Many large trees were cut for Box Grove
Development in Markham (January, 2004).
Urooted stumps of a few of the trees cut
for Box Grove Development (January, 2004).
Markham – Less than 4% Forest Cover
Markham Council needs to develop a plan to move Markham from its embarrassingly low 4% forest cover towards York Region's Offical Plan forest cover target of more than 25%.
Vision and leadership will be necessary to make this happen. Unfortunately, if recent development approvals like Box Grove are any indication, that leadership is not yet forthcoming.
Box Grove Secondary Plan – Bad Environmental Planning
The Box Grove lands are adjacent to the nationally significant Rouge River Park. Streams flow through the Box Grove lands towards the Little Rouge and Rouge Rivers. Despite this planning context, Markham Council and the Ontario Municipal Board approved a Plan with:
- clear-cutting of hundreds of mature trees, leaving less forest cover;
- poor stormwater management that will increase erosion, pollution and fish habitat damage;
- stormwater facilities within unduly narrow and inadequately-protected stream corridors;
- eight road crossings that threaten to sever and block fish and wildlife corridors and public trails;
- development methods that are contrary to good environmental planning standards.
- development on top of ancestral village sites of First Nations.
If Markham Council had a Strategic Plan to increase forest cover, it could improve the health of the Rouge Park and its fish and wildlife habitat and it could improve local air quality and outdoor recreation opportunities. By providing more forests and parklands for Markham residents to enjoy, Council could protect and enhance local quality of life and property values.
Salvaging Some Environmental Protection
Let's hope a leader steps forward soon, before the opportunities for 25% forest cover in Markham are lost forever. Until then, we are asking the Provincial Government and Markham Council to mitigate some of the damage to Box Grove and the Rouge River Watershed by:
- locating stormwater ponds outside of flood plain and stream corridor areas;
- designing the stormwater system for Level 1 Cold water fish habitat protection;
- requiring stormwater treatment to achieve the Provincial Water Quality Objectives;
- protecting riparian soils and vegetation from disturbance during development; and,
- protecting First Nation Village sites from disturbance.
Death of a Thousand Cuts
Box Grove is another example of how the Rouge River watershed is in danger of dying the death of a thousand small cuts. Considered on its own, each cut (development) does not represent a mortal wound, however, added together these cuts are killing water quality, air quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and quality of life in the GTA.
Box Grove Secondary Plan Map.
Click to enlarge.
The hamlet of Box Grove is located at the 9th Line and 14th Avenue at the eastern edge of Markham. The Box Grove development is between the 9th Line and Reesor Road and Hwy 407 and the Havelock rail line.
The land around Box Grove was purchased by the Ontario Government in the 1970s as part of a greenbelt plan to separate Markham and planned developments in Pickering such as a federal airport and a new community.
The Markham and York Region Official Plans put rural designations on most of the Box Grove lands. Unfortunately, the Harris government sold the Box Grove lands to a developer in the late 1990s. Ontario's Environmental Commissioner criticized this land sale because it was done without the legally required public consultations and environmental reviews.
Markham and York Councils both amended their Official Plans to allow urban sprawl on several hundred acres around Box Grove. To make matters worse, they refused to apply good ecological planning principles to the proposed development.