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Town of Oakville makes positive changes to our environment

Canada Goose flying just above the reeds | Brian Gray
Canada Goose flying just above the reeds | Brian Gray

The Environmental Strategic Plan’s 2015 Implementation Update received by Council on Monday, September 19, 2016 showcases that Oakville is on a path towards a sustainable future. From being named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for 2015 and designating an additional 81 hectares of land as natural heritage system, to hosting events on climate change, and training over 100 town staff in energy management — Oakville is making great strides towards improving our environment.

“Oakville residents take a lot of pride in our community’s natural heritage and environmental sustainability,” said Mayor Rob Burton. “This report clearly shows how we are working to improve livability by building a green, sustainable community that everyone can enjoy.”

The ESP is a comprehensive master plan that outlines activities to improve the town’s environment. Adopted in 2005, and updated in 2011, it has provided a clear guide for staff and the community, and helped spur the development of many town programs such as the Towards Zero Waste strategy, fleet greening, sustainable purchasing policies, green building standards for the town, a corporate Conservation and Energy Management Plan, the Oakville Wildlife Strategy, tree protection by-law, urban forest management plan, pesticide reduction, stormwater management program, active transportation master plan and many other environmental improvements.

The actions in the current ESP are being implemented from 2012-2016. As of 2015 year end, 109 of the 121 actions in the ESP, or 90 per cent, were either underway or complete.

Highlights from 2015 include:

  1. Being named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for 2015 as selected by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers.
  2. Designating, through an official plan amendment, approximately 81 hectares of land along the Fourteen Mile Creek Valley as part of the natural heritage system — a critical step in order to have the province consider including these lands as part of the Greenbelt Plan under the Urban River Valley designation.
  3. Training over 100 town staff in energy management to ensure energy efficiency, proper maintenance and management of building systems
  4. Being recognized by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for achieving milestones four and five of the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program.
  5. Hosting the inaugural "Keep Calm and Adapt" community event to educate residents on climate change impacts, extreme weather and emergency preparedness.
  6. Hosting active transportation programs including four summer cycling camps for children and six CAN-BIKE cycling courses, as well as encouraging alternative transportation during the PanAm and Parapan Am games and managing the bike valet at the Canadian Open.
  7. Initiating the Stormwater Master Plan – Be rain ready. Phase one of the plan confirmed that the town's underground pipe network is in good structural condition. Phase two involves modelling the drainage network to identify areas at risk of flooding and in need of attention.
  8. Partnering with Conservation Halton to salvage native wildflowers, shrubs and trees prior to construction. This is cost effective means of obtaining native plants for local restoration projects.
  9. Launching the Forest Health Ambassador program which engages residents to help monitor neighbourhood street trees for invasive insects, disease and other issues related to forest health.
  10. Holding a coyote information night to help keep residents informed of how to coexist peacefully with wildlife.

The town is also committed to protecting the health of its residents through implementation of the Health Protection Air Quality By-law (HPAQB) . The by-law’s purpose is to protect the health of Oakville residents from the negative effects of fine particulate matter by collecting emissions information from Oakville facilities and implementing regulatory controls for major emitters. A recent implementation update report from staff on the HPAQB advised Council that there were continued emissions reductions by several major emitters and the town and facility operators continue to work together to improve local air quality.

In December 2016, staff will provide Council with the annual State of the Environment Report (SOER). Through SOER the town updates the community about positive improvements in areas such as transit use, electricity, natural gas and water consumption, and Ecoschool certification.

The town’s environmental programs and policies ensure the Oakville community continues to be a leader in environmental sustainability.