Parks Canada and Partners Take Big Steps Toward a New National Urban Park in Windsor
(Release from Parks Canada)
Access to nature plays a unique and vital role in the lives of Canadians. New national urban parks that are readily accessible provide urban green spaces and cultural resources that are doubly important as we address the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
Today, Irek Kusmierczyk, Member of Parliament for Windsor—Tecumseh and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, on behalf of the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, and on behalf of the Honourable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, announced several major milestones toward a proposed new national urban park in Windsor.
The Windsor national urban park takes a big step forward with the completion of the much-anticipated Ojibway Shores land transfer from Transport Canada to Parks Canada.
The Ojibway Shores property has significant ecological value. It includes the only remaining undeveloped shoreline of the Detroit River in the Windsor-Detroit area and offers a vital ecological connection between the river and the Ojibway Prairie Complex.
These lands and waters are also culturally and historically significant to the First Nations peoples who have stewarded them for millennia. The creation of a national urban park in the traditional territory of the Three Fires Confederacy is an opportunity to support and foster First Nations' leadership and stewardship in conserving and restoring these lands and waters. The Detroit River itself is also a culturally significant place in terms of Black history, and its connection to the underground railroad. Because of its rich ecological and cultural connections, Ojibway Shores is planned for inclusion in the proposed national urban park.
With this transfer, the federal Government can now begin the process of remediation through cleanup operations that will benefit the local environment and the many species of plants and animals that depend on it for survival. Ojibway Shores provides critical habitat for many rare and threatened species. It is also an important stop-over for migratory birds including eight species at risk and the natural shoreline acts as a movement corridor and provides nesting habitat for turtles such as the endangered Spiny Softshell.
Mr. Kusmierczyk also announced the completion of the pre-feasibility phase for the proposed park. This confirms that the candidate site aligns with the National Urban Parks Program objectives. Parks Canada recognizes the important work undertaken by the Windsor Partner Committee and partners' commitment to advancing the program objectives. This includes Caldwell First Nation, Walpole Island First Nation, the City of Windsor, the Town of LaSalle, the Province of Ontario, and Hydro One. The partner committee's work is reflected in the pre-feasibility report and will inform future planning for a national urban park in Windsor.
The purchase of an additional and strategic piece of land to further complement the proposed national urban park also formed part of today's announcement. Parks Canada provided $1.3M to the City of Windsor to purchase a residential property which holds tremendous value for the proposed park. Acquiring this property will provide the opportunity to restore the land and improve ecological connectivity between the surrounding natural areas that all lie within the proposed park study area.
As well, Parks Canada released a background document and discussion paper today to solicit input from partners, stakeholders, and the public to inform a new National Urban Parks Policy.
This new policy will guide the designation and management of new national urban parks across the country to ensure that they meet the program objectives of conserving nature, connecting people with nature, and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
As part of the Government of Canada's commitment to protect biodiversity and to conserve 25 percent of lands and waters by 2025, and 30 percent of each by 2030, Parks Canada, in collaboration with a wide array of partners, will continue to work toward realizing the vision of establishing a network of national urban parks in many of Canada's major urban centres.
"Canada's national parks are the crown jewels of our natural heritage, and new national urban parks will bring more Canadians closer to the benefits of green and accessible conserved areas where they live. Our system of national parks was envisioned more than a century ago, and today we are taking the next natural step with the creation of a national urban parks network. For the people of Windsor, Ojibway Shores is a natural oasis in a highly developed area that is home to sensitive and rare ecosystems and a multitude of species. This land should be protected and including it in a national urban park just makes sense. The Government of Canada is making great progress in creating a network of national urban parks – and Ojibway Shores is another critical link in the chain." The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
"The transfer of Ojibway Shores between Transport Canada and Parks Canada will allow for the transformation of this important ecological and cultural area into a new national park space. Working together under a whole-of-government approach, we will develop an inclusive and unique greenspace, one that advances reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and that all Canadians can enjoy." The Honourable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport
"Today we protect Ojibway Shores forever and take a giant historic step towards an Ojibway National Urban Park – it is a day that unites our community, and a day we have fought for decades to bring about. As we preserve the last piece of undeveloped shoreline on the Detroit River in our area and formally complete the first phase of the Parks Canada process, we see Ojibway National Urban Park becoming reality." Irek Kusmierczyk Member of Parliament for Windsor—Tecumseh and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion
"Walpole Island First Nation supports the proposed national urban park in Windsor, and Parks Canada's efforts to bring partners together to realize this shared vision. Our nation wishes to co-manage and co-govern this park - this is our aim - to ensure the park protects for all time its special ecosystems and rare species, and the Nation's youth and elders in particular can take part in its management and care." Clint Jacobs, Supervisor, Nin.Da.Waab.Jig/Walpole Island Heritage Centre
"It is exciting to see this significant milestone met as we continue towards the establishment of the Ojibway National Urban Park in the City of Windsor. Residents in Windsor-Essex have long known that Ojibway is a precious area – rich in culture and heritage, and boasting a unique and incredible ecosystem. Over the past few years, Windsor City Council has passed several resolutions, and worked to acquire significant lands, in support of efforts to create this space and link it to the growing network of national urban parks across Canada. With the inclusion of Ojibway Shores, remediation and cleanup operations able to begin, and completion of the pre-feasibility phase for the project, we inch closer to realizing our shared vision every day. We are grateful to all of the stakeholders who have come together on this monumental undertaking. Through Parks Canada's ownership and operations, this diverse mix of federal, provincial and municipal lands will be assembled, maintained and programmed to their fullest potential." Drew Dilkens Mayor of Windsor
"Ontario is working to expand protected and conserved natural areas in the province, providing more opportunities for the public to get out and enjoy nature, which is especially important in more urbanized communities like Windsor. Ontario is proud to collaborate with our conservation partners on the future of public spaces in Ontario to ensure more park access for all, while strengthening the protection and health of wildlife and the environment." David Piccini, Minister of Ontario's Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
"Port Windsor has been an environmental steward for Ojibway Shores for more than 20 years. We are thrilled to finally see that these important lands will be protected by Parks Canada for the people of Windsor-Essex, and all Canadians, for all time." Steven Salmons, President & CEO, Windsor Port Authority
The Ojibway Shores lands are currently vacant, undeveloped, and accessible to the public. They are adjacent to the Gordie Howe International Bridge Canadian plaza site and to land within the Ojibway Prairie Complex, a collection of five closely situated municipal and provincial parks and natural areas.
Parks Canada has provided $1.3M to the City of Windsor for the purchase of a strategic property on Titcombe Road. The property was acquired because it is the only developed residential property on this road and is surrounded by the proposed national urban park study area.
In August 2021, Parks Canada and the City of Windsor announced the signing of a statement of collaboration to explore the potential for a national urban park in the area, and the initial exploration of its feasibility is now complete.
Creating a national urban park in Windsor is an opportunity to champion Indigenous stewardship, elevate Indigenous perspectives and storytelling, and promote connections to lands and waters based on Indigenous Knowledge and values.
In addition to the City of Windsor, Parks Canada has launched exploratory processes for other potential national urban parks in various municipalities across Canada including Victoria (BC), Edmonton (AB), Saskatoon (SK), Winnipeg (MB), and Halifax (NS). Early discussions are also underway in Montreal (QC).
New national urban parks will be managed under a range of flexible governance models, including federally administered places, third party administered places, and various partnership approaches.
The new National Urban Parks Policy will guide the designation and management of new national urban parks across the country to ensure that they meet the program objectives of conserving nature, connecting people with nature, and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
The vast network of protected areas administered by Parks Canada is a gateway to nature, history, and 450 000 km² of memories from coast to coast to coast.
With its well-known network of urban cultural heritage sites, as well as Rouge National Urban Park, Parks Canada has a strong presence and a long history of conservation in urban areas.