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AGM 2021 – President’s Report

Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour

Annual General Meeting, Tuesday, November 30, 2021

President’s Report

This year, due to COVID, we did not engage in a lot of public activities. Zoom meetings have been the order of the day. As the bimonthly newsletters and updates provide a full accounting of our activities throughout the years and it is always up-to-date, thanks to Ben Kelly for his timely updating , what follows here is a very bare summary of the highlights. If you want to read the full accounting from month to month here is the link: 

NOTE: We are seriously considering switching our current fiscal year which ends at the end of June, to a fiscal year that corresponds with the calendar year. In light of that, this President’s report reports on events, concerns and issues from January to December 2021.

January & February:

Skating in the Inner Harbour was the best ever. Thanks to David McDonald of the Water Access Group for shoveling to make the initial pathways on the river for everyone to enjoy skating and skiing.

Of note politically, RAID was established (Residents Against Inappropriate Development).  Although this organization is specifically about the Walnut Grove community near Rona, the implications for the Patry development there, re clearcutting of an extensive Urban Forest, have direct bearing on what Patry plans for the old Tannery site in the Inner Harbour.  

Sadly at a Council meeting later in the spring, Council voted to allow the proposed development near walnut Groveto go ahead with the loss of 200 trees, 15 of which were large black walnuts. Council was conflicted but felt the need for more housing trumped the need to save trees.

March & April: Although not officially part of the Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour,

 three new sister organizations came into being addressing issues which we compliment our concerns:

1) Just Recovery Kingston (focusing on Transit and Community Gardens),

2) River First YGK (focusing on issues to do with the proposed 70 million dollar clean-up of the river following an April 6 Council meeting where city staff had requested Council to collaborate with Transport/Parks/Procurement Canada and Golder Consultants on this “clean-up” initiative – the necessity of which many of us question), and

3) Little Forests Kingston (focusing on creating small Urban Forests within the city boundaries).

In addition, the Integrated Care Hub at 661 Montreal St. was established, It has created ongoing concerns for the immediate neighbourhood, for Belle Park and Belle Island, and for Quattrocchi’s store due to a marked increase in theft, vandalism, destruction of trees in the park, piles of garbage in the park, campsites, and fires that has occurred – and continues to occur to the present day. 

Our concerns with the proposed federal clean-up project were outlined clearly in our April 2021 Update quoted here in full:

“Dear Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour.
This is a very short mid-April update focused only on the shoreline issue. 
It is my obligation to educate as much as possible concerning Inner Harbour issues. This is major!
All the purple areas on the map are where Inner Harbour dredging is proposed.  The turquoisy areas are where capping is proposed.  The yellowy hatched areas are where revetment (large shoreline rock wall) is being proposed.  This will radically change the Doug Fluhrer Park shoreline.
We remain very concerned about the proposed remediation project for the Inner Harbour shoreline.  For the time being we are doing what we can to work behind the scenes to access more information as to the rationale underlying this project.
At this point we have a small working group trying to get access to the research reports upon which the proposed remediation plan is based.
A bit of back-story:  Bob Clark of Metal Craft Marine alerted me to what was being proposed initially.  Evidently all property owners along the Inner Harbour were alerted.  I then contacted Dave Lawrence, the federal contact in charge of the file and was told that POSSIBLE procedures MIGHT involve things like dredging and capping.  So I was actually quite shocked to see the map showing exactly where they are planning on doing that all laid out in the report to Council.  Clearly, the plan was already formulated – not a question of POSSIBLE or MIGHT! That’s when I wrote my concerns in my April newsletter. Then Mark Ladan of CKWS contacted me for an interview.  Then Jeffrey Giacomin, Chemical Engineering prof, saw the CKWS feature and contacted me with his serious concerns.  I recommended that he do a delegation at Council which he did – along with 6 others.  In addition to Bob Clark of Metal Craft Marine, there was Jeffrey Giacomin (Chemical Engineering prof and Canada Research Chair), Elvira Hufschmid (Environmental Ethicist), Lesley Rudy (Biologist/Turtle Researcher) and Mabyn Armstrong (Turtles Kingston), me (Mary Farrar) and Laurel Claus-Johnson (Mohawk Grandmother).  The delegations were wide ranging and scary. Council was shocked. 
Lisa Osanic put forward a motion to defer accepting the report.  The report had suggested that the city cooperate with Transport Canada/Parks Canada by contributing  $1-2 million to a $71 million plan for Inner Harbour clean-up.  Lisa’s motion said Council needed more information before making this serious decision.  She proposed a meeting to be held with the City’s Environment, Infrastructure, and Transportation Policies Committee (EITP) where someone from Transport Canada would be present to answer questions from Council and the public.  Council agreed. We are waiting to hear when this EITP committee meeting will be.
According to Dave Lawrence, the federal contact, originally public hearings were slated for July.  Somewhere  in the background is an RFP (Request for Proposals) for some consulting firm to be hired.  At this point we are confused as to whether this RFP is for the dredging work, or the public consultation process, or both.  One of our group members is looking into this.  Last heard, some public consultation was slated for May.  Not sure if this might be the EITP meeting.
In brief, our concerns are the following:
a) dredging and capping would re-suspend contaminated particulate causing harm upstream and downstream.  Jeffrey Giacomin says drinking water and swimming would be impacted.
b) revetment (putting those large rocks along the shoreline) doesn’t make sense for a couple of reasons.  If it is to prevent erosion, it actually causes erosion when rain and wave action causes water to go between the rocks loosening soil.  If the purpose is to prevent people from accessing the water, it doesn’t make sense because nobody goes in the water along that shoreline – except to get in and out of kayaks.  So why spend 1-2 million needlessly.
c) Am ongoing problem with the contaminants along the south shore of Belle Park is the storm sewer.  When there is a storm surge raw sewage is dumped in the Orchard Street Marsh.  It is cleaned up somewhat by the cattails.  However, the surges keep re-digging up the contaminants, moving them along a bit and then redepositing them.
d) Currently Nature is doing an amazing job of burying the contaminants.  Heavy metals combine with acids from rotting vegetation, sink to the bottom and bind with clay forming a paste of sorts.  With the passage of time, the contaminants are being buried successfully.  Dredging and capping could be like re-opening the Tannery creating more damage than leaving well enough alone.
e) No adequate rationale appears to be given as to why dredging, capping and revetment are being suggested when the research points to low risk levels.    The Executive Summary of the 2014 RMC Report and more recent studies done by Golder and SNC Lavalin give no adequate rationale for dredging or capping. 

f) We have no idea how the $71 million will be spent or how was that estimate arrived at?
g) Metal Craft Marine will have to shut down their business for two years.  They employ 95 people. 
Also Transport Canada has said they will not renew their lease to use slips in the water lots so the KingstonMarina will have to shut down.  The dry dock will have to shut down.
h) The impact on the turtle population will be huge
i) Most importantly, If Transport Canada really wants to deal with the contaminant problem, what needs to be done is to first clean up the brownfields on land and deal with storm sewer issues.  Otherwise, the problem won’t go away and will have to be addressed again down the road as more contaminant is washed into the river through underground water systems, both natural and man-made.  This would seem like a huge waste of $71 million dollars of tax payer money.
For now we are trying to do what we can behind the scenes.
More information about the Council meeting is here:”

This clean-up initiative continues to be of grave concern. See Sept & Oct. below

May & June

I was appointed to the Sir John A working group which has involved meeting with colleagues, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to respond to the question about what to do about the Sir John A. statue. As this is not officially part of the Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour’s mandate I will not discuss it here except to say that the group has divided up topics among group members and we are working on where the statue should be placed, what plaques should say, and what additional information, under which headings, should be put online.

Similarly, although it is not officially part of the FKIH mandate to advocate for saving the character of Kingston’s Heritage downtown,  I am personally supportive of the initiatives put forward by the Frontenac Heritage Foundation. It is up to individual members how they decide to act on the various high rise initiatives being put forward by the city. However, I do consider it my responsibility to inform our members of what is happening. via monthly newsletters.

The most wonderful thing that happened in June was to do with the canoe we built in Sept 2020.

It has been officially adopted by the Bridge Program of the Limestone Board of Education. The Grades 1-4 students have officially adopted it as a fellow student. Here is a wonderful video of repairing the canoe in June – As I did not write a second news update in June this was not included at the time. Here is the link if you haven’t seen it already – 

Another wonderful thing to do with the canoe was our participation in Calliope Collective’s Water Parade called Hydra. This was originally envisioned as consisting of 15 floats on different themes that people would watch going by in the water from Doug Fluhrer Park. Due to COVID however, it was scaled back to just 4 floats.  The FKIH theme was history. So we had our birch bark canoe with two Indigenous paddlers and an Indigenous flag carrier paddling beside a settler canoe with paddlers and flag carrier in settler garb. The two canoes paddled side-by-side.  The flags were two row wampum flags – symbolizing the original agreement between settlers and Indigenous peoples where two groups were sharing the land and the water, each guaranteed their own autonomy. 

Here is a link to the description – 

And here is the link to the video of the event – 

So sorry that neither of these June highlights made it to the newsletters. Just too busy being involved.

July & August

In these summer months we became extremely concerned about the proposed Tannery development.  Council has voted to allow a clear cut of all of the trees to clean up the contamination. Given developer Patrys’ past performance of cutting corners, we are concerned about the quality of the clean-up and the monitoring. We are also concerned about the design which involves covering the cleaned-up site with a clay cap and covering that with two feet of soil – insufficient to plant any trees at all. He also wants to fill in part of the provincially significant wetland and obliterate the substantial turtle habitat along the shoreline in order to build a new boathouse for the rowing club.  Further information about all of this can be found in the August newsletter.

Another important event in August was the participation of our birch bark canoe in the Marine Museum’s welcoming of Theodore Tugboat in August.  Fun was had by all.

There were also problems reported with the turbidity curtain for the Third Crossing as muskrats had eaten into the covering and bits of Styrofoam were to be found all over the north shore of Belle Island and also along the shore of Lake Ontario Park. Worrying!  The Third Crossing Team has assured us that they are solving the problem.

A River First YGK community event was also held in August to draw attention to the issues we are facing with development concerns as well as inform people about a fun arts display to do with visualizing the fish that used to live in the inner Harbour.  

For more information, have a look at the August update – . 

September & October

The September Update was a Special Edition focused on housing. The Integrated Care Hub is turning out to be problematic for both clients, for the local neighbourhood, and for Belle Island. Here are a few of the problems:

1) It is not a safe injection site.  Addicts are given needles and Naloxone kits to go out into the woods to shoot up.  Then they leave their needles and used Naloxone kits along with other piles of garbage.

2) The number of tents is increasing. When by-laws is called, they have to notify the campers and give them 48 hours notice. So, what happens is that the campers simply move a short distance away, cut down more trees for supports. Then front-end loaders come in to get rid of the garbage and uproot healthy trees in the process.  It is a mess.

3) Drug dealers are increasing with the market available.

4) Robberies are increasing as addicts need money to pay for their drugs.

5) Quattrocchi’s store is suffering in many ways.\

6) The homeless are not one group. The recently homeless people want nothing to do with the addicts.

What is needed is more federal and provincial money for programming and housing.  The bureaucracies are complicated and tend to favour the developers.

In the depression the federal government considered it their responsibility to deal with homelessness. But with Reaganomics, both Chretien and Mulrooney ceased funding housing saying it should not be the responsibility of governments.  And here we are today. – in this mess. Community members and groups are trying to do what they can, as is the city but so much more needs to be done.  We took MP Mark Gerretsen, MPP Ian Arthur, and several councillors out to view the mess.  So far, it hasn’t amounted to much.

November & December

Basically we are keeping tabs on the ongoing issues described above.

The Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour had a Stakeholder’s meeting with the federal government departments of Transport, Parks and Procurement and with Golder consultants on the proposed Inner Harbour clean-up. We are extremely grateful to FKIH members Gerhard Pratt (former head of Earth Sciences at Western University, Peter Hodson (Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences at Queen’s University), and Herb Helmsteadt (former head of the Earth Sciences department at Queen’s University )for their truly excellent and well-informed input on clean-up issues. We submitted an 8 page list of questions and concerns. We are awaiting a reply. We will also be participating in the Belle Island Caretakers’ Circle Stakeholder’s meeting coming up on December 2.

We are also partnering with the Museum of the Great Lakes in an exhibit about canoes that will highlight our birch bark canoe. As part of that exhibit, Rick Revelle, local Algonquin writer will be giving a Zoom talk on December 2. All are invited.