Sackville Town Council gets advice on making proposed dog park, trails, public art, etc. more climate-friendly

Dr. Richard Elliot is one of 27 members of the Mayor’s Roundtable on Climate Change

For the first time, Sackville Town Council is getting advice from an outside group on how to ensure that next year’s capital projects help lessen the negative effects of climate change.

A working group of professionals and academics on the 27-member Mayor’s Roundtable on Climate Change has submitted a number of preliminary suggestions.

One recommends using next year’s proposed $25,000 public art installation to raise public awareness about how climate change threatens Sackville “and the urgency of taking action now.”

Another suggests that the $15,000 allocated to improve the Lund property in the Waterfowl Park should be used to create trails that are as narrow as possible to avoid cutting down too many trees.

Richard Elliot, a retired wildlife biologist affiliated with the federal department of environment and climate change, said after Tuesday’s council meeting that he’s pleased town staff and councillors seem to be taking the roundtable’s recommendations seriously.

“We’re viewing the town’s capital projects through a climate-change lens,” Elliot said referring to the roundtable’s wide range of objectives.

Those objectives include seeking ways of using as little energy as possible, incorporating natural landscape features into project designs, using environmentally-appropriate materials such as wood approved by the Forest Stewardship Council and, maximizing the number of healthy trees in Sackville to help store more carbon, mitigate flooding and moderate temperatures.

Climate-friendly dog park

The roundtable working group’s list of specific recommendations includes designing a dog park “that incorporates existing ground cover, including trees, woods and fields” on town property “as close as possible to the town centre to minimize the amount of driving and thus fossil fuel consumption undertaken by dog owners to get to the park.” (Current plans call for an $80,000 dog park six-and-a-half kilometres from the downtown.)

The working group also recommends that the town think carefully about the environmental impact of its proposed $575,000 emergency generator at the Civic Centre where residents could take shelter when the town loses power during winter storms.

“We recognize the importance of having a warming facility in our community,” the roundtable writes in its recommendations to council. “Given the high costs of the proposed generator, we encourage town staff to consider the costs and benefits of alternatives such as sharing such facilities with Mount Allison University.”

The roundtable goes on to recommend that before purchasing the diesel generator, the town weigh its environmental effects against the cost of alternate fuel sources with potentially lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Road resurfacing

The roundtable criticizes the town’s plan to use $367,359 in federal gas tax funding next year for fixing local roads.

“We consider that the imaginative arguments to support the use of gas tax funding to finance the resurfacing of roads — to reduce gasoline use associated with acceleration and braking on rough roads — are misguided and inappropriate,” the roundtable writes.

“We urge the Town to find alternate ways to finance road resurfacing, beginning in 2021, and to redirect the gas tax funding to community initiatives to help mitigate impacts of climate change.”

‘Solar Fund’

The roundtable report also encourages the town to move toward the increased use of efficient energy alternatives including solar power.

“We recommend setting aside any funds not used in 2020 in a ‘solar fund,’ to serve as a reserve fund specifically to invest in solar panels as a supplementary energy source for town buildings,” the report says.

Origins of roundtable

The town established the Mayor’s Roundtable on Climate Change in response to hundreds of student strikers who marched on town hall in March demanding action.

On April 8th, town council passed a resolution promising, among other things, to “establish a roundtable on climate change, comprised of various community stakeholders, with a mandate to provide advice and guidance on climate change initiatives as part of the town’s annual priority planning and budget process.”

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Mayor Higham called the roundtable an experiment.

“Obviously, we’re getting some really good advice that future councils might want to consider,” he said.

“The only thing we know we’re doing right away is we’re going to have a public forum,” Higham said, adding that the forum will allow members of the roundtable to hear from residents and community groups on what needs to be done to lessen the effects of climate change.

“[The forum] would give us some kind of blueprint over where we might want to go,” the mayor concluded.

Note: The report from the roundtable’s working group entitled “2020 Town of Sackville Capital Projects — Viewed Through a Climate Change Lens” is dated November 25, 2019. The copy of the report that the town sent to The New Wark Times does not include the names of the members of the working group who made the recommendations about capital projects. The Town Clerk explained in an e-mail: “We have not had an opportunity to reach out to the participants who created the report and therefore their names have been blacked out.”

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5 Responses to Sackville Town Council gets advice on making proposed dog park, trails, public art, etc. more climate-friendly

  1. Alice Cotton says:

    It’s so encouraging to see scientists taking this kind of action, by studying the town’s proposals and making well-informed suggestions. I am looking forward to seeing the town take their suggestions seriously and do what is environmentally responsible at all levels. The climate emergency demands action be taken, and these experts can help us do just that.

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  2. Percy Best says:

    The extra tax on gasoline (federal gas tax funding) that we pay for at the pumps, that I thought was initially set up to basically finance the resurfacing and upgrading of our road system, seems to be taking a hit these days.

    I do realize that the list has been vastly expanded as to what communities can use this fund for. First it was the brainwave that our EX Premier Brian Gallant had to grab all of those funds and let that money look after our Carbon Tax expense, which would have meant zero for repaving.

    Now it seems that this Mayor’s roundtable wants to help mitigate climate change by grabbing those same funds. It is like Sackville is pothole free. NOT. After taking four years of our funding and throwing it at the new Town Hall complex we have seen our asphalt resurfacing agenda sadly lacking and actually being accomplished at 50% of the rate that it should be.

    I would certainly like to see a major project undertaken, with Provincial and Federal help, by spending a few million dollars to upgrade our Town road surfaces to finally help bring them into the 21st century.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sharon Hicks says:

    Another excellent report from WarkTimes!!

    I find it interesting how the Mayor ‘skirted around’ the issue of the Mayor’s Roundtable on Climate Change, in his comments at the December 3rd meeting.

    First, he referred to the Roundtable idea itself as an “experiment”, which causes one to speculate on whether the recommendations and suggestions which are generated by the group will be taken seriously by the Mayor and Council.

    Next he mentioned that “we’re getting some really good advice that future councils might want to consider.”, which makes it sound as if this advice won’t be considered by the current council.

    Finally, he stated “the only thing we’re doing right away is we’re going to have a public forum”, and mentioned that the forum would “give us some kind of blueprint over where we might want to go.”

    All of his statements regarding the Roundtable were ‘generic and non-specific’, which leads one to question how much credence will be given to the suggestions of the group. It also sounds as if any ‘implementation’ of such suggestions will be left to the new Mayor and Council following the May 2020 Municipal Election.

    As for the Town not releasing the names of the members of the Mayor’s Roundtable on Climate Change, one wonders why any such individual would not want their identity to be known.

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  4. Percy Best says:

    It is great that the Roundtable has brought up the issue of $575,000 being spent in 2020 on the diesel generator for the Ice Rink. However, when one thinks ‘Warming Center’, the last thing that comes to my mind is an ‘Ice Rink’. The need of an emergency warming center would, of course, be in the winter when the ice surface is there and the plank seating area has no radiant heat even supplied to it. Our Town felt it couldn’t afford proper seats or even heating to this area when the building was constructed.

    The change rooms downstairs aren’t exactly the best location for public gathering which just leaves the mezzanine/lobby for an warming center. Perhaps a MUCH smaller generator, like the $80,000 trailer mounted portable one that is being purchased for the Public Works Department, would suffice to service only this area in an emergency. Plus this second mobile unit could be used to assist if temporary power is needed at one of our many sewage lift stations.

    Maybe one of the three local school gymnasiums, or the Mt A Athletic Center, would make a more appropriate warming center if these facilities had the capability of plugging in a mobile generator. The Athletic Center is scheduled for a MAJOR upgrade in a few years and maybe there is a back up generator already included as part of the project.

    There are also many trailer mounted portable units for rent in Moncton that are quickly available. All one has to do is have any building wired to accommodate them for a fast plug in arrangement. This would certainly be a rather moderate cost compared to buying a generator itself.

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  5. Margo Sheppard says:

    I echo the sentiment above: Another great report from the New Wark Times! Thank you so much for this. I accessed the link to the declaration and sent it with the news item to our City Council and Mayor of Fredericton. We have been asking for a Climate Emergency Declaration for a while now. This actually elicited a response from one Councillor! So thank you and keep up the great work. I really appreciated the story on the Climate Strike, which I sent to students here who were involved in organizing Fredericton’s own climate strike.

    Liked by 2 people

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