My Good Bye Speech at the End of my Term as GRCA Chair
(GRCA has a term limit of 5 years for Chair)
I have had an amazing five years as Chair. Thank you to the incredible staff at GRCA for all they do. Thank you to Joe Farwell our CAO who started when I did and continues to work hard to make GRCA the best it can be.
There have been many changes in five years. I promised to streamline our meetings and administration and that has happened. We have gone from two vice chairs to one. The meetings only look at the essentials, taking a morning instead of all day. A lunch no one ate has been cut back and moved to delicious snacks.
The GRCA is now much closer to the Grand River Conservation Foundation, though still at arm’s length. The GRCF now raises about a million dollars a year.
A couple of years ago, Conservation Ontario was not meeting with the ministry of Natural Resources. I got a slot at AMO to talk to the minister and Eleanor McMahon MPP who I had met through the bicycling coalition. This led to a close working relationship between Eleanor and Kim Gavine the CAO of Conservation Ontario. Joe is on many committees of CO and I was a Director.
I don’t know if we will have sunny ways ahead. However the Conservation Act review looks hopeful and CO has booked an advocacy day at Queens Park in the spring that the new Chair and Joe will attend.
Climate change looms large with its potential for destructive storms and flooding. GRCA will be part of the climate change preparedness committee of the Region of Waterloo and its cities and I’m sure the other cities are looking at doing this vital work. Emerald Ash Borer continues to spread.
The Source Water Protection plan for the Grand has been approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and it looks like some funding for implementation will remain.
The conservation areas remain an important part of our income and the new automatic gate at Shades Mills is a good start to increased winter and summer attendance. We have to do something about our passive lands like Snyder’s Flats, Dumfries and Puslinch if we want them to remain refuges for flora and fauna and pleasant hikes for the public. Whether gates or increased enforcement or both remains to be seen.
As always, finances remain important. We now have healthy reserves and Joe continues to work on better staffing, including the introduction of an HR and bargaining position. We will have a new website that will continue to be one of the few places people can get real time data on the watershed and properties, cutting down on many phone calls and staff time. But money is always tight and retirements mean many changes. Joe has done a fine job of encouraging mentoring for promotions in the future.
In June, I am going to the International Making Cities Liveable Conference in Rome to present a paper on “Using Partnerships to turn an Open Sewer into an Award Winning River and to Protect Local Drinking Water Aquifers”. That’s speaking about our Watershed and our many successes cleaning up and protecting our environment.
Finally, I would like to personally thank Joe Farwell for his leadership of GRCA. I would also like to thank the board for making my job chairing and leading easy. I’m glad I’ll still be on the board for at least the next few years and am looking forward as always to tree planting, LaTornell, and Heritage Day.