Future of Oro Moraine hangs in the balance, says naturalist
‘If we lose it, it will not come back,’ says Bob Bowles; Oro Moraine about 35,000 acres in size, extending 21 kilometres from Orillia west to Highway 400 past Craighurst
from OrilliaToday,Bob Bruton, Dec11,2022
A crash course on the Oro Moraine’s history, and its precarious future, were the main streams of conversation Saturday afternoon at Jarratt Community Hall.
Organizers had to bring in extra chairs at the Oro-Medonte Township hall to handle the interest.
Guest speaker Bob Bowles, a naturalist, writer, artist and educator from Orillia, took the audience back centuries to trace the moraine, a natural landform created during the last ice age approximately 12,000 years ago.
“If we lose it, it will not come back,” said Bowles. “There is great biodiversity in the Oro Moraine.”
He mentioned wetlands, which are of particular interest to Bowles, wildlife and species at risk.
A moraine is an accumulation of earth and stones, carried and finally deposited by a glacier.
The Oro Moraine is about 35,000 acres in size, extending 21 kilometres from Orillia west to Highway 400 past Craighurst, and about six kilometres wide.
Many rivers, streams and creeks originate in the moraine which flow into all the major watersheds in Simcoe County, which ultimately find their way to either Georgian Bay to the west and Severn Sound to the north to Lake Huron, or Lake Simcoe to the south.
These rivers, creeks and streams sustain critically important wetlands, many which are provincially significant including Copeland Forest and the internationally recognized Minesing Wetlands.
The moraine essentially collects, filters/cleans and stores water, serving to replenish its aquifers and provide drinking water to thousands of Simcoe County residents, including all of Oro-Medonte Township.
But the Oro Moraine is threatened by residential development, if not now then in the immediate future.
Like other regions of Ontario, Simcoe County is required to plan for projected growth by the provincial government, under the Places to Grow Act, by 2051.
Large development projects are focused in areas on the Oro Moraine, including Horseshoe Valley and Craighurst. Horseshoe Valley in particular is on a critical area of the moraine.
The Oro Moraine occupies approximately 20 per cent of the township, which leaves 80 per cent of Oro-Medonte in which growth can be allocated — as opposed to the moraine.
Bowles questioned the necessity for large residential development in the township, period. He noted Oro-Medonte Township’s population is 24,500 this year and, citing the Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan, it’s projected at 27,000 in 2031.
“That’s 2,500 more (people). So why this rush for big development?” he asked. “Development pressure is great in Oro-Medonte. Do you really need the development? What says we need it?”
Kim Kosari, founder of Save the Oro-Medonte Moraine, noted some of these proposed developments are massive and could destroy the moraine.
“What can be done?” she asked, before suggesting the township’s council, elected Oct. 24, could put a moratorium on new development, pass interim control bylaws, do more studies, etc.
“When we see these sensitive areas we have to be aware, to affect and put pressure on those who make the decisions,” Bowles said.
Oro-Medonte Township council members present Saturday were Mayor Randy Greenlaw and Couns. Lori Hutcheson, John Bard, Peter Lavoie and Robert Young, while Couns. David Clark and Richard Schell had previous commitments.
Saturday’s meeting ended with a question and answer session, which ranged in discussion topics from archaeological sites and recharge areas to the impact of Bill 23, Ontario’s More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022.
But also that Oro-Medonte’s new draft Official Plan (OP), which designates land use, doesn’t protect the Oro Moraine like previous OPs.