Essex Region – Fifty years ago today, on July 18,1973, the Essex Region Conservation Authority was founded as the 37th Conservation Authority in Ontario by Order in Council 1900/73, which stated “the Authority has jurisdiction over the watersheds of all streams within the County of Essex flowing into Lake St. Clair, Detroit River and Lake Erie…”. An office was established in what is now MacKenzie Hall in Windsor, and Robert Pulleyblank, former Reeve of Sandwich South Township was elected as its first Chairman.
Over the past five decades, significant strides have been made in improving the sustainability of the Windsor-Essex-Pelee Island region.
“When ERCA was established in 1973, the natural areas coverage of the region was at about 3%,” says Tim Byrne, ERCA CAO. “Since that time, we’ve planted nearly 7 million trees and restored thousands of acres of natural habitat, and our regional coverage is now more than 8.5%.”
As well, ERCA has protected more than 10,000 homes from the dangers of flooding and erosion, established 16 publicly accessible conservation areas, developed more than 80 kilometres of connect Greenway Trail system, and has connected hundreds of thousands of children to nature through Conservation Education programs.
The Authority led the regional charge to protect drinking water at its source, and to have the Detroit River designated as a Canadian Heritage River. To this day, it is the only river in North America with both Canadian and American Heritage River designations.
Despite being one of the last authorities to be formed, it was the first to undertake comprehensive shoreline mapping and regulations, resulting in the protection of new development from flooding and erosion.
“It is truly remarkable to reflect upon not only the many conservation successes that have taken place over all these years, but also the challenges that we have overcome,” Byrne goes on to say. “And while we’ve drastically improved the state of sustainability of our region, there is still much work to be done to ensure we are resilient to the impacts of climate change, and to balance development and the environment so that we don’t leave an ecological deficit for future generations. We look forward to working with our member municipalities, senior levels of government, and our many partners to continue to implement the watershed-based conservation initiatives which continue to be so important to our region.”
A public celebration of ERCA’s 50 years of conservation was held on Sunday at the John R. Park Homestead. The exhibits featuring highlights from the past 50 years will remain at the Homestead until Sunday, July 23. As well, a curated art exhibit entitled “50 Years of Conservation – Through the Artist’s Eye’ will remain on display through Labour Day.
The Essex Region Conservation Authority is a public sector organization established by the Province of Ontario and governed by local municipalities. For 50 years, it has delivered programs and services that further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources in watersheds in Ontario.