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Consider expropriation for Marcy’s Woods: Hudak
By Kalvin Reid
St. Catherine's Standard

Local News - The province should begin considering the possibility of expropriating Marcy’s Woods, says Erie-Lincoln MPP Tim Hudak. The consumer and business services minister is also asking the Ministry of Natural Resources to send investigators to examine and record damage caused by landscaping at the site recently.

"If any protections have been violated, I would urge the ministry to immediately enforce provincial laws and put measures in place to ensure that no further damage is done," Hudak wrote in a letter Friday to Premier Ernie Eves, Natural Resources Minister Jerry Ouellette and Municipal Affairs Minister David Young.

The letter, obtained by The Standard, also indicates Hudak toured the site Friday morning with local naturalists and asked them to take an inventory of any damage that has been done at the site.

"I was alarmed and saddened to discover this morning that destruction of tree and plant life is taking place along the driveway of the property," he said.

As part of efforts by local naturalists to convince the province to expropriate the sensitive forest on the shore of Lake Erie, about 75 people from the Bert Miller Nature Club, University of Guelph students and other environmental groups piled into two large war canoes Friday morning.

They’re paddling sections of Lake Erie, the Niagara River and Lake Ontario to pressure the Ontario government to expropriate the land. They’re collecting names for a petition that has been circulating for months. When they arrive in Toronto Monday, they’ll give government representatives a petition calling for Ontario to expropriate the land.

"I almost feel this is a David and Goliath struggle. But you all know the end of that story," Erie-Lincoln MP John Maloney said at the rally Friday morning. "The fight for Marcy’s Woods is far from over."

The 115-hectare (284-acre) property on the shores of Lake Erie, one of the last natural stands of Carolinian forest, was sold by the Marcy family to Dino DiCienzo last month. Naturalists say it needs to be preserved because it’s home to an array of endangered and rare plant and animal species, including black maple and swallowtail butterflies.

DiCienzo, owner of Canadian Niagara Hotels, has claimed he has no plans to develop the property and will instead use it as the grounds for a family cottage.

The DiCienzo family recently hired a landscaping firm to widen an access road into the forest, allowing room for a car to get to the existing cottage.

But the clearing of the driveway into the property has caused a stir among local environmentalists who opposed the sale of the land to DiCienzo.

Expropriation would be a waste of public money, Dino DiCienzo Jr., said in an interview. They’ve already vowed not to develop the property, insisting they purchased it for about $2.8 million for "personal use."

"Should the government be spending millions of dollars to expropriate this property when we are going to be preserving it, irregardless?" DiCienzo said.

Hudak has asked the province to enter into negotiations with DiCienzo, or support negotiations by a third party, to publicly purchase the property. "If those negotiations fail, I am concerned that the property would be in jeopardy and I would ask that the province initiate expropriation proceedings," Hudak wrote.

"The landscaping I witnessed this morning, which destroyed trees and plants, gave me great cause for concern that the woods will be jeopardized."

Hudak has tried to help the naturalists concerned about any potential loss of the treasured land. But some of them have criticized him for not moving fast enough.

"You don’t win a hardball game by playing softball," said Bruce Kershner, a naturalist from Buffalo.

Parts of Hudak’s speech Friday were drowned out by shouts of "Expropriate! Expropriate!" and a reminder: "The election’s coming up."

Peter Kormos, Niagara Centre NDP MPP, accused the provincial Conservatives of 'political gutlessness' in letting the forest change hands between private owners.

Expropriation is the 'heavy hammer' in the government’s toolbox, Hudak said Friday.

Governments normally use expropriation when they need to acquire more land for highways or other public infrastructure projects. It’s a "last resort," Hudak said.

Expropriation would be costly and might not survive an almost-certain court challenge by the DiCienzos.

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