It’s a sight you don’t see every day: cattail marshes, Green Herons, Painted Turtles, Wood Ducks, Mallards and the occasional Osprey…right beside new subdivisions. Yet these all coexist in the town of Aurora, Ontario, where the municipality is working to balance development with the need for urban biodiversity including wildlife habitat.
Bolstered by two major land donations (to Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust) and the identification of a natural heritage system in its fast-growing northeast corner, the town has committed to create a unique ‘community wildlife park’. The park will be anchored by a provincially significant wetland complex along a small creek, grasslands, and old hardwood forest; and will be further enhanced with new habitat features. Once all the developable lands adjacent to the park are built out (expected by 2020), local residents will be able to access and appreciate the biodiversity and natural features of the area, in their own backyards.
Protecting space for nature in urban areas is good planning and also makes economic sense. Property values for houses that border the proposed wildlife park are higher than those that don’t, and preserving the ecological functions of the wetland and other natural areas will reduce the discharge of nutrients and other contaminants downstream (to Lake Simcoe) and protect against flooding and drought.