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Watershed heroes, heroines: 2019 LSRCA award-winners (14 photos)

Town of Newmarket takes home healthy water award; prestigious Ernie Crossland Young Conservationist Award bestowed on Shanty Bay Public School student

No less than 21 people, businesses and groups that are all working to improve the local environment were feted last night at the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority’s 38th annual Conservation Awards ceremony at Madsen’s Greenhouse Banquet Hall.

Several of those honoured for their environmental leadership hail from Newmarket. The town, itself, brought home a healthy water award for its testing of different application rates of sand/salt mixtures as part of winter maintenance practices.

Four other locals got the nod in the healthy community category.

York Region Chairperson Wayne Emmerson, also chair of the conservation authority, said “each and every one of (the) recipients is making a positive difference in (the) watershed”. 

“Their passion and dedication is inspiring. Tonight, we thank them, we honour them and we share their stories as they are an inspiration for others,” Emmerson said during opening remarks at the Nov. 7 event.

One of those honoured for their healthy community work is Noeline Burk, head of arts at Newmarket's private school, Pickering College.

As the faculty liaison for Pickering’s environmental club, The Green Team, it was under Burk’s leadership that the school initially attained Gold Level certification from EcoSchools Canada for the 2015-2016 school year.

This past June, the Bayview Avenue school achieved Platinum Level certification as a result of its energy conservation, waste reduction, ground greening projects and the Green Team’s efforts to educate the school community to make smart environmental choices.

Burk is also responsible for organizing the faculty and staff committee known as the Evergreen Group, which works to identify opportunities to reduce the school’s environmental footprint.

“Noeline has done so much for the school, in terms of making us more sustainable and, even more importantly, inspired our students to give so much of themselves in the pursuit of a more green school and future,” said Peter Sturrup, Head of School at Pickering College. “I cannot think of a more deserving person – Noeline has invested a lot of time, effort and hard work and we can see the impact it is having on the school.”

Pickering College alumnus Michael Wang nominated Burk for the award in recognition of her tireless work in making the school one that is more sustainable and kinder to the environment.

Newmarket's Eco-Guardian, a company with a mission to do all they can to help protect the environment, was also honoured with a healthy community award. 

The company philosophy promotes pure products for a clean future and they strive to reduce the impact of waste on the environment by creating organic or eco-friendly food-service and tableware products. 

Eco-Guardian offers 100-per cent compostable, sugarcane-based food-service items such as cutlery, plates, cups, bowls, shopping bags, and produce bags that decompose and vanish in soil in about 33 days, 60 days less than acceptable international standards.

Another healthy community award-winner, Roy Alexander, is a member of the Central Ontario Geocachers who uses a number of LSRCA’s conservation areas to find geocaches.

For more than three years, Alexander has been giving back to the natural areas by organizing the geocaching community to clean up the Thornton Bales and Rogers Reservoir conservation areas. He also helps educate volunteers on the impacts people have on natural spaces when they don’t conduct their activities in an environmentally respectful manner. 

And, passionate Newmarket teacher Tanya Murray rounds out the local healthy community champions. 

Murray helps bring students and teachers outside to connect with nature and the Lake Simcoe watershed. She has raised the profile of outdoor and environmental education through her involvement with York Region Nature Collaborative, Outdoor Council of Canada, Forest School Canada, Learning for a Sustainable Future, Nature Backpacks, and the York Region Envirothon Steering Committee, in addition to her presence on social media channels to promote outdoor environmental education.

Murray also spearheaded a biweekly York Region District School Board newsletter called 4 Walls to 4 Seasons, to encourage outdoor learning and collaboration. 

Without further ado, here are the winners of the 2019 LSRCA Conservation Awards:

Ernie Crossland Young Conservationist Award

(Awarded to individuals and groups that are 30 years of age or younger and are involved in a significant leadership role in a conservation project or with a conservation-based group or organization.) ​

Nari Hwang (watershed-wide) is a Grade 6 student at Shanty Bay Public School, located on the north shore of Kempenfelt Bay, Lake Simcoe. She’s made art out of garbage and plastics to bring awareness to the amount of plastic garbage found in rivers, oceans, lakes and streams, and the negative effect these items have on the environment throughout the world. 

Nari is passionate about protecting Lake Simcoe from pollutants and plastics and keeping the lake healthy. She is an avid blogger on her site, Make Clean Water Happen, where she offers tips on reducing one’s impact on the environment. 

She has also spoken at school assemblies on how plastic garbage impacts natural habitats and the environment, has written an editorial on water pollution and, most recently, created a video entitled Eulogy for Lake Simcoe, a living eulogy to bring attention to the negative effects climate change, plastics and invasive species can have on the health of the lake.

Healthy Community Award

(The Healthy Communities Award celebrates individuals or groups in our watershed who have completed a project that increases community connections and engagement through events, fairs and festivals; tree plantings; clean-ups and community programs. It also acknowledges significant traditional media or social media coverage; delivering innovative environmental programs or services; as well as sharing knowledge and information through campaigns.​)

  • Brechin Public School (Brechin, Brock Township) – For planning, educating and leading the student body in support of various environmental initiatives.
  • Durham Shredders (Durham Region) – For promoting land stewardship and teaching riders about trail etiquette.
  • Eco-Guardian (Newmarket) – For promoting pure products for a clean future by reducing the impact of waste on the environment.
  • Noeline Burk (Newmarket) – For her leadership in attaining the Platinum Ontario EcoSchools certification and overseeing several environmental initiatives.
  • Ross James (Sunderland) – For collecting and providing over 25 years of in-depth handwritten notes on a wide variety of species living in the Beaver River wetland.
  • Roy Alexander (East Gwillimbury, Newmarket) – For organizing community clean ups and educating people on respecting natural spaces.
  • Tanya Murray (Newmarket) – For raising the profile of outdoor and environmental education.

Healthy Land Award

(This award celebrates improvement projects that help to support and protect natural heritage feature's​ including woodlands, wetlands and their functions; wildlife habitat; biodiversity and ecological restoration; soil erosion; and trail development.) 

  • Dan Sopuch (Bradford West Gwillimbury) – For reducing soil erosion on his farm by planting cover crops and installing tile outlet control structures.
  • David Barton (Township of King) – For planting 3,000 trees and shrubs on his property.
  • Hillside Gardens (Bradford West Gwillimbury) – For interseeding their fields and installing a new dry feed system and star finger de-dirter at the front end of their vegetable processing plant.
  • Hollandale Farms (Township of King) – For reducing soil erosion by using cover crops and interseeding and for installing de-dirting equipment to improve their harvester’s efficiency.
  • OFA Durham Region – Jim Carson; OFA Simcoe County – Dave Lucas; OFA York Region – Bart Johnson – For their many years of dedicated service to review restoration projects and provide valuable comments and feedback.
  • Nick and Ted Mendrek (Holland Marsh) – For completing several projects to help conserve soil and prevent soil erosion.
  • Susan and Charles Larkin (Sutton West) – For planting 2,390 trees and shrubs in 2018 & 2019.
  • Tatiana Mitchell (Oro-Medonte) – For removing non-native plant species from her garden and planting an all native plant selection to support beneficial pollinators.

Healthy Water Award

(The Healthy Water Award is presented to individuals and groups who have completed a project that improves, supports or p​rotects the water quality in the Lake Simcoe watershed. Projects could include stormwater management, water conservation, streambank and shoreline restoration or stabilization, low impact development techniques and source water protection.​)

  • City of Barrie – For developing strategies to minimize salt use to ensure roads and sidewalks are safe in the winter.
  • Town of Aurora – For reducing application rates, material usage, transportation and street sweeping costs as part of their winter maintenance activities.
  • Town of East Gwillimbury – For implementing a winter maintenance strategy that includes using a liquid salt-solution to anti-ice roads.
  • Town of Newmarket – For testing different application rates of sand/salt mixtures as part of their winter maintenance practices.
  • Floyd Hales Fish Huts, Bear Point Fish Huts, Jason’s Fish Huts, Hot Box Fish Huts – For taking part in a pilot project to collect water samples from multiple ice huts across Lake Simcoe.
  • City of Richmond Hill – For preparing and delivering training modules to Lake Simcoe watershed municipalities on conducting Stormwater Management pond inspections and maintenance activities.
  • Town of Aurora – For removing a barrier and constructing a new bridge that enables coldwater fish to migrate through a tributary to get to their spawning grounds.
For more information on the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, visit here.

Kim Champion

About the Author: Kim Champion

Kim Champion is a veteran journalist and editor who covers Newmarket and issues that impact York Region.
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