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Conservation Halton recognizes local conservation heroes

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Conservation Halton (CH) held its 32nd annual Conservation Halton Awards on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at the Milton Centre for the Arts. The awards are presented to people and organizations that make outstanding contributions to conservation in the Halton watershed, which includes Halton, Peel, Hamilton and Puslinch. 

Every person, group, or school, in the various awards categories (except for the Parks Volunteer Award) are nominated from the community. The 2014 award recipients are as follows:

  • Citizen: Ken Hall, Dundas
  • Citizen (Youth): Hayden Downes-Mills, Hayden’s Rebicycling, Georgetown; Kevin Knoblauch, Milton District HS; Sebastian Nesci, Sebastian’s Choice, Milton; Jade Paxton, Bishop Reding CSS, Milton
  • Community: Nassagaweya Community Consultation Committee, Milton
  • Corporate: Owls for Climate Change Books (Halton Region Clean Air Committee)
  • Education (Individual): Sean James, Fern Ridge Landscaping, Milton
  • Education (Group or School): Eastview Public School EcoTeam, Oakville; Millgrove Children’s Centre, Millgrove
  • Media / Blogger: Gayle Labuz, Sometimes Eventful, Guelph; Mike Davis, Niagara Escarpment Views, Georgetown
  • Parks Volunteer: Melanie Ursprung, Mountsberg Raptor Centre, Guelph
  • Partnership: Metis Nation of Ontario
  • Stewardship: Burlington Springs Golf and Country Club

“The Conservation Halton Awards really showcase some of the great work being done in our community by people and organizations. It’s especially gratifying to see some great diversity in the award winners, we have all ages represented and people who are making an impact as volunteers and also by making conservation part of their business, daily routine and work,” said Conservation Halton Chair John Vice, “Congratulations to everyone who received, or were nominated for an award, you are making a tremendous difference.”

The award recipients received certificates of appreciation from Conservation Halton. More details about the Conservation Halton award winners and their accomplishments can be found below.

More than 150 guests and dignitaries attended the awards ceremony. In addition to the award recipients, Watershed Stewards in the Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship Program were recognized, as well as local schools and childcare centres that participated in the Stream of Dreams education program.

A graduation ceremony was held for the 22 people who participated in the New Canadian Stewardship Course. The course was for New Canadians looking to learn more about the environmental sector and consisted of a series of workshops on topics such as stormwater management, ecology, forestry, planning, and recreation management. The course participants came from eleven different countries. The New Canadian Stewardship Course is part of the Natural Connections Program, a partnership between Conservation Halton and FutureWatch EDEP, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, for more information go to www.nchalton.ca.

2014 Conservation Halton Awards Recipients

Ken Hall – Citizen

Ken Hall was one of the founders and key players in establishing the Bay Area Restoration Council and has been for the last 20 years the one constant in maintaining the existence and longevity of the Giant’s Rib Discovery Centre. Since his retirement in 1989 Ken has devoted his time to public education on our environment and the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve. Ken worked as a teacher and principal in both the elementary and secondary school systems.

He played a key role with the Hamilton Naturalists Club in the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan, and was a member of the Fish and Wildlife Habitation Restoration Committee that built the fishway into Cootes Paradise. Ken Hall has a passionate love for the Niagara Escarpment and has spent decades promoting its protection and awareness just as much in Halton as in Hamilton, Niagara and the rest of Ontario.

Hayden’s Rebicycling – Citizen (Youth)

Hayden’s BMX Bike, which was a birthday gift from his parents, was stolen from his front yard just before Thanksgiving in 2010. He wrote a letter to the paper asking the thief to please return his bike and explained why it was so important. His bike was not returned but a gentleman from town found the bike destroyed beyond repair in a dumpster.

The community reached out to Hayden and several new and used bikes were dropped off at his house, as well as gifts cards and a cheque from a stranger for $200. Hayden only needed one bike so he came up with the idea to find other kids to give a bike. The money was used to buy two bikes and some locks and helmets for other kids. Hayden felt so good about it he said to his parents "I should start a business giving away bikes". And so The Re-Bicycling program was born.

Hayden’s Re-Bicycling has groups of volunteers come out on work days to repair bikes and they have given away 594 bikes and processed over 700 bikes. This project has been running for four years. In recycling these old bikes and giving them new owners Hayden’s Re-Bicycling have stopped roughly 17,220 pounds of metal from going to the land fill.

Kevin Knoblauch – Citizen (Youth)

Kevin has been the backbone of the Milton District High School Eco Club, which has 24 members for the past two years.

Kevin organized all aspects of the school’s E-Waste Drive, including the publicity. It diverted significant E-Waste, and raised $1,000 for the Club. The funds were directed to a water bottle refill station at the school, to help eliminate bottled water at MDH.

The annual Taste of Milton event is held at Milton District High School. The sold-out crowd of over 250 people witnessed recycling in action as students, led by Kevin, cleared plates into ‘green bins’ and sorted recycling ... an inspiration to all the diners. Instead of the usual dozens of garbage bags, this event was reduced to a single garbage bag.

Kevin led a team of student volunteers for Earth Day clean-up, extending student participation into the Community. He even ensured after the final performance of the school play that when they took the set down that everything that could be re-used or re-cycled went into the proper bins.

Sebastian Nesci – Citizen (Youth)

Sebastian is 5 years old and created a company, Sebastian’s Choice, that sells chemical free cleaners, soap and lip balms, to be kind to the earth, and keep people safe. He took an interest in helping the earth and started the venture in August 2013 in his home with assistance from his parents.

Sebastian is very enthusiastic, he talks about his products and sells his products to everyone he can. He is on a mission to save the earth and so far has raised $300 (donating to autism), with $1 of all products sold.

Jade Paxton – Citizen (Youth)

Jade has been actively involved as the leader of the Bishop Reding Catholic Secondary School’s ECO team since 2012.

During Earth Week she has organized and participated in events such as Trivia contests, environmental movies, a Litterless Lunch Campaign and an Annual Competitive Cleanup with classrooms volunteering to to pick up garbage on the school property and sort it into recycling bins. Other activities include the Crushed Can Contest, the Recycle Raffle, creating environmental posters, National Sweater Day and promoting Earth hour.

Every Friday she participates in the weekly collection of green cart compost waste in specific areas of the school. Outside of the school, Jade has been involved in the WWF CN Tower Climb on two occasions.

Jade is concerned with the preservation of natural resources and committed to reducing, re-using and recycling at the school through various activities. She organizes and actively participates in environment-themed events throughout the school year and is always making suggestions to improve them.

Nassagaweya Community Consultation Committee – Community

For 18 Years, the Nassagaweya Community Consultation Committee (NCCC) has rallied the community to clean up the roadsides and ditches in the rural area – the former Township of Nassagaweya.

The NCCC arranges for gloves, vests, bags provided by the Town of Milton and Halton Region to be distributed to volunteers. The NCCC also secures community partnerships to ensure their volunteers are fed. Hundreds of community residents have been participating in the cleanup on the designated day every year.

The junk removed is unsightly, but also dangerous to both the environment and humans. Tires, bottles, oils, fertilizer, toilets, needles ... literally everything including the kitchen sink! Sadly, the litter and contaminates continue to appear ... but every year brings hope that yet another child, family, motorist hears the message. Literally tonnes of garbage and litter have been removed.

Owls for Climate Change, Halton Region Clean Air Committee – Corporate

The Halton Region Clean Air Committee published three children’s books as part of an air quality and climate change education and awareness raising program. The Owls for Climate Change books were designed to educate children aged four to eight, and their parents, about the links between air quality and human health and suggest actions people can take to improve air quality and address climate change. The books include a balance between text and illustration and explain basic air pollution, climate change and energy conservation concepts, as well as related health impacts that help teach young readers about the importance of caring for their world. The Development, Publishing and Launching of the books were done over a three year period from 2011 to 2013.

The Owls for Climate Change series is a key component of Halton’s overall air quality campaign. As a result more families in Halton are now talking about and thinking about energy use and their transportation habits, particularly how their actions affect air quality and climate change. They are learning some small steps they can take to decrease their own carbon footprint, protect their health, and take action to be better prepared to cope with the effects of climate change.

Sean James – Education (Individual)

Sean is President of Fern Ridge Landscaping and Eco-consulting. He has an environmentally focused approach to landscaping and is firmly committed to putting his expertise to use in the community by educating people on the use of native species and demonstrating the beauty of sustainable gardens.

Sean has completed a number of very exciting environmental projects, including the Portico Church rainwater garden and Elm Drive bioretention ponds, in partnership with Credit Valley Conservation and other eco-groups, and has been involved locally through Milton District High School’s large scale plans to naturalize their grounds (he is a MDHS alumni).

Eastview Public School EcoTeam – Education (Group or School)

Bill Gatopoulos, custodian at Eastview Public School in Oakville, helped establish numerous initiatives including leading the creation of the school Eco team and a classroom management team. That team (about 15 students) involves students inspecting classrooms to ensure items are being properly composted and recycled, and lights are shut off when not in use. Classes are subsequently scored.

Bill Gatopoulous was nominated by Halton Region and named as one of “50 Unsung Heroes” by the Solid Waste Association of North America for making a difference in solid waste industry. The Eastview Eco Team recently held an Earth Day assembly for the school. They are now working on an initiative to “ban the box” after discovering that much of the lunch waste was juice box containers.

Millgrove Children’s Centre – Education (Group or School)

The Millgrove Children’s Centre participates in many Conservation Activities including: recycling, composting, garbage sorting, promoting anti-idling, using reusable dishes, allowing cloth diapers (not all centres do), re-using paper that has only been used on one side, collecting food scraps for animals at a local farm and conserve their water use at all times!

Millgrove uses biodegradable sunscreen and the playground has tree stumps and recycled tires for the children to explore. The children also plant and care for the vegetable gardens which they ate from last year. They are collecting 3,000 waterbottles for their Recycled Waterbottle Greenhouse Project. A garage sale with items donated by the centre’s families is raising money for the frame supplies. This project has involved between 10 to 100 people working on it over the past four to five months. In the greenhouse they will be able to grow fresh vegetables and fruit with the children at the centre as well as divert many waterbottles from the landfill.

Mike Davis, Niagara Escarpment Views – Media / Blogger

Mike Davis is the principal photographer for Niagara Escarpment Views the only magazine that reflects the entire Niagara Escarpment in Canada. He works tirelessly in all seasons, in all weather conditions, at all hours, to take the best photos of natural wonders possible. His photographs also illustrate feature articles on nature, conservation efforts and achievements. The magazine wouldn’t be a success without his dedication and talent.

Based in Georgetown, Niagara Escarpment Views covers the entire Escarpment, from Niagara Falls to Tobermory and even onto Manitoulin Island. This is done with a full-time staff of two (Mike and his co-publisher), as well as several freelance contributors. The magazine launched in 2007.

Mike’s photos have significantly raised the profile of conservation issues along the Niagara Escarpment. A minimum of 25,000 people each issue consume the magazine. We have seen other businesses and government agencies raise the profile of the Escarpment since we began publishing.

Gayle Labuz, Sometimes Eventful – Media / Blogger

Gayle Labuz loves to get outside, especially with her family. For years, she has enjoyed the conservation areas within the Conservation Halton Watershed as a respite from a busy life and a place to reconnect with nature. Gayle launched her outdoor family lifestyle blog, Sometimes Eventful in 2012. 

Sometimes Eventful is a part-time hobby and labour of love for Gayle. She does not receive compensation and voluntarily chooses to write about her time in the parks. Like other visitor’s, Gayle and her family pay for their parking and entrance fees to enjoy what Conservation Halton has to offer. 

Gayle has two goals with her blog: encourage people to get outside, explore and achieve the mental, social and health benefits of nature; and help people develop a connection with nature that will inherently result in advocacy for the natural spaces in our province. She strongly believes that if people experience the Conservation Halton parks, they will develop a greater understanding, appreciation and support of the natural environment surrounding the watershed.

Melanie Ursprung, Mountsberg Raptor Centre – Parks Volunteer

Melanie is a volunteer in the Raptor Centre. She volunteers every Monday, a minimum of six hours per day, but often more. She has been volunteering since fall 2012. Melanie is involved with cleaning raptor enclosures, preparing raptor food, and assisting with feeding of the raptors and the Eastern Loggerhead Shrikes. She also takes on seasonal tasks such as snow removal and gardening. Melanie has progressed to handling several of the education raptors

Melanie is a very dedicated volunteer and is always willing to help out any way she can. Melanie is extremely respectful of the birds and has become very astute at noticing small changes in their behaviours that may indicate health issues. She never seeks any reward for the hard work that she does – she considers being around the birds to be reward enough.

Metis Nation of Ontario - Partnership

The Métis Nation of Ontario partnered with Conservation Halton to undertake a Biodiversity Initiative at Glenorchy Conservation Area. The plantings were selected to incorporate species which are of importance to the Métis Nation of Ontario. The biodiversity project will have positive impacts on the surrounding environment, thereby positively impacting Métis traditional, cultural and spiritual practices in the surrounding area.

This collaboration will also provide future educational opportunities for the public to learn about “traditional uses” of certain species incorporated into the restoration plans through designated trails and special “traditional knowledge interpretive signage”. This will include archaeological significance, First Nations and Métis, and early settlers. It will provide opportunities to the public to learn about the human history of the area. This project will allow for the continuation of sustainable harvesting of important traditional species and the improvement of Métis way of life in the region. Volunteers from the MNO helped plant during the restoration stage.

Burlington Springs Golf and Country Club – Stewardship

Burlington Springs Golf and Country Club had 25,500 native tree seedlings planted in the spring of 2014. The project involved two Burlington Springs staff, two Conservation Halton staff, and tree planting contractors.

The planning began in December 2013 and planting finished May 2014. The project resulted in over 30 acres of land on the golf course being professionally planted increasing forest cover and wildlife habitat.

Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship (HHWSP) Program Award Recipients

The HHWSP Stewardship Program award recipients are members of a group of more than 310 landowners voluntarily protecting over 12,800 acres of land, which includes over 7,800 acres of natural land, and over 160 kilometres of stream. It is important to remember that by simply enjoying these natural heritage features as they are, and conserving them for future generations, Watershed Stewards are making a significant contribution to the health of the environment, which leads to a healthy society.

Each year Watershed Stewardship Technicians assist landowners who are looking for advice and recommendations regarding activities they can undertake to restore woodlands, wetlands, meadows, and streams. The following landowners were recognized at this year’s award as Watershed Stewards:

  • Susan and Jeff Allworth of the Sixteen Mile Creek Watershed
  • Vince Fiorito of the Sheldon Creek Watershed
  • Geoff and Judy Knuff of the Sixteen Mile Creek Watershed
  • Agatha and Peter Meilzynski of the Bronte Creek Watershed
  • Jacques and Susan Paiement of the Bronte Creek Watershed

Stream of Dreams 2014

The mission of the Stream of Dreams Program is to educate communities about their watersheds, rivers and streams, while dazzling them with the charm of community art. Since its launch in 2006, Conservation Halton staff has delivered the program to more than 17,750 participants at 46 schools, as well as many community events, installing these magnificent murals across the watershed.

The Stream of Dreams program has countless hours of work put into each project by school, teachers and parent volunteers, as well as the CH staff who deliver the program. The following schools participated over the past year:

  • Ascension Public School, Burlington
  • Brant Hills Elementary School, Burlington
  • Brookville Public School, Campbellville
  • Oakwood Public School, Oakville
  • Sheridan Public School, Oakville
  • St. Dominic Elementary School, Oakville
  • St. John Elementary School, Oakville
  • St. Michael Elementary School, Oakville
  • Trout Unlimited