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Great Lakes Article:

Province takes charge of Marcy's Woods
Minister invokes zoning order
By Karena Walter

FORT ERIE - The provincial government has taken charge of Marcy’s Woods by signing a rarely used Minister’s Zoning Order that halts any potential development of the site.

In an announcement today, the province will ban work on the controversial Fort Erie property until an environmental consultant develops a long-term plan.

Under the Ontario Planning and Development Act, the minister of municipal affairs and housing has the power to zone any piece of land in the province if deemed necessary.

The order was signed on Friday by Minister David Young and is effective immediately, a provincial government source said.

The province has tasked Nature Conservancy of Canada director John Riley with the job of selecting a person to make recommendations for a long-term strategy, the source said.

Although rarely used, a similar step was taken to protect the Oak Ridges Moraine in south-central Ontario.

“It’s very heavy handed, but it’s very necessary for this property,” said Rob Eberly, president of the Bert Miller Nature Club of Fort Erie, on the expected announcement.

He said the development freeze offers protection in the short-term to ensure no further damage will happen on the sensitive site.

Eberly said heavy machinery brought in to widen the road last month created a corridor for invasive species into the woods.

The property was used as a family retreat for generations by the Marcy family of Buffalo, who sold it to a Niagara Falls family in July.

The DiCienzo family has said repeatedly it has no plans to develop their newly acquired property and will continue to use it as a personal cottage.

When a landscaping firm was hired last month to widen an access road to the forest so the family could get a car to the existing cottage, environmentalists were alarmed.

More than 150 protesters paddled their canoes to the Toronto shores of Lake Ontario Aug. 25 and delivered a petition to Queen’s Park calling for the expropriation of Marcy’s Woods.

Erie-Lincoln MPP Tim Hudak received the delegation at Queen’s Park and requested the Minister of Natural Resources begin the process of purchasing the site. He also requested in letters to that ministry, Premier Ernie Eves and the municipal affairs minister to put measures in place to ensure no further damage.

Riley has a background in botany and geology. He served as regional ecologist for southern and central Ontario in 1986, was an adviser developing provincial natural-heritage policies and former executive director of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists.

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