Response to the Campus Conservation Open Letter
August 4, 2017
Thank you for the Campus Conservation Open Letter (July 30, 2017), and for the thoughtful way in which you have expressed your concerns. At Trent, we are proud of our long-standing leadership in environmental activism and research, and our tradition of active debate, exchanging facts and ideas on important issues.
We welcome the opportunity for dialogue this letter begins, and welcome further opportunities for discussion. We also believe it is important that this discussion be founded on a shared understanding of the Research Park and the comprehensive planning processes that have led to its development.
We want to emphasize that Trent’s decisions about its land trust of approximately 1,400 acres have, for many years been guided by extensive, transparent planning and consultation. In the course of this planning, Trent’s decisions have been led by constant attention to the environmental consequences of what we do.
It is important to say that this is a commitment evident in our actions as well as our words. Most significantly perhaps, the Board of Governors has consciously set aside more than 60 per cent of the Trent Lands as “Nature Areas,” buffers and corridors because it wants to ensure sensitive development and minimize its impact on the environment. This policy is a bold one, but the Board and the University have welcomed it as a way to underscore Trent’s record as a leading environmental university.
Some history is important here. Since the University’s inception, a portion of campus land has been earmarked for development. The goal of this development is a sustainable revenue stream that would support our core teaching and research missions. The University has always intended to carry out the development of these “endowment lands” in a way that improves the student experience, supports the local community, and respects environmental needs.
The idea that Trent should create a Research Park originated in the 2006 Master Plan for the Trent Lands. That plan was based on extensive consultations with hundreds of internal and external stakeholders, agencies, and community members. Its goal matches the planning theme suggested in your Open Letter, aiming to ensure that Trent Lands would be managed in an integrated way – and that development decisions would be made in a cohesive and coordinated manner, in harmony with Trent’s goals, the good of the local community, and our natural environment.
In 2013, new consultations were initiated to update the Trent Lands Plan. New consultations considered in more detail the different aspects of the endowment lands, the needs of our students, University operations, our community, and the environment. In the process, the Trent Lands Plan upheld the following principles, which continue to guide all of our current and future developments:
- Respect the unique cultural heritage, history, context and setting
- Enhance the University and support the campus community
- Strengthen integration, connectivity and relationships with the surrounding communities
- Protect and enhance natural areas
- Enhance and create high-quality public spaces and architecture
- Commit to planning and design excellence and innovation
- Target sustainable initiatives and projects
Trent has worked hard to find a way to retain and utilize those portions of our lands designated for development in a way that is in keeping with these RESPECT principles, at the same time that it builds a sustainable future that will allow Trent to be an exceptional university; and supports the positive development of Peterborough, our region and local Indigenous communities. All these communities are in need of economic development, new jobs and a stronger tax base which will allow them to provide more social services, build core areas like the downtown, and develop recreational facilities.
Trent has been particularly concerned to find a way to develop the portions of our landed designated for development in a way that is in keeping with our environmental values. We believe that we can successfully meet our goals by developing a Research Park which has as its major focus green industry, clean technology and solutions to global environmental issues. This is a project that can support the pressing goals of the University and the community in a way that emphasizes environmentalism and helps promote the Peterborough area as a destination for environmental study, research and industry.
In developing the Research Park, the University has worked diligently with the City of Peterborough and prospective partners to continue our tradition of a balanced, consultative and environmentally-sensitive approach to development of a portion of our endowment lands. Over the past year, this has included multiple open public sessions and stakeholder meetings on the planned development. These sessions, promoted online, on campus, in local newspapers, by email and hand-delivered invitations to neighbours, have been well attended and well received. Trent is presently engaged in consultations with local Indigenous communities to ensure that the Research Park develops in a way that involves them and respects their needs and traditions.
Trent has a positive working relationship with the Ontario Region Conservation Authority and the MNRF and is working with them in the development and planning of the Research Park. The City of Peterborough has completed many environmental studies including species at risk, tree inventories, storm water management, environmental impact studies, and soil testing. One example of Trent’s and the City’s commitment to local biodiversity, is our decision to amend the original Pioneer Road plans and exceed wildlife corridor regulatory requirements – to further increase culvert depth to further improve the wildlife corridors as recommended by an independent environmental impact study.
The Natural Heritage Evaluation for the site was delivered to the City in April 2017. Species at risk screening based on habitat features was completed in fall 2016. When the Trent Board of Governors reviewed the draft master plan at their February 3, 2017 open session meeting, endorsement was granted with an explicit directive to investigate species at risk. The draft species at risk report was delivered in May 2017 only because the final component, the nesting birds’ study, could start no earlier than May for the final report July 6, 2017.
Trent and the City will continue to work with ORCA, other agencies, Indigenous communities, and environmental groups to support the assessment of important wetland areas and address concerns or questions about environmental impacts. We have set high standards for environmental considerations and sustainable development. These standards are embedded in the principles for the entire Trent Lands Plan and for the Research Park Master Plan.
In keeping with our commitment to transparency, background and supporting documents related to Trent Lands can be found online: trentu.ca/trentlandsplan.
If you wish, please feel free to reply directly to this response to your Open Letter to share comments or questions. We welcome your continued input and further dialogue as we remain determined to maintain Trent (and Peterborough) as a place for excellence in environmental practices, research and teaching.
Leo Groarke, President and Vice-Chancellor
Julie Davis, Vice-President, External Relations and Advancement
Neil Emery, Vice-President, Research and Innovation
Dawn Lavell-Harvard, Director, First Peoples House of Learning
Related Media Coverage
- Read Guest Column in Peterborough Examiner from August 2, 2017
- Listen to Neil Emery be interviewed on Ontario Morning Live discussing the Research Park (interview begins 2 minutes 22 seconds into the podcast)