possibly January, February and in the spring,” she said.
For more information about the REAL Deal Store, contact 613-283-7999 or visit www.realaction.ca.
A recent partnership between the REAL Deal and local high school students has proven that there really is an art to being green.
Over the last year the arts club at the high school has been busy working to depict past, present and future environmental images on five panels.
“I’m please with it,” said Pam Craig, staff liaison.
The first panel depicts an untouched environment with a cyclist moving onto the second panel where wildlife has moved in. The third panel ushers in the industrial era “where you can see some of the materials of degradation” of the environment Craig explains.
The final two panels show work underway to clean up the mistakes of the past and a return to a clean environment where solar panel and wind turbines help reduce the environmental impact.
“It’s the idea of using technology to help or fix these problems,” Craig said.
The initiative launched the high school’s art club, which has continued to operate. The mural project involved two groups of about a dozen students each who worked to create a vision and execute it using acrylic paint.
“It was very, very important for REAL to have young people taking part in this project,”said Karen Schecter, REAL board member.
“We can involve young people because it’s their way of looking at the future they want to see,” added Peter Au of REAL.
Corrina Cai, a Grade 12 students and member of the Arts Club knows pollution has no place in our future.
She said seeing people litter “makes me shake my head.”
That’s why she wanted to get involved in the mural project.
“I find that the mural shows the side effects of it and what we can do to change it,” Cai said.
The project was a great opportunity to teach painting techniques such as blending paint and discussing the impact pollution has on the environment. The results of this discussion can be seen on the canvas. Students opted to include a Pitch In bag as that is an annual local event dedicated to removing litter from the environment.
The REAL Deal is pleased to incorporate the high school’s mural into their exterior facade.
The purpose of the mural is to assist int he beautification of the William Street store, which was a former public works building white promoting green living.
The mural will not be sealed and protected form the elements before being installed at the REAL Deal.
EMC Events – As the volunteer co-ordinator for the Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) and the Rideau Canal Museum (RCM), Lynn Preston knows how invaluable volunteers are to a community.
“Volunteers are important,” she says. “With not-for-profit groups such as the RCM and REAL, they cannot achieve their goals and mandate without volunteers. Both groups have very small numbers of paid staff.”
To make people aware of the many volunteer opportunities that are available in Smiths Falls, Preston and the Rideau Volunteers are teaming up with the Smiths Falls Library community to host a Volunteer Fair on Wednesday, Sept. 15 at the old Smiths Falls Memorial Community Centre.
Pat Foulkes, a member of the library board, initially raised the idea of a Volunteer Fair to board members and Friends of the Library in May. When she received a positive response, she approached Preston to see if she would be interested in helping to organize the event because of her experience with the Rideau Volunteers.
Since the formation in September 2009 of the Rideau Volunteers program, which was funded by a Trillium grant, both organizations have seen an increase in their volunteer numbers.
“The number of volunteers with the RCM has increased 500 per cent while REAL has added at least 12 new volunteers since the beginning of this program,” Preston reports.
It is hoped that the Volunteer Fair will similarly generate more volunteers for the community groups that participate.
“We think it is a viable thing to do for Smiths Falls,” Foulkes told members of town council at a July 12 Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting. “We think the timing is good.”
With organizers looking to combine the fair with another event, the fair is scheduled for the same evening as the community registration day for sports and recreation. The fair will take place from 5 to 8 p.m.
Noting that the event will bring together groups that need volunteers “under one roof,” Preston mentioned that each organization in attendance would have information on what it is about and the volunteer jobs that are available.
That way, she says, “the prospective volunteer can then choose what group(s) they wish to donate their time to based on their needs.” Those needs could range from time availability to skill level to new skills learned.
In exploring different ways to contact people that are interested in volunteering in the community, Foulkes said organizers are looking at establishing a database.
Lending a helping hand in organizing the Sept. 15 Volunteer Fair is the Volunteer Bureau of Leeds-Grenville. Looking at “potentially bringing our services into that community because there is a need,” executive director Frank Rockett said the volunteer bureau would be lending its assistance in the promotion of the event, as well as compiling a list of all the charities in Lanark County. “We hope to get as many charities as we can to that event,” he stated.
The volunteer bureau holds volunteer fairs “from time to time,” usually at high schools throughout Leeds Grenville and the 1000 Islands Mall in Brockville. With high school students in Ontario having to complete a minimum of 40 hours of community involvement activities as part of the requirements for an Ontario Secondary School Diploma, Rockett says the volunteer fairs held at high schools get students thinking about volunteering. Organizers of the Smiths Falls fair plan to promote the event at the high school level locally in early September.
Generally, according to Rockett, agencies that participate in a volunteer fair report afterwards “they have volunteers signed up.”
When Foulkes and Preston appeared before town council on July 12 seeking council’s support in principle for the upcoming event, they received it wholeheartedly.
“I think it’s a good program,” said Councillor Jack Traynor, adding that volunteers are “what makes a town.”
Likewise, Councillor Chris Cummings said the idea of a Volunteer Fair “sounds marvellous” while Councillor Ken Graham highlighted the need for more volunteers. He noted that there are many volunteers, “nearing their threshold” in their volunteerism. “I am sure they (volunteers) are out there,” Graham said. “We just need to look.”
“We are going to look,” Foulkes responded.
Preston believes that the Volunteer Fair will help to “strengthen the Smiths Falls and area community.” “It is said a community is only as strong as its volunteer base,” she remarked. “With this fair, we want to make it easy for people in the area to contribute to their community in a meaningful way.”
EMC News – One of the Smiths Falls’ most ardent contributors is moving away this month.
Elva Corless is known by many titles in the community “Ma” to former co-workers from Ok Economy, “the Grandmother of Recycling” to those familiar with her work as part of REAL. But what people perhaps will remember her most for is her genuine and pure willingness to help. To give back to her community, for the causes she holds dear. Moving day for Elva will be June 14. She is moving to Angus, outside of Barrie, with her daughter Susan and son-in-law Richard Milson.
Several goodbye events have taken place to honour Corless’ dedication to her hometown. One of those took place at the Country Diner a few weeks ago. The Ok Economy Supper Club (a group of former Ok Economy employees who meet several times a year for supper) attracted a crowd of 32 people to honour Elva. And the Trinity United Church held a farewell tea May 23, attended by approximately 100 people, Bev Marshall notes.
She first met Elva in 1976. The two worked alongside one another for 17 years in the grocery store’s bakery department. Marshall explains Elva has a very nurturing personality which earned her the title “Ma” from all of the employees at the store, many of whom still use the term of endearment to this day. “She was a mother to everyone,” she said.
Describing Elva as humble, Marshall comments, “she is very dedicated to her family, her church and her job and all of her volunteer work.”
Still knitting “prayer shawls”, Marshall remembers Elva always donating to causes such as Shriners and others. With a laugh, she talks of Elva’s zeal for the environment and her ever present cloth bag. Often on Earth Day, fellow employees at the grocery store would tease Elva, asking if she had walked to work or driven that day.
“There is no such word as retirement in her vocabulary,” she noted of Elva, who always manages to stay as busy as she can.
Barb Hicks, current president of the Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) board, notes Elva was one of the “founding members” of the organization. It was Halloween 1989 at Peter Au’s home, and Hicks remembers being there that evening and meeting Elva for the first time. That night, she had been wearing a t-shirt that was full of buttons denoting the importance of recycling and the environment, she says.
“She lives and breathes it,” Hicks said, noting that is one of the reasons Elva earned the title “the Grandmother of Recycling” in Smiths Falls.
She played a key role in the early years with the Pitch-In program, Waste Reduction Week, Environment on Display (various organizations dealing with environmental themes were organized for a show) and more. Environment on Display, Hicks remembers, was something of a ground-breaking venture. “There are lots of (environmental) fairs around now, but not back then.”
Elva is “good humoured and well liked,” Hicks points out, saying working with the well known community volunteer was “inspirational.”
Her positive attitude, never letting anything drag her down, is something Hicks remembers well. “She didn’t get discouraged,” she commented.
Elva’s willingness to take anything on is also something that will stay with Hicks when she thinks of the woman.
“You need a rock in your midst (non-profit organizations) and she was in there with both feet,” she said.
Also called a “pioneer of recycling,” it was while attending a church service in Bell’s Corners that Elva heard of a truck which was collecting glass and cans. After the service she made some inquiries resulting in the introduction of Smiths Falls’ “first long-term recycling project” in 1979, notes the ‘Community Spotlight’ in February 1990, REAL’s earliest newsletter. Involving the Interchurch Women’s group and volunteers, she recruited workers and a truck one Sunday a month which would take recyclable materials to a city yard in the west end of Ottawa.
While meeting some challenges along the way, Smiths Falls eventually introduced its own Blue Box program in the early 1990s.
Elva was also a key organizer for the area’s first Reuse Centre, which has spun off into the current REAL Deal store.
In an address written by Peter Au for the night of REAL’s annual general meeting June 18 2008, he stated, “Elva shares her time and talent generously, she uses her baking talents in various fundraising activities – many here have enjoyed the donuts and cakes she created. Her faith and dedication to her church, family, friends and community are exemplary to those around her. Her enthusiastic endeavours in her environmental work are reflective of her strong belief in taking care of God’s creation.”
That evening Elva was given a special tribute of ‘Director Emerita’ with REAL.
Elva had been a director with REAL since 1990, served as its president from 1997 to 2000, she has served on the Public Liaison Committee for the Waste Management Master Plan Study for Smiths Falls area and Lanark County in the early 90s. Other groups she has belonged to include the Recycling Council of Ontario, the County of Lanark Environmental Action Network. Awards she has received for her work include being declared Citizen of the Year in Smiths Falls in 1991, receiving the Canada 125 Medal in 1993 and others.
Elva was also honoured during this year’s annual World Day of Prayer Service, held March 5.
A founder of the Interchurch Women of Smiths Falls, the Friday Prayer group, she has promoted the World Day of Prayer, the Fellowship of the Least Coin, an International Ecumenical Prayer movement, White Ribbon Against Pornography and the Peal for Peace.
“Elva has been a driving force for many of our initiatives,” Norma Wrightly Interchurch Women’s Group member from Trinity United Church, noted during the World Day of Prayer Service.
The church has always been important for Elva, an active member of the Trinity United congregation.
“I was baptized there,” she said of the church during a recent interview. “And my mother and grandmother before me.”
At one point, she recalled, she was on the church’s communion committee and helped her parents pick the grapes out for the communion service.
She also noted she would often bake items for church bake sales and is particularly known for her version of a donut – the “Elva-bit”.
In terms of why she gave back to much to her hometown, she said, “it’s your love of the place. It needs to be looked after.”
And of her environmental work, “We have to keep the environment in good shape. For environmental reasons we have to reduce waste as much as we can.”
From Smiths Falls, she moved away to Ottawa for 10 years to work at the Bank of Montreal on Sparks Street. At the time, she stayed with her aunt and uncle. He was an optometrist. She came back to Smiths Falls after a decade when she married husband Joe.
Resident prompts municipality to take closer look at illegal burning by Ashley Kulp, EMC, Apr 22, 2010
EMC News – A local resident, frustrated with individuals burning household garbage outdoors and the fumes it creates, is asking North Grenville council to take stricter measures to combat it.
Sasha Honsl was at Monday evening’s Committee of the Whole council meeting to make a presentation, after first approaching the public works committee at its March 10 meeting about the matter. Honsl is concerned about the noxious gases that are released when household garbage and items such as plastics, tires and mattresses are burned. He also wanted to know whether the municipality or the Kemptville Fire Department were the enforcement authority if residents have complaints about illegal burning.
“We all know people who have had cancer and my wife got it when she was 32, three months after she had our last child. It makes you wonder what could cause it at such a young age and you start to look at different factors,” Honsl explained.
He indicated burning household garbage and items has been a concern of his for many years and said he’s seen people burning mattresses in their backyard and a number of other occurrences.
“There’s a house across the road from where I lived and they rented the place and instead of putting the garbage out each week, they put a pile out in the driveway and burned it,” he said. “I went to talk to them to explain about the dangerous gases and it stopped for a while, but then started a couple of months later so I reported them (to the fire department).”
Honsl noted it’s not only homeowners, but businesses who are guilty of illegal burning and he has taken it upon himself to try and stop it.
“Everytime I see the telltale signs, I stop and talk to the person or report them. I’ve been kind of a vigilante in dealing with this,” he admitted. “I’m frustrated at the amount of burning.”
To obtain more information on the effects this type of burning can have, Honsl came into contact with the Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) of Smiths Falls. With a mandate to educate people on protecting the environment, they provided him with documentation Environment Canada has issued about the dangers of illegal burning. Not only is it a major source of pollution, but the dioxins and furans released into the air when burning can come into contact with plants, which animals raised on those plants ingest. We in turn, ingest those same dioxins when eating meat.
According to the Environment Canada release, 24 per cent of rural and small-city Ontarians burn their garbage, but burning that waste can affect your health, emitting not only dioxins and furans, but arsenic, carbon monoxide, lead, mercury, chromium and other toxins into the air. Those pollutants, passed on in the food we consume, can cause respiratory problems, an increased risk of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, indicated the release.
“This is a well-known and well-documented problem, unfortunately Environment Canada is not making an effort to get this information out…they say it’s basically up to the municipalities to enforce bylaws prohibiting this (burning),” Honsl stated.
He added that there is no reason for even burning leaves and brush as those items are accepted free of charge at the waste transfer station in Oxford Mills.
Honsl was pleased that in the Kemptville Fire Department burn permits, a phrase prohibiting the burning of rubber or plastics was included, but felt it needed to be bolder and a list of specific items be included. He also suggested the municipality educate the public more on the dangers.
“My feeling is people don’t know the dangers and second of all, they might be timid in reporting people burning garbage,” he stated.
“…It’s a combination of education and more enforcement that’s needed when there are calls,” Honsl added.
Most council members had no issue with strengthening the wording in their open burning bylaw to reflect the dangers of burning certain items, but were wary of including a list of such items.
“We want to keep it very positive and the permits should say that people should be burning shrubs and natural wood products only,” said councillor Terry Butler. “Once you prohibit and start a list of what can’t be burned it’s never ending…and open to interpretation.”
Butler added that the waste reduction committee is working on putting some information together to notify residents of the poisonous gases emitted when burning.
Honsl suggested the Environment Canada information should be handed out when issuing permits as well.
“I’m more concerned about the folks that aren’t coming to get the permits,” said councillor Barb Tobin.
Fire chief Tim Bond agreed. “We’ve had a couple of incidents but most of the problems aren’t from the people who get the permits, it’s the people that don’t care (that are the problem),” he continued. “…I think it would be better to get some information out with the tax bills other than with the permits…Most people are good, we don’t get many calls on it but I think a larger education program is needed than having something affixed with the permits.”
Mayor Bill Gooch questioned whether the new restrictions would have a negative impact on the agriculture community, who burn off fields and fence rows on their property. Bond indicated that was still acceptable burning.
CAO Andy Brown noted he would bring a report back to council with new suggested wording to modify the permits and the bylaw, as well as have the Environment Canada information added to the municipality’s website.
“An education program to get the general public educated to not burn is I think, the ultimate solution, especially when we have the compost operation at the transfer station,” he noted.
Brown also cleared up the matter of who to call to report an illegal burn. “Whether it’s illegal or legal, essentially people should call the fire department,” he said.
“The fire department hasn’t fined anyone as per this bylaw, the $200 for no permit,” Bond added. “But we recently submitted $8,800 in cost recovery for extinguishing them…We put out the fires, and James (Peterson, the municipality’s bylaw enforcement officer) looks after the burn complaints itself.”
While the Town of Smiths Falls has been told there is contaminated soil on the property of the REAL Deal store, the extent of the contamination and its cause remain an unknown.
“We don’t know where, what it is or how serious it is,” councillor Ken Graham said in a brief interview following Monday night’s town council meeting. “We just know contamination was discovered.”
The town was recently informed of the contamination issue by Parks Canada, which owns the property at 85 William St.
Hillary Knack, an environmental management adviser with Parks Canada, is not sure what brought “the potential contamination to the forefront.” Sometimes, a red flag can be raised during academic research while, on other occasions, it occurs through someone taking sediment samples on a site, she mentioned. A property can likewise be investigated because of historical activities that leave reason “to suspect there could be some issues,” she said.
The Federal Contaminated Site Action Plan, to which Parks Canada adheres, defines the process to be undertaken in cases like this. The first step in the process is to do an assessment of the site, in terms of the activities that have taken place there over the years.
Such a review was conducted of the William Street location in 2007. Based on the results of this assessment, some ground water monitoring wells were put on the site in 2008.
It was recommended following the analysis of these wells that “we look further into one of the three areas,” Knack said.
The area in question is exterior to the REAL Deal store and near the shoreline. The next step in the process, as she outlined, will be to do some additional sampling.
“There will be some new monitoring wells put in,” she said. “Part of the reason we are doing that is to get a better handle of the area.”
Previous testing has confirmed some “elevated levels” of zinc and cobalt, according to Knack. Along with doing further analysis of the levels of these minerals on the site, she said sampling would also be done to detect whether there is aluminum, copper, iron and lead.
The sampling should start in the next few weeks, Knack stated, with a report on the test findings expected to be complete by March 2010.
The action plan contains a scoring component of 1 to 3 with No. 1 being seen “as the most important sites to look at,” the environmental management adviser explained. No. 2 are sites in which action is “likely required” and No. 3 are those in which action “may be required.” The William Street site was rated as a No. 3.
Based on this rating, “in the grand scheme of contaminated sites measured, it is not of the utmost priority,” she said.
Regardless, Knack stresses that Parks Canada wants to ensure there are no risks associated with the site. Along with the other testing being done this fall, she mentioned that a risk assessment would be undertaken assessing any risks to ecological and human health.
“We are gathering information and based on that information we will take steps forward to make sure we are doing the best thing for the site and the ecology,” she remarked.
Bylaw Rescinded. The discovery of the contamination was one of the reasons why council voted at Monday night’s session to rescind a bylaw authorizing execution of a Memorandum of Understanding with Parks Canada, the Rideau Round Table and the Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL).
The other reason, as Graham mentioned at the meeting, is the fact the property is located adjacent to Class I wetlands, which may be a nesting site of the least bittern. The smallest member of the heron and bittern family, the least bittern is considered a species at risk so a study is being commissioned by Parks Canada to determine whether the birds are nesting there or not.
“It is pointless to execute the agreement until these issues are resolved,” the councillor stated.
When asked by The EMC how concerned he was about the discovery of the contaminated soil, Graham replied that, “I am always concerned about contamination.”
“It depends on what it is and the implications,” he added.
Graham said the property has been exposed to a “variety of uses” over the years. Along with previously serving as the town’s Public Works yard, the site was also formerly used as an automotive garage and electrical shop.
“It was originally built as a cement plant,” Graham stated.
The purpose of the Memorandum of Understanding was to allow REAL to formalize plans for the future of the site.
“REAL would like to turn that into an environmental and interpretative centre,” Rick St. Dennis, the town’s director of community services, stated at a previous meeting.
The town has a licence with Parks Canada to use the William Street property.
“It is renewable by both parties but doesn’t have an expiry date,” Knack said.
The Rideau Environmental Action League and the Rideau Canal Museum have teamed up and hired a Volunteer Co-ordinator.
The position, created for the next two years, was made possible by funding provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The co-ordinator will be responsible for recruiting, training and retaining those who wish to help with the successful REAL organization and the high profile Rideau Canal Museum.
Volunteers will be helping protect the cultural history and environmental future of the area under the partnership banner, Rideau Volunteers.
“I’m very excited about the possibilities,” said Lynn Preston, the new Volunteer Co-ordinator. “Smiths Falls and the surrounding area are rich in both cultural and natural heritage. I know there are people out there – high school students looking to get their community hours in, recent retirees, history buffs – wanting to support their community and learn about the many natural and historical assets that exist.”
Rideau Volunteers is planning to provide some fun, interesting and educational training opportunities for its volunteers. “We’re hoping this will make the whole volunteer experience even more rewarding,” said Preston. “We’ll be doing workshops, special “insider” training, and some fun events.”
The Rideau Canal Museum is seeking volunteers to help at the front desk and gift shop, to give tours of the museum throughout the year and to assist with its program evenings, such as the upcoming concert slated for Sept. 25.
REAL is looking for assistance with its REAL Deal Reuse Store, to deliver some existing environmental programs such as “Take it Back,” “Pitch in Smiths Falls,” to help with shoreline clean ups, climate change activities and public forums such as the one they are planning on Household Energy Savings for Oct. 26 at the RCM.
Both organizations are always looking for fundraisers and board members.
“We think that our volunteer co-ordinator will be successful in finding people to undertake the projects we’ve wanted to do for years,” says Barb Hicks, President of REAL. “There’s no shortage of things to do, only the people to help us do them.”
“We need help at the Museum all year but especially during the off peak season”, says Lisa Bell, Business Manager, Rideau Canal Museum. “We hope new volunteers will come forward once they learn how much fun they can have learning about the past and sharing that knowledge”.
To help out with either the Rideau Canal Museum or REAL or to find out more about the organizations, contact Lynn Preston at [email protected] or at 613 283-9500.
Earth Day Canada, in partnership with Cascades Inc., is pleased to announce that Liz Benneian has been chosen as Canada’s 2009 Environmental Hometown Heroes Award winner. Liz, recognized at the 6th Annual Earth Day Canada Gala, received a cash-prize of $10 000; $5 000 to keep and $5 000 to donate to the environmental cause of their choice. Liz chose to give $5 000 of the cash award to the Oakvillegreen Conservation Association.
“Liz is a passionate leader and motivated environmentalist,” states Jed Goldberg, President of Earth Day Canada. “She has initiated a great deal of change in the environmental community in the past four years and is very deserving of the Hometown Heroes Award. As we take time to celebrate Canada Day, we are also celebrating the efforts of Canada’s green heroes like Liz.”
Benneian has been a full-time volunteer President of Oakvillegreen Conservation Association for the past four years. With Liz as the lead, the Oakvillegreen Conservation Association
- Convinced the Government of Ontario to preserve the 24-acre Wildglower Woods
- Established a Tree Protection Bylaw protecting Oakville’s mature forest and halting clear-cutting of properties slated for development
- Established a Pesticide Bylaw forbidding cosmetic and chemical pesticide use
- Created the 650-acre Glenorchy Conservation Area in north Oakville
- Launched Oakville’s first community teaching garden
- Created a local volunteer group, Ground Breaks, which plants over 2 000 trees each year
- Founded Zero Waste Ontario to influence policy development and practices at the municipal, regional and provincial levels.
Interested parties can read more about Liz in the upcoming issue of Alternatives Journal, Hometown Heroes print media partner.
“There are so many unsung environmental heroes working in their towns and cities across Canada every day to make their communities more resilient and hopeful,” says Benneian. “Earth Day Canada is performing an important service by acknowledging their contributions and providing a platform for their stories. Hopefully, they will inspire others to make a difference.”
The Hometown Heroes Program recognizes environmental leaders who have fostered meaningful, long-term community awareness and action. For more information on Liz Benneian and the 2009 Hometown Heroes Award Program please visit www.earthday.ca/hometown.
About Earth Day Canada Earth Day Canada (EDC), a national environmental charity founded in 1990, provides Canadians with the practical knowledge and tools they need to lessen their impact on the environment. In 2004 it was recognized as the top environmental education organization in North America by the Washington-based North American Association for Environmental Education, the world’s largest association of environmental educators. In 2008 it was chosen as Canada’s “Outstanding Non-profit Organization” by the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication. EDC regularly partners with thousands of organizations in all parts of Canada. www.earthday.ca
Donna Dillman On October 8, 2007 Donna began what would become a 68 day hunger strike in support of a moratorium on the exploration and mining of uranium as well as a public inquiry. The community rallied in support.
DreamRider Theatre DreamRider Theatre is Greater Vancouver’s environmental education theatre company. Their recent production Keep Cool! teaches kids about what they can do to reduce their consumption of energy and natural resources.
London Green Festival Team The London Green Festival Team promoted environmental responsibility to over 450 000 visitors during the 2008 London festival season. The Green Festivals Team has grown from representing three festivals to representing eight events.
Maia Green At ten years old, Maia Green wanted to create a world-wide environmental club that would save the world. Now, Maia’s Friends Uniting for Nature Society gives youth the opportunity to build a connection with nature and learn the importance of environmental change in communities.
Marie-Josée Corneau Marie-Josée launched Projet sans Frontièrs, teaching children to be aware of their role as responsible green citizens. Marie-Josée also developed green partnerships with the community IGA and Université du Québec à Chicoutimi.
North Vancouver Outdoor School Alumni Society (NVOSAS) NVOSAS formed to ensure children and youth develop an ethic of environmental caring for the natural world by encouraging and supporting environmental and cultural education. With the support of NVOSAS, the Outdoor School has become an inclusive and accessible, internationally recognized model for environmental education and conservation.
The Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) REAL opened the REAL Deal Store to reduce the environmental impact of Smiths Falls and neighbouring municipalities through waste diversion. REAL created the Well Aware Program to educate residents on the importance of well stewardship, water conservation, and the contamination of ground and surface water.
Roxanne Welsh In 2004, Roxanne began to challenge the lack of action on the cleanup and containment of the Historic Turner Valley Gas Plant site. She succeeded in ensuring a containment wall was built for the protection of the Sheep River, pressed for the abandonment of the Dingman 2 well and the extinguishing of the illegal hillside flare, and ensured that Turner Valley’s water testing program includes additional parameters.
We Are Many (WAM) Guided by their desire to facilitate change in their community, WAM teaches residents of Saskatoon about the importance of simple environmental action. The WAM Festival attracted over 10 000 people, 150 youth volunteers, 34 workshops and presentations, nearly 50 Eco-Fair booths and more.
Environmental group REAL excited over competition Rideau Environmental Action League among to 10 finalists in national program through Earth Day Canada (by Jennifer Van Alstyne), Smiths Falls this Week, June 2009
While it may have started out as a small town environmental initiative, the Rideau Environmental Action League recently received some REAL-ly important acknowledgement after being named one of the top 10 finalists in the Earth Day Canada Environmental Hometown Heroes awards program.
According to REAL president Barb Hicks, the organization nominated itself for the competition early this spring in an effort to achieve recognition for some of REAL’s most recent and successful programming initiatives, which include the opening of the William Street location of the REAL Deal Store last summer, and its third consecutive year in promoting Well Aware – a program devoted to teaching locals the importance of well stewardship.
Shortly after submitting their nomination in the spring, REAL received confirmation that the “little organization that could” was atop 10 finalist, fighting for top honours as a Hometown Hero and a set of cash prizes.
“We were surprised and quite excited as it is always nice to be recognized for some type of award,” said Hicks. “It is always encouraging to think that someone has notice what you have accomplished.”
According to the president of Earth Day Canada, Jed Goldberg, the Environmental Hometown Heroes award program aims at rewarding and acknowledging organizations and individuals from throughout Canada who are committed to significant environmental work in their communities.
“It is inspirational for others to be able to follow [these organizations and individual’s] footsteps and get involved in environmental outreach in their communities, “ said Goldberg.
He explained that the program, which is in partnership with Cascades (an environmentally progressive paper company), was initially founded in 2004 and has grown significantly in popularity – receiving hundreds of nominations from all over the country each year.
Hicks said that entering REAL in the program was a perfect way to celebrate the organization’s 20th year of environmental achievement.
The non-profit organization was formed in the fall of 1989 after its two founders attended a presentation by activist David Suzuki.
The duo found a great sense of inspiration in Suzuki’s words and decided that a positive step in the direction toward a healthier planet was to make a global impact on the environment by acting locally.
“The rest is history,” said founding member and past president \peter Au at an anniversary celebration last April.
Locally and Globally
The organization initially made an environmental impact by rallying with local citizens to begin community-wide projects such as litter clean-ups, the running or recycling depots and planting trees.
“The goals was to do hands-on, tangible and local environmental projects where we could really see a change, “ said Hicks.
After finding great success in such programs, REAL decided to seek further support in their mission by joining with members of the public, businesses, municipal governments and other community organizations.
This collaboration allowed for REAL to continue to add to its long list of environmental achievements while also responding to community requests and creating awareness programs such as Well Aware, the idle-free campaign and the opening of the William Street location of the REAL Deal store in June 2008.
REAL was even one of the few Canadian organizations given the opportunity to test the first EnerGuide for Houses which is now known as the ecoENERGY program.
While Earth Day Canada names Liz Benneian for the 2009 Environmental Hometown Hero for her environmental work in the Oakville area, Goldberg said REAL was highly recognized as one of the top 10 finalists for its continued dedication to environmentalism in both Smiths Falls and surrounding municipalities.
In particular, Goldberg highlighted some of REAL’s greatest accomplishments including its work in helping residents reduce energy, waste and water, attracting investment in environmental activities and awareness amongst neighbouring communities and the generation of local employment and volunteer opportunities as a result of the REAL Deal store.
”All of these things really impressed us and it is what Hometown Heroes is all about,” said Goldberg.
Hicks noted that while a re-use it store has been present in the Smiths Falls area since the early 1990’s, the fact that the REAL Deal store has finally found a permanent home on William Street has allowed the business to become extremely successful.
Open three days a week, the store sells good quality reusable household items, and construction and renovation materials at greatly reduced prices.
The store doubles as the organization’s environmental centre, housing offices use to run programming and operate other forms of business.
“The location is more than just a store to us, “ said Hicks.
According to Hicks, funds acquired through the store are used to sustain programming provided by REAL.
“It is a money-maker for the organization and we are also helping the environment, its win-win,” she said. “It’s a definite problem with environmental groups to sustain funding.”
Goldberg said Earth Day Canada is overly impressed with the environmental achievement on part of REAL and encourages the organization to continue making a difference in not only the community of Smiths Falls, but on a global scale.
“It is unbelievable what they have been able to accomplish. They are a hub of environmental activity,” he said. “I think its’ fantastically important that people realize you don’t have to be from a big city like Ottawa, Toronto, or Vancouver to be heard.”
The REAL Deal store is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and is located at 85 William St. West.
For more information, please call 613-283-7999 or visit www.REALaction.ca.
When it comes to saving the environment here, there’s one group more than the others that’s the real deal.
Which is kind of handy when you consider the group’s acronym is REAL (Rideau environmental Action League) and its showcase reuse store and environment centre is called the REAL Deal.
With a wine and cheese reception earlier this week, REAL kicked off 20th anniversary celebrations set to continue though out the year, including a public gathering in July.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about REAL, say its founders, is that it’s still going strong after 20 years – a period of time during which many community groups have fallen by the wayside – recycling itself from one project to another.
The action league is a welcome part of the Smiths Falls fabric, said Mayor Dennis Staples.
Staples says the group raises the environmental agenda to a level that wouldn’t occur without its regular activities stimulating awareness.
To show its appreciation the town allocates some $13,500 to REAL and provides its with a headquarters building on William St. The group is also active in the surrounding counties of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville.
Co-founder Peter Au, who launched the project with Fellow educator Ron Stewart after being inspired during a join presentation by environmental guru David Suzuki and nature artist Robert Bateman, said the secret to success is the word “action”.
REALl, Au said, has always been on the front line of environmental revitalization, its members and volunteers never afraid to get their hands dirty in a multitude of campaigns ranging from shoreline cleanup to recycling household goods.
They also hold seminars and workshops, mount mall and festival displays, encouraging composting and clothesline use, sample well water, plant trees, spearhead electricity retrofits and idle-free campaigns and pick up street litter.
Last year’s Pitch-In litter cleanup attracted more than 1,000 volunteers who collected 209 bags of garbage. This year’s collection is coming up April 20 to May 3.
In another project, REAL raised $40,000 for a living memorial and native plant demonstration called Evergreen Avenue.
Overseen by a seven-member board of directors, REAL’s biggest deal is the store and future demonstration site for new environmental technologies at 85 William St.
From last June to this January, the REAL Deal received 32,000 kg of material and served 2,461 customers. Funds raised help support various projects.
Suggesting the organization is ”a little astonished” that it has been around for so long, board president Bard Hicks, a 20-year member, said the achievement is the consequence of action by dedicated volunteers, innovation in projects undertaken, and collaboration with other like-minded groups.
With that, Hicks urged wine and cheese participants to hand in their name tags for recycling.
This Saturday Smiths Falls residents and business owners are being asked to sit in darkness for one hour in support of Earth Hour.
The annual campaign to address climate change takes place on Saturday, March 28 from 8:30-9:30 p.m.
The World Wildlife Fund (which is organizing the event) hopes that one billion people will take part this year around the world to really send home the urgent need for climate change action. The results of this year’s event will be presented to world leaders who will be meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009. “Unlike any election in history, it’s not about what country you’re from, but instead what planet you’re from,” reads the WWF website.
On March 16 mayor Dennis Staples proclaimed the town’s participation in this year’s Earth Hour.
Peter Au, local environmentalist and REAL member, said Earth Hour is about empowering ourselves, that our actions do make a difference.
“What is important is that it (Earth Hour) reminds people that there are things we can do collectively.
“Climate change is affecting the lives we live in Eastern Ontario even today with fluctuations in seasonal temperatures.”
“Climate change is very real, and it affects us all,” said Barb Hicks, REAL president.
The 2009 Earth Hour campaign is being celebrated in 80 countries and more than 1,500 communities including Smiths Falls. The public awareness campaign got its start in Sydney, Australia in 2007 when 2.2 million residents and businesses turned off their lights for an hour.
In an effort to protect the Earth from the effects of pollution and waste, Elva Corless of Smiths Falls says she’s just done her part.
Last week the Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) acknowledged Corless’s pioneering efforts and her nearly two decades of serving as director of the REAL board.
“I think we’d all agree that Elva long ago has established her credentials for speaking on the environment,” comments Larry Manson, REAL’s vice-president.
Manson named Corless a director Emerita, which means she retains her status as a local environmental authority even though she has formally retired as a REAL director this year. In 1979 Corless kick started the first recycling program in Smiths Falls by organizing a monthly collection of recyclables from the churches. This idea came about during a church service at Bells Corners where it was mentioned that they were bringing items to a site in the west end of Ottawa. Corless said it was around this time that she began to understand the importance of recycling and introduced it in her own home.
At this time Corless was working int he bakery of OK Economy where she received a lot of ribbing from her co-worker for her environmental dedication in virtually all aspects of her life. Corless never wavered in her message tat recycling was best.
“You’ll be sorry some day when you get surrounded in garbage,”she recalls replying to all the good-natured ribbing.
Her desire to leave as small a footprint on Earth as she can was soon met with like-minded people in Peter Au’s house Halloween night 1989.
“I still remember that night at Peter’s when we organized, “ Corless said.
That night REAL was born.
Corless has served as a director of REAL since 1990. She served as the organization’s president from 1997-2000 and became REAL’s first lifetime member in 1995.
“Elva shares her time and talents generously,” Manson said.
Corless said her yeas with REAL have truly flown by for her when it came to volunteering with the local environmental organizations.
“We had a great time,” Corless added. “It was a real pleasure.”
Om 1999 Corless was given the Smiths Falls Citizen of the Year Award.
Her dedication to planet Earth has been recognized beyond her own community as well.
In 1992 she was honoured with the Canada 125 medal as part of the nation’s 125th birthday. In 1988 she received an individual award for hr commitment to recycling from the Recycling Council of Ontario and then in 1995 she received a citation of merit from the Recycling Council of Ontario.
Following the receipt of flowers and thanks last Wednesday, Corless humbly thanked everyone for the honour.
“I don’t think I deserve all that praise,” she added. “I’ve had lots of help all those years.”
During the days when the Reuse Centre was operating Corless could be found welcoming visitors to store and organizing the volunteer work schedule.
During the grand re-opening of the REAL Deal Store June 18, Susan Brandum announced that the free-store would not be returning. The Reuse store was not feasible in the new location due to volunteer hours it takes and the space it requires.
REAL Deal Opening However, the long awaited reopening of the REAL Deal store was very much a time of celebration for volunteers and the community.
“We’re really pleased with it,” added REAL president, Barb Hicks. “The REAL Deal is certainly the most ambitious of our projects.”
New to this evolution of the store (that was formerly located on Lombard Street) is a focus on collecting usable construction materials that would otherwise end up in landfill.
Smiths Falls Mayor Dennis Staples officially cut the ribbon on the new facility and offered congratulations to the organization for bringing this store back to residents and the community.
“I know your growth is not finished it’s just he next evolution”, the mayor added.
“Congratulations to REAL for 19 years of tremendous contribution not only to Smiths Falls but to the community.”
Those who attended the ceremony June 18 were given a tour of the building and surrounding property. At this time Brandum provided a brief overview of their long and short term plans, including the community garden partnership with The Link and the hope to begin park and peddle program in Smiths Falls. This program would offer a bicycle to anyone who is driving from out of town to do errands. They will be able to park, sue a bike to finish their tasks and then return to pick up their car.
“That way we’ll reduce all that traveling in town,” Brandum said.
The center also hopes to create a demonstration native garden in the shaded front yard.
In the back yard leading towards the swale waterfront, REAL has aspirations for creating a nature trail.
“There are very few places that you can step away from civilization in such a short time in so few steps,” Peter Au added. “There’s a whole lot of potential there.”
As a member of the Rideau Roundtable Au is looking at the potential of launching the popular voyageur canoes from the REAL Deal property. Currently the canoes are launching at Centennial Park or the combined lock sation
“The site does lend itself to much more as an environmental centre,”Brandum said.
At the earliest, the voyageur canoes would be launching at REAL Deal next year. If such a move was to come to pass they would need approval to install a dock form Parks Canada who currently owns the property.
In addition to these plans, Brandum would like to see a demonstration outhouse on the site that would educate rural residents on the proper means of installing and utilizing an outhouse at their homes.
The new home for REAL and the REAL Deal offers a number of opportunities to educate and continue to give back to the community as they have for the last 19 years.
REAL works to make new location the real deal, by Rosanne Lake. Smiths Falls This Week, May 2, 2008
The Rideau Environmental Action League is one step closer to opening up the reuse centre in a new location, after a work party took over Saturday.
The new REAL Deal store is located at 85 William St. W. directly across from the Smiths Falls Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario.
Susan Brandum, environmental projects manager for REAL, said the move is the next step in the store’s evolution. REAL had run the reuse centre at is first location for about 10 years before moving out operating out of a building on Lombard Street for only a year.
“In that year, we diverted 83 tons of everything from furniture to household goods and construction materials from ending up in landfills,” she said.
The REAL Deal Reuse Centre is a household goods, furniture, building supply and home improvement store that accepts and sells quality materials with the goal of keeping them out of waste sites.
Funds raised through the sale of these materials support REAL’s other environmental projects in the community. Brandum said that goods for sale in the store are donated by individuals, building supply stores, contractors and even demolition crews. According to the REAL website, retailers and manufacturers can also donate end-of-line, scratch-and-dent., discontinued inventory and customer returns and void the cost of returning them to manufacturers.
The organization first started to revamp the new building in February, after making an agreement with the Town of Smiths Falls to take over the location. Prior to REAL moving it, the site had been used as public works building.
They had to bring it up to code and do a lot of behind-the-scenes work in order to get it prepared to start renovations.
Saturday, a crew of volunteers were painting, cleaning and organizing the floor. Brandum added that shelving will sone be brought in and a store manager will be hired.
She said REAL will begin to collect new items May 23 or 24 and they hope to be open by June of this year. Because the new building on William Street has less floor space than their old location, Brandum said the group will have to be more selective with the items they accept for re-sale.
REAL’s office can be reached by calling 613-283-7999 or 613-283-9500.
Check out the organization online by clicking on www.REALaction.ca.
Don’t let that white stuff on the ground fool you.
A local environmental group says Smiths Falls councillors have definitely coloured the community green.
At its committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday, council unanimously endorsed a plan to contribute $13,000 annually to support Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) activities beginning in 2006.
The money will come from the town’s portion of the federal gas-tax transfer program.
The decision still requires council to pass a bylaw at next Monday’s official meeting, but given last night’s discussion, that appears to be a formality.
“It’s a little bit momentous that a small town has agreed to provide sustaining funding to its environmental organization. I don’t know if we’re a first in Canada, but if not we’re close,” beamed REAL member Susan Brandum in an interview after.
Brandum called it “the best news I’ve had in years, probably.”
She said the funding has the potential to dramatically reshape the organization.
“Every project we’ve done, we’ve had to go back to the very beginning and scratch,” she said. “This means we can build on the 17 years of work we’ve been doing.”
The money will be used to support various programs, including activities at its REAL Deal reuse Centre, where Brandum is executive director.
That centre allows residents to pick up used goods and construction material at little or no cost. As well, Brandum said the sustaining funding council agreed to provide will allow REAL to enhance activities at the store’s environment centre.
“We can be there when people calls us, when they want to know how to reduce their energy bills. … We can be there to respond to people’s needs to protect the environment,” said Brandum, who was at Monday night’s meeting with REAL president Peter Au.
Councillors were enthusiastically behind the request, which Brandum had pitched during a delegation to council only last week.
Councillor Ken Graham described it as an investment, noting many of the organization’s projects have saved the town money.
In particular, he cited the material they divert from landfill.
Graham, who is council’s liaison to the group, said the move makes Smiths Falls “a leader in (Lanark) county and perhaps eastern Ontario in environmental stewardship.”
The $13,000 represents $1.50 per resident of the town, which Councillor Sterling Bennett called reasonable.
“I see the good work they do and really, $1.50 per person is a pretty small amount of money,” he said following the meeting.
Director of corporate services Wayne Brown did advise council the gas-tax funds were anticipated to be used to offset costs of a new $18-million water treatment plant and other water-related projects.
Smiths Falls is to receive about $1.5 million in gas-tax revenue over the next five years and, if it’s continued, nearly $600,000 annually thereafter.
Brown said whatever money was redirected would be added to the water bills and tax bills of town residents.
As an example, he pointed to a report that showed residents faced a 41 per cent spike in water rates over 10 years prior to the federal gas tax announcement.
Using every cent from the gas tax, Brown said the hike could be reduced to about eight per cent.
It was that comment Councillor Wendy Alford cited in giving her qualified support to REAL’s request.
“We keep racking up the money we’re going to have to pay for it. When it comes to trying to decide whether we’re going to raise taxes in Smiths Falls, this is going to factor into it,” she cautioned.
Meanwhile, Bennett said he was unconcerned council’s decision would open the floodgates for other groups to come forward seeking a share of the gas-tax windfall.
“You have to look at each group as they come along and make that decision based on what they’re requesting and what they offer the community,” he said. “It becomes an individual thing.”
With Smiths Falls’ support in its pocket, Brandum said REAL now plans to make similar appeals to the other communities in which it does work, the townships of Merrickville-Wolford, Elizabethtown-Kitley, Rideau Lakes, Drummond-North Elmsley, and Montague.
With a membership of about 80, REAL is a registered non-profit organization that’s run by a volunteer board of directors.
The community continues to do its part for Pitch-In Week, but it could do more.
That was the conclusion presented to town council at its meeting Monday night by the event’s coordinator Elva Corless of the Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL).
“We’d like to keep this going, but would appreciate more help from other people,” Corless noted in her 10-minute presentation.
REAL has coordinated this community-wide effort for the past four years, an endeavour which has continued to grow over that time. But with a growing list of commitments, the environmental group would like others to come on board.
“What works best is getting groups on board,” she said.
This year’s Pitch-in Week was April 18-24. Despite soggy conditions, close to 250 volunteer participants joined in along with 400 students at Chimo Elementary School.
Together they collected 158 bags of garbage, 26 bags of recyclables as well as several large items such as bikes and tires from town parks, ditches and playgrounds.
While some volunteers commented some spots were less trashy this year, other areas such as along Victoria Avenue, around the train station, Lower Reach Park and the business park behind Canadian Tire and the Independent Grover still need work.
Fast food containers, dog droppings, cigarette butts, even one hypodermic needle were among the items discovered during the week.
Corless brought three recommendations:
- more poop and scoop legislation/enforcement for municipal parks,
- more garbage receptacles within two or three block of convenience stores and fast food outlets,
- and more covered receptacles so that what goes into the trash doesn’t get blown out.
In an ideal world, Corless says initiatives like Pitch-In Week “should not be necessary.
“Much of it comes back to public education, which is a long, slow process,” she said.
But she noted there is a willingness to participate in a hands-on way and an enthusiasm within the community to clean up key areas around town. And as long as that happens, the efforts will not be wasted.
“We think this is … a pride-building endeavour,” she said.
At least 200 bags were collected by community volunteers who came out to beautify Smiths Falls during last Saturday’s rainfall.
Though April 23 provided the worst weather Pitch-In has seen in four years, a group of dedicated individuals were able to clean up some of the community’s most important sites.
“The people who came were all very enthusiastic,” says Barb Hicks of the Pitch-In Committee.
Lower Reach Park, behind Canadian Tire and the fast food restaurants, around the hospital, the train station and behind the Chambers Street Plaza were all part of the national clean up program in town.
On just one day 67 bags of garbage were collected and eight bags of recyclable material. In the weeks leading up to April 23, a total of 49 bags of garbage were collected as well as 11 recyclable bags.
New this year was the committee’s invitation to register for a site and complete the work anytime within the two weeks leading up to Earth Day. In light of the heavy rain that was experienced this year, Hicks says the committee is considering this flexibility on a permanent basis.
Thanks to the enlightening experience of community cleanup, the volunteers of Pitch-In are hoping to generate interest to cleanup up some of the busier sites later on in the year. Topping the list this year was Lower Reach Park and the train station area.
This potential initiative would further the committee’s message that residents can pitch-in any time of the year simply by looking after an area of importance to them.
“I would like to remind everyone that it is never too late to pitch in, ” Hicks said.
She would like to thank those residents who do go that extra step and pick up litter in their communities.
Later this summer, community members will want to mark the month of September to participate in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup that Smiths Falls has been involved with for two years.
Looking toward long range plans, the committee would love to see fast food restaurants and convenience stores encourage clean disposal by partnering with them to provide a garbage can two blocks away from their business in every direction.
Many local businesses lent their support and supplies toward last weekend’s event.
It’s not necessarily a chart topper on most people’s priority lists. Maybe it should be.
Last Thursday, the Rideau Environmental Action League, a small but determined group of local ecological crusaders, held a meeting in the basement of Trinity United Church. Only a handful of people turned out to hear what this hard-working organization has planned for the next five years, as laid out in their Business Plan.
For 15 years, REAL has forced this community – sometimes kicking and screaming – to broaden its horizons when it comes to preserving our environment. From tree planting initiatives to community clean-ups, there is little REAL has not done to keep Smiths Falls on the straight and narrow when it comes to our natural surroundings.
Perhaps the group’s greatest success has been its efforts to clean up messes others leave behind. The spring “Pitch-in” initiative and fall shoreline clean-ups are two of their higher profile events. But that only touches the tip of a very large iceberg.
Their five-year plan, presented Thursday, offers an ambitious, yet realistic program. It encourages the municipality and other major groups to build a sense of environmental stewardship into their own plans. It aims to build a greater awareness of the need to conserve water, reduce solid waste and increase recycling efforts.
The plan is made all the more impressive given the fact REAL is comprised of a small band of volunteers whose love of their community clearly knows no bounds.
For as much as we tend to push environmental issues to the back pages, we have only to recall the Walkerton disaster to realize where we would be without clean water. REAL deserves all the credit for keeping these issues front and centre.
The Smiths Falls Reuse Centre wants to add some space to the service of reusing unwanted items, and will present their vision for local environmental efforts to town council this Tuesday, January 4.
Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) volunteers will be presenting their vision of the organization’s first ever five year business plan of the environmental organization. Part of the five year plant is to expand the Reuse Centre on Johnston Street to a new location.
“The broad intent is to develop a reuse centre that would serve the region, “ says Susan, Brandum, REAL volunteer.
Beginning Jan. 3, Andrea Swain will be working on a special business plan for the reuse centre expansion. Her background includes crafting business plans and waste management plans in Canada.
“We were quite thrilled to get somebody with a perfect match in background,” Brandum says.
Complete with expanded hours and a possible focus on reusable construction materials like sinks, electronic waste and furniture disposal, the finished plan for the centre is expected to be completed by the end of March.
Statistics show that at least 25 percent of all waste ending up in the landfill comes from construction waste.
Elva Corless has been co-ordinating the current Reuse Centre for some time. She has seen a marked increase in furniture queries and other larger items the centre can’t handle.
“It’s amazing the things people are looking for a what they pick up,” Corless says.
Because of the size, the centre accepts only items the size of a clothes basket or microwave.
The decision to expand the centre has been on the minds of volunteers for some time. Just this past summer a loyal customer of the Reuse Centre went on a private campaign to let the residents of Smiths Falls know the centre was in need of expanded space. Her campaign of sticking hand-written notes in mail boxes did increase foot traffic in the store.
The Reuse Centre has been operating since 1991. It started out in a few different locations before moving to old Public Works building on Johnston Street where it now sits.
As part of REAL’s search for a new location, they have asked the hydro company about other usable space for the centre, and is waiting for a reply.
Anyone who might know of a property in the Smiths Falls area that could be donated is asked to call Elva Corless at 283-0309.
It was a good step but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. That was the assessment from Elva Corless as she presented the findings from last months’ Pitch-In Day in Smiths Falls at Monday’s town council meeting.
Clearly, the interest is still there from the public, the Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) spokesperson said. Now in its third year as a community-wide initiative, more than 200 residents, 40 of whom who not affiliated with any particular group or organization, turned out on the morning of Saturday, April 24. They helped bag litter strewn about town by thoughtless people who use the local roadways, parks and waterways as their personal garbage dumps.
Backed by the sponsorship of Tim Hortons and Scotiabank along with assistance from the municipality, Corless says volunteers found plenty of litter – from fast food restaurant and snack food wrappers to cigarette butts and plastic bags. A la-Z-Boy chair was retrieved from the Rideau River. Car tires, condoms, a bean bag chair and a purse – which was stolen eight years ago – were all discovered.
While everyone agrees this was a good community event, such a clean-up should not be necessary, Corless said.
“Cleaning us litter is not something the town or its residents should have to do, “ she said. “As a community, we need to take steps to educate the public and make it easier to keep litter in its place.”
Not much has taken place to act on recommendations from the 2003 Pitch-In Day, she said, calling on the municipality and other “stakeholders” to work together on a solution.
A sample of recommendations from REAL include:
· more signage to reduce litter and better enforcement of no littering/dumping bylaws or creation of such legislation, · better enforcement of poop and scoop bylaws, · encouraging fast food outlets to become part of the solution by posting signs, handing out small litter bags, or printing signs that say ‘Thank you for not littering’ on cash register tapes, · enlisting neighbouring municipalities to help keep roadways in and out of Smiths Falls clean, · more education.
“Litter can seem like such a little thing, but it is indicative of disrespect of the environment, that certainly translates in larger environmental problems, “ Corless told council. “How can we expect people to reduce their energy use, stop flushing hazardous waste down the toilet, or conserve water during a drought, if they can’t be bothered to walk a few extra fee to a trash can?”
In response to suggestions from volunteers, REAL is considering a smaller scale fall clean-up and is committed to a full community-wide Pitch-in effort again in 2005.
Councillor Ken Graham said he and his wife participated in Pitch-in Day and were “astonished” by the amount of trash they collected along Van Horne Avenue between Brockville Street and Van Horne Manor, filling five garbage bags full.
He commended REAL for its efforts and pledged to work with the organization to make further progress.
Mayor Dennis Staples said he stopped an individual who was getting ready to dump trash onto town-owned property in the industrial park behind Warring’s Independent Grocer and the Canadian Tire store on the weekend. Evidently, more must be done to educate the public and illegal dumping in the community.
A meeting has been scheduled with REAL representatives on June 1 to discuss these and other recommendations with the council, he said.
Raw energy. Commitment. Community environmental action. These were all things the board of the Rideau Environmental Action League (REAL) could point to as carrying the group to its impressive 10th anniversary. However, what the group still didn’t have was a mission statement. So when a major grantor made a strategic planning exercise a condition for a grant, REAL turned to the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC) for help.
“It really is invaluable to have the sort of assistance that OHCC provided,” says Susan Brandum, a REAL board member who participated in the strategic planning exercise. “In REAL we had very little expertise in the basics of how you run a non-profit, volunteer board, or a board meeting-all those essential soft skills that really help an organization get its work done.”
What REAL did have were dozens of dedicated volunteers and broad environmental goals. During the past dozen years, as part of Ontario’s Green Communities movement, the eastern Ontario group has raised public awareness and tackled issues from watershed protection and recycling to the health and environmental costs of pesticide use.
However, says Brandum, all these activities challenged the group’s human resources. REAL board members found that the group was sometimes overextended. The board’s own meetings often lacked clear focus, in part due to the lack of formal meeting procedures. At times this left REAL’s volunteer board members frustrated and spending too much time and energy on internal issues rather than addressing local environmental problems.
REAL turned to community animator Kara Symbolic. She’s one of eight local health and environment community animators located throughout Ontario who deliver support through the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC). The OHCC animators support local activities which operate on the premise that social, environmental and economic factors are interrelated and have a major impact on human health.
“The range of things that we do for groups is very flexible and it’s tailored specifically to each group’s needs,” says Symbolic, who works on a consultative basis with about 40 environmental and health groups in eastern Ontario. This support includes helping groups network, plan and access sustainable financial support.
Symbolic began REAL’s strategic planning process by meeting individually with each of the ten board members. This allowed her to respond to each board member’s questions about the strategic planning process. She also developed an overview of the board’s concerns and hopes.
The core of the strategic planning process was a full-day workshop facilitated by Symbolic. The workshop addressed process issues such as running an effective board meeting. Board members also collectively identify REAL’s strength’s, weakness, and organizational opportunities.
“There’s a huge benefit to having done a strategic plan,” reflects REAL’s Susan Brandum. “Now we’re at the point of doing annual plans. Two years ago our organizational culture was to race from one thing to the next. Now we can think about our plans for a few years out and plan to gather the resources to achieve our goals.”
Simply cutting back on energy use at one’s home and office can result in savings of money and more importantly saving the environment.
Cutting back on energy consumption will also help in reducing the number of smog warnings and alerts this summer. There are several very small adjustments that can be done to cut back on energy use and some of those are outlined on the Canadian Office of Energy Efficiency website at www.oee.nrcan.gc.ca.
“It is a matter of really just starting to think more about the energy we use and how we use it, “ said Susan Brandum, manager of LLGreen, a project of the Rideau Environmental Action League. “We are in an electricity crisis and we are in a climate change crisis.”
Brandum notes there is a “consequence to smog” explaining it affects the environment and the health care system.
She says in the summer there is a “vicious cycle” which translates into a hot day and people cranking up their air conditioners. This then puts pressure on electricity production. Dirty coal-fired generators are then put to use, which contributes to smog-causing pollutants.
Changes in our daily routines don’t have to be drastic to give the environment and our pocketbooks a helping hand, Brandum says. Turning the air conditioning down a few notches, not using appliances such as a dryer in the summer, opening windows at night to let he cool air in and closing them during the day, closing the drapes during the daytime to keep the hot sun out, using a kettle to boil water instead of the stove, changing old lightbulbs in favour of compact fluorescent ones are just some possibilities.
Activities which should be avoided particularly on a smog alert day include mowing the lawn or using any two cycle engine. Painting should be avoided, and Brandum says motorists should not leave their cars idling on a smog alert day or any day for that matter.
“It is just a win, win, win to save energy all year round,” she explained.
Particularly in the Smiths Falls and Rideau Canal area, people should turn off their cars when waiting for the bridges to shift back into position at the locks. She notes turning the vehicle off also saves on gas costs, which are on the rise.
For those interested in receiving Ministry of the Environment smog alerts, they can log onto the ministry site at www.ene.gov.on.ca.
Information on ways to aid the environment in the summer and all year round are included.
Something else to consider when buying new appliances around the home, Brandum says, is researching energy conscious appliances. Look for a EnerGuide or Energy Star label, which means the appliances are energy efficient.
It was built by volunteers as a memorial to Canadian war veterans and peacekeepers. Yet vandals continue to desecrate the pathway along Evergreen Avenue in Victoria, report the project’s committee chair.
Last Friday, Dick Donaldson and Peter Au, key contributors to this community and environmental project, proudly displaying the handiwork of a small army of volunteers from the day before. More than a dozen individuals – form teens to seniors – worked side by side making repairs to walkway paver lights, many of which were damaged – some by vandals, others by accident — over the past year.
Both say the vandals will not be allowed to ruin this beautification project.
“There’s been a lot of work put into this,” Au said. “We want to keep it as a living memorial for veterans and peacekeepers.”
Many of the in-ground paver lights, donated to the project by local business owner Glen Kerr, also feature a nameplate which is dedicated in memory of a war veteran or a family members, or as a tribute to a friend.
Donaldson says there’s always a need for more volunteers to come and help with the upkeep of the project, whether that be maintaining the shrubs and trees which have been planted, the walkways or benches. To join, call 283-3274.
He adds the assistance from the town, in particular Giles Laming, and his crews from the utility/environmental services department has been immeasurable.
“I can’t say enough about the town. The cooperation’s been great,” he said.
“They’re so agreeable it’s not funny.”
For the committee chair, the best part of Evergreen Avenue is coming down to Victoria Park and talking to people.
“The boaters always have questions,” he said. “Everybody remarks at how beautiful this park is.”
Keeping it that ways is the goal. Donaldson says he hopes a stepped up police presence with help deter vandals, but he also hopes neighbourhood residents step forward to act as the eyes for the police when they’re not there an report in when they see something suspicious.
“We need everybody’s help, “ Au said.
“What we really need is … to have members of the public looking out for these people (vandals),” Donaldson added. “I’m sure that somebody must see them.”
Bending the ear of the prime minister is not something municipal leaders get to do often, so Tuesday’s 90-minute session with Paul Martin was unique.
In front of a phalanx of national television cameras in a cramped Recreation Centre room, Martin met with 20 local mayors, wardens, hospital reps, farmers and economic development representatives to get a feel for local issues. The March 2 town hall meeting was rescheduled from a Feb. 13 session which Martin could not attend due to the death of former Quebec Premier Claude Ryan.
Saying it was very important smaller municipalities could speak at a national level, Martin wanted to hear the issues affecting those in Lanark and Frontenac counties. Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington MP Larry McCormick hosted the session.
Mayor Dennis Staples said the needs of Smiths Falls residents are not that much different from those across the country. Infrastructure needs to be right up there but so is the source of funding for these improvements.
Having rebuilt its sewage treatment plant, the town faces the daunting task of building a new water treatment plant, arena as well as refurbishing its hospital.
The mayor added he was encouraged by the leadership of the federal government in hosting such a meeting but hoped for enhanced communication among all levels of government.
“Citizens expect that two levels of government, provincial and federal, have to bring together government into the new century. I hope municipalities can be part of that as well. I thank you for your leadership in delivering the Throne Speech in which you talked about the GST rebate (for municipalities) and the gasoline tax, “ Staples stated.
Perth major Dennis Cordick said the challenges in his town are also not unique and that the downloading of services has become a big financial burden for those already burdened with property taxes.
“I agree with the mayor of Smiths Falls on this one. The three levels of government must be working in tandem. The left hand has to start doing what the right hand has already done.”
Both Paul Howard and Sterling Bennett voiced their concern for the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital and its funding challenges. According to Bennett, health care costs have risen up to eight per cent annually which translates in to a $1.6 million shortfall this year coupled with shortfalls in the two previous years.
“It’s a very negative financial situation for the hospital, “ Bennett said.
Howard, as chair of the $23 million hospital redevelopment project at the Smiths Falls site, said the federal government needs to do more in terms of funding capital projects. With the province kicking in just 50 per cent of the Smiths Falls total, the remaining $11.5 million is jut too much to ask of local taxpayers, he stated.
Downloaded provincial responsibilities have also impacted on the Rideau Roundtable and the Rideau Environmental Action League, according to Peter Au. His costs are going up and funding needs to be secured by June. Along with declining resources, he also raised the issue of having an aging volunteer base. He asked the prime minister to set up a meeting with others interested in preserving the environment.
John Doherty of Valley Heartland Community Futures Development Corporation indicated the need for recognition of economic development outside of urban areas. He as concerned that Valley Heartland, while it is funded by the federal government, is not part of a regional economic development agency such is the case elsewhere. He said for some reason Valley Heartland was grouped in with southern Ontario which does not operate on a regional scale for community development. But he also added Valley Heartland does deliver well-needed business and skills development, along with youth attractive and retention.
In response to Staples’ concern over the infrastructure of a 55-year-old arena, Martin quipped that his own 55-year-old infrastructure was till in pretty good shape. But he did add that access to capital for small municipalities is necessary. In speaking directly to the Ottawa media assembled in front of him, the prime minister said it was a tremendous thing to know that regional development was not a waste of money.
“It is a basic principle to put money into economic development to build broadband and to build roads, to enable rural Canada to develop, “ he said.
In reply to Staples’ need for all levels of government to work together, Martin said there has to be a better working relationship. With all three levels currently cash-strapped, there is even more demand for improved communication. One thing Martin would like to see this month is a meeting between his eastern Ontario caucus and the eastern Ontario warden’s caucus.
“This is the reason why this meeting today was so important… I want to be able to make people feel good about themselves so I can go out and talk abut a Canadian vision, a national dialogue which is the purpose of me coming here,” the prime minister said.