Tantramar council hears requests for more climate change money & $80K for Sackville wilderness park

Richard Elliot sporting one of the two hats he wore during his council presentations on Sept. 19

Retired wildlife biologist Richard Elliot literally wore two hats on September 19 when he asked Tantramar Town Council to allocate more money for climate change projects and for creating a park in Sackville’s old Pickard Quarry.

Appearing first as chair of Tantramar’s climate change advisory committee (CCAC), Elliot asked for a doubling of the town’s annual climate change budget to $50,000.

He also requested the creation of a permanent staff position for the climate change co-ordinator.

“The climate change budget that has been assigned to Sackville over the past few years was $25,000,” Elliot told council, adding that the money has been used for projects such as installing solar panels on the roof of the Bill Johnstone community centre, a climate change art project and support for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

“It’s important though that we are able to keep responding in that way and right now we’re finding that $25K a bit limiting because we want to move to the next level,” he said.

Elliot explained, for example, that the CCAC wants to seek outside advice on major projects such as “looking at a net zero option for our arena.”

He said that expanding the Sackville climate change budget on a pro-rated basis to all of Tantramar would mean an annual allocation of about $40,000.

“We’re suggesting though, that given the increasing need…and the ability that we’ve demonstrated already of the CCAC, its partners and the staff here in the community to do things, we’re requesting that the climate change budget be set at $50,000 a year into the future.”

Full-time position

Climate Change Co-ordinator Brittany Cormier

Elliot pointed out that Climate Change Co-ordinator Brittany Cormier is currently working only half time for the town conducting research, writing proposals, overseeing projects such as the demonstration solar panels and establishing contacts.

“We’re really lucky to have someone like Brittany who’s been excellent as our climate change co-ordinator now for over a year-and-a-half as the essential focus to actually make things happen,” he said.

So far, he said, the co-ordinator has been funded completely by grants from outside sources.

“There have been no dollars from Sackville or Tantramar going to that position yet,” he said, adding that applying for grants every year is time consuming and creates uncertainty making it impossible to plan for the long-term.

Elliot said he considers the position essential and that’s why he’s asking council to make it a permanent, full-time one.

To view Elliot’s CCAC slide presentation to council, click here.

Quarry park

One of the ponds on the 20-acre quarry site where more than 80 species of birds visit or nest every year. More than 20 kinds of mammals can also be found here along with frogs, turtles, garter snakes and several species of small freshwater fish. See 2017 report by Richard Elliot & Kate Bredin

Elliot donned another baseball cap for his five-minute presentation to council on behalf of the Tantramar Outdoor Club.

“Right now we’ve got this gem in the middle of town,” he said, referring to the old Pickard Quarry, 20-acres of wilderness and water between Sackville’s Charlotte and York Streets.

“The Outdoor Club feels it’s a timely opportunity to make use of it as a naturalized park somewhat akin to the Sackville Waterfowl Park using safe, low-impact trails and pathways and informative, interpretive signs to talk about the history of this unique place,” Elliot continued.

“We propose it be used for recreation, walking and snowshoeing in winter, natural history viewing and learning about the past,” he said.

“[We] wouldn’t have vehicles on the trails, no wide trails, parking areas scattered around the edge so small numbers of people can park and linked to a network of trails that’s been developed across Tantramar and our own unique status as a Ramsar wetland city.”

Elliot said several local organizations want to work on developing the park.

“The Outdoor Club would provide the overall lead, co-ordination, planning, trail construction and maintenance,” he said.

“The Chignecto Naturalists’ Club, which is our local natural history group, are keen to provide their natural history expertise as well as help with the construction and maintenance of trails, and the Tantramar Heritage Trust…are there to provide the cultural history expertise.

$80,000 request

Photo shows an old path and fence crossing a quarry stream

Elliot said most of the labour would be provided by volunteers, but town funding would be needed to spread gravel on uneven trails, construct a foot-bridge over the waterfall and a small, wheelchair-accessible viewing platform at the end of Pickard Place as well as some some safety railings and interpretive signs.

“We’re asking for $40K next year into the capital budget and probably a similar amount the following year,” he said.

“But if we’re lucky in getting grants, we may be able to reduce that,” he added.

“So, that might be on the high side, but it’s realistic because, just for example, the cost of that bridge may run anywhere from $20 to $50K.”

To view Elliot’s Tantramar Outdoor Club slide presentation to council, click here.

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