Charlottetown’s dwindling natural assets

Four freshwater streams travel through green space, industry, and densely populated neighbourhoods to empty into the Charlottetown Harbour. They make up part of the Hillsborough River complex – a heritage river with great cultural and natural significance for Islanders. While some of the upper reaches have been buried over the course of the City’s development, 9.5 km of freshwater stream habitat in Ellen’s, Wright’s, Hermitage, and Hazard Creeks remained in 2015.

In August 2015, City Council formally accepted the Brook Trout Conservation and Protection Plan through resolution during its public meeting. 

The five-year management plan includes five goals. Objective 3.1, under Goal 3 “Protect water quantity in Ellen’s, Wright’s and Hermitage Creeks”, states:

Work with the City and province to develop long-term protection for remaining green space in headwater areas of all three creeks. As the City grows, there will be increasing pressure to develop the farmland that remains in the headwaters of Ellen’s, Wright’s and Hermitage Creeks. Ultimately there will be a reduction in groundwater discharge to the three City streams, lowering stream levels and limiting habitat. There is a need for a long-term vision for green space preservation similar to that seen in larger Canadian cities like Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton where streams, ravines and riparian margins are permanently protected from development.

Red circle: planned developments

Map of known locations for storm-water discharges to Ellen’s Creek showing 5831 m3 at 10 mm rainfall, the second highest on the map:

Red circle: planned developments

More good news in December 2020: “The City of Charlottetown has partnered with the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) to develop its own natural asset inventory. The inventory will include a list of natural assets such as wetlands, streams, fields, and forests, and outline the boundaries of the City’s assets.”

The not-so-good news:

In April 2021, the City hosted a public meeting to present its “West Royalty Commercial Area Traffic Plan”, the new road network intended to accommodate future planned developments surrounding the very lands City Council had accepted to protect through the Brook Trout Conservation and Protection Plan. And even if the City completes the natural asset inventory, by how much will that inventory be reduced if the anticipated developments occur?

The Future Conditions 2041 image is striking not only because of the massive area covered by projected developments, but also because of the surfaces representing parking lots, the shopping mall, strip malls, and mega-stores. The narrow green belt is all that is left of the natural land bordering the creek (riparian zone).

Why, for instance, is the City not encouraging developers to use the built environment? Other cities have been reducing their parking minimum requirements or redeveloping parking lots and existing buildings. Charlottetown would benefit from both options, as would Charlottetowners, Islanders, and visitors.

If you care about the protection and preservation of our natural green spaces and freshwater streams, please let your councillor know. Or leave a comment. Thank you.


Related post: The Value of Natural Assets (3 May 2021)