South Nation Conservation recreation areas saw record visitor numbers in 2020; watershed authority reflects on year past

Fishing at Jessup's Falls Conservation Area on the South Nation River, May 30, 2020. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

FINCH — While the pandemic forced many people to stay home, cancelling summer plans, many people turned to local “staycations” — and South Nation Conservation’s 15 public Conservation Areas welcomed over 170,000 visitors from May to October: an all-time visitation record for the Authority.

It’s among the milestones recorded in a year filled with challenges for South Nation Conservation (SNC), which says it nonetheless adapted and showcased “how reliable and valuable the work of Conservation Authorities is for municipalities and residents.”

SNC works with 16 member municipalities across a 4,441 square-kilometer watershed jurisdiction that surrounds the South Nation River in Eastern Ontario.

As some industries came to a grinding halt this year, development throughout the watershed saw record highs; and the Conservation Authority says it was available to support these projects, protect the local environment, and help contribute to the local economy.

This year SNC issued over 160 permits to approve sustainable development activities to protect people and property from natural hazards, such as flooding and erosion, while conserving our local wetlands, waterways, and shorelines.

SNC reviewed 450 development projects on behalf of municipalities and partnered to provide technical services on over 150 of them.

Under its Sewage Systems Program, SNC issued 445 permits for sustainable septic system installation and modification projects for 13 local municipalities.

SNC worked with member municipalities and community partners to protect and restore our local natural resources. This year, over 150,000 trees were planted by SNC on private and public properties through municipal partnerships, tree planting subsidy programs, and community tree giveaways.

While SNC’s educational outreach programs and day camps were cancelled, digital media connected people to nature through the Nature at Home Facebook Live video series, which reached more than 12,000 people online.

When faced with pandemic fundraising challenges, SNC opted to host an online art auction in October that raised over $6,500 for community tree planting.

Additional major highlights of 2020 include expanding the watershed jurisdiction to include the entire City of Clarence-Rockland and its Ottawa River shoreline; the development of a new Conservation Area in the Augusta Township thanks to a municipal land donation and federal partnership; and awarding over $10,000 in grants to non-profit community groups to help with community tree planting projects.

The South Nation River in Lemieux, May 30, 2020. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Through it all, says SNC, Board and staff were able to find ways to collaborate, innovate, be resilient and collectively support communities and the environment.

Most programs were deemed essential and continued through 2020 with appropriate measures in place, including: public forest management (tree marking on 220 acres, with harvest operations occurring on another 180 acres), and providing support to private woodlot owners (70 people receiving free visits or support grants to help add 3,873 acres to managed forest plans for the next 10 years); environmental monitoring work supported SNC’s development review team, and; 28 agricultural water quality improvement projects were approved in the SNC region, and an additional 69 projects within rural Ottawa;

SNC also supported replacing 671 dead Ash trees on private property in Ottawa.

“This year offered new challenges, great opportunities, partnerships and accomplishments,” explained Angela Coleman, SNC’s General Manager. “We would like to wish all of our watershed residents a … Wonderful New Year.”
Select Conservation Areas and municipal trails remain open year-round, visit www.nation.on.ca/recreation/winter-recreation for a full list.

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