February 2022 marks one year since the landmark Trent Lands and Nature Areas Plan received Board of Governors approval. Building on three years of in-depth engagement with Trent students, staff and faculty, Michi Saagiig First Nations, and the broader community, the approved plan (and its guiding principles) has been the catalyst to launching several key initiatives, including the University Green Network (UGN), the University-Integrated Seniors Village, Cleantech Commons and the Trent Farm.
“The Lands Plan is a long-term vision for Trent’s Symons campus and sets a new standard in campus planning best practice,” says Julie Davis, vice president of External Relations and Development at Trent. “The initiatives currently underway will advance our vision of an inspiring, sustainable, and complete campus community in which to learn, live, innovate, and be active.”
UGN: Protecting our natural environment
The Lands Plan introduced the University Green Network (UGN), a large and connected 868-acre system that includes diverse habitats, wildlife corridors, productive landscapes and green spaces that support ecological function and biodiversity. It is how Trent will achieve its commitment to maintaining 60 per cent of the Symons Campus lands as Nature Areas and green spaces. An important part of that commitment is to be an active caretaker of these lands.
A recent grant from TD Bank Group will help advance the environmental stewardship of the UGN and support a primary goal of the Lands and Nature Areas Plan – to protect, enhance and restore these natural resources, while fostering biological diversity and sustaining ecosystem function. This stewardship plan will be developed and implemented in collaboration with Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nations to include Indigenous Traditional Knowledge (ITK) and to engage Indigenous youth in this work.
Trent has also been successful in attracting a grant from the Echo Foundation to create management plans for each of its 11 Nature Areas. With these two grants, Trent will be hiring a Land Stewardship Coordinator to lead this work and engage with the campus and local community. The advancement of these stewardship and management plans will allow the University to demonstrate best practices in care for the natural environment, in keeping with its reputation as a leading environmental university.
Addressing community needs through the University-Integrated Seniors Village
In March 2021, a collaboration between Trent and peopleCare Communities to build a 224-bed not-for-profit long-term care (LTC) home on Trent’s Symons Campus was approved by the province. This was welcome news for our region where almost 2,500 people are waiting for a LTC bed. The collaboration is anchored in a Research and Teaching Agreement to develop and implement promising practices in LTC to enhance the quality of life and care for seniors, and to influence care practices throughout the sector. Additionally, a minimum of 100 experiential learning placements will be created for students each year in programs such as nursing, kinesiology, social work, business, sustainable agriculture, and education.
In keeping with the landscape-led principles outlined in the Lands and Nature Areas Plan, Trent has collaborated with local First Nations to complete a detailed natural heritage review of the Seniors Village site and submitted that for approval in advance of any detailed planning for the location of buildings. This is a novel approach to planning that Trent hopes will be adopted by others, ensuring that the natural environment dictates what is built where. The findings of the natural heritage report were shared with the community in a public information session in May, showcasing that two thirds of the site will remain natural and protected as a Nature Area. Trent has also been working with faculty in graduate studies, the School of the Environment, and Biology, to implement long-term monitoring of wetlands in the Nature Area. Students will collect data as part of their classwork, enabling them to contribute to the health of our vital watershed.
Developing a “gold standard relationship” with local First Nations
A key priority of the Lands Plan was to engage deeply with First Nations and include Indigenous Traditional Knowledge. Since approval of the Plan, the University has commissioned an additional report on culturally significant features and advice on ITK best practice. The field research for this report saw Elders and Traditional Knowledge Holders touring the grounds for three days of surveys. The exercise produced several important findings and offered an invaluable opportunity for Trent staff to learn on the land.
Educating the community about the treaty and traditional territory of Trent’s campuses is also a key priority of the Plan. Trent, in close collaboration with the Elders & Traditional Knowledge Keepers Council, unveiled a unique “Treaty Rock” installation on National Truth & Reconciliation Day to honour the Michi Saagiig and share key learnings about the Treaty 20 signatories.
Inspiring others to make reconciliation a priority and sharing key learnings on the importance of investing in relationships and trust building was the focus of a presentation by VP Davis and Emily Whetung, Curve Lake First Nation chief at the annual First Nations Education Administrators Association National Gathering in October 2021. Their presentation detailed how Trent and Curve Lake built a “gold standard relationship” through the creation of the Trent Lands and Nature Areas Plan.
Promoting on-campus food production through the new Trent Farm
Agriculture and food security is another priority of the Lands Plan. Work is now underway to relocate the Trent Farm to a larger, permanent location, more suitable to growing crops and developing new research about regenerative agriculture. Trent students are playing an active role in preparing the land for farming by implementing good soil management practices, which will not only be beneficial to the farm but also the surrounding Nature Areas.
Members of the Trent Lands and Nature Areas planning team have also been meeting with the student-led Trent Vegetable Garden (TVG) on advancing its goals in its current location and were pleased to tour the gardens during the summer and learn about their vision for the future.
“Over the next year, we’ll be working with the TVG team to explore further expansion of the garden in its current location, in conjunction with renewal of the lease between Trent University and the Seasoned Spoon,” VP Davis says.
Supporting green innovation: Cleantech Commons
Set to become Canada’s premier green technology research and innovation site, Cleantech Commons will bring together Trent’s world-class researchers and facilities with government, start-ups and innovators to accelerate the adoption of clean, green, low carbon and sustainable technology. With servicing of Cleantech Commons site essentially complete, the research park continues to provide value-added services for clean and green tech innovators through strategic partnerships with entities like Bioenterprise and Urban Living Futures. Through these partnerships, student entrepreneurs can build their networks with potential mentors, employers, and investors to create opportunities to grow, scale, fund, and accelerate their ideas.
Celebrating our work
Trent was recognized by Otonabee Conservation at their annual meeting in January 2022, with an Environmental Excellence Award for Business. The awards recognize outstanding people, organizations and groups that have demonstrated the advancement of watershed health through projects on the landscape and actions that contribute to a healthier environment for everyone.
“The University’s focus on the watershed as a foundational element of the Trent Lands and Nature Areas Plan, its first-of-its-kind zero-carbon Forensic Crime Scene Facility, and the work being done on the University Green Network Stewardship Plan, are just a few reasons why Trent is a worthy recipient of this year’s Business Award,” explained Dan Marinigh, Otonabee Conservation chief administrative officer.
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