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Cut the Holland Marsh berm weeds, says “embarrassed” mayor

Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury staff to investigate costs of cutting section of berms along canal
2018-08-08-holland marsh berms
This section of a berm in the Holland Marsh shows the overgrowth next to a section a local homeowner has taken the liberty to cut back. Jenni Dunning/BradfordToday

Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Rob Keffer said he is “embarrassed” by the “unsightly” and overgrown weeds popping up on the Holland Marsh berms, and he wants them cut down.

The berms — strips of land bordering the canal — are owned by individual farmers, the Town of BWG and King Township, and there are no set rules for their maintenance.

BWG council voted Tuesday to have town staff investigate the costs of cutting half of the berms — from the roadside up to the middle point, where the berms begin to slope down to the canal — east of Highway 400 to the Art Janse Pumping Station.

“Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed to be mayor of a town that has such a large area of publicly-owned property with weed seeds blowing around at the entrance of our town (near) the gem of the vegetable growing area of Canada,” Keffer said. “(It looks like) we’re not willing to step up as a town to look after our own property.”

Town of BWG staff have estimated it would cost $4,500 to mow the entire berms each time, Keffer said.

Coun. Gary Baynes pointed out, since council is asking staff to investigate cutting half of this area, the cost should presumably be less.

About $25 million was set aside for the canal relocation project several years ago, raising berms along the roadside in response to several drownings in the canal over the years and to help with flooding and drainage.

“There were some areas that were naturalized… These areas are a failure. It looks unsightly,” Keffer said. Trimming a portion of the berms would “make a big difference to the entrance of our town.”

About 80 per cent of the berms are on public land, and 20 per cent are on private land, he added.

The town is only allowed to cut the public land, noted Terry Foran, BWG’s director of community services.

Initially, a trail with an aggregate base, not pavement, was meant to be installed along the berms, but the town has not been successful in getting the $1.2-million grant funding needed for that project, he said.

The original recommendation submitted to BWG council Tuesday suggested giving the responsibility of cutting the berms to the Holland Marsh Drainage System Joint Municipal Services Board.

Local resident Larry Curtis addressed council on the issue, arguing the move could cost some homeowners thousands of dollars.

Coun. Raj Sandhu said the berm cutting maintenance should not fall only to the Town of BWG, as the Holland Marsh falls in different communities.

“We’re partners on the board. We’re a team. We don’t expect them (King Township) to pay for everything,” he said.

Several councillors suggested leaving half of the berms alone to grow as a habitat for wildlife.

“We have some beautiful homes … and well-established businesses. That area should look clean and neat. It should be maintained,” said Coun. Peter Dykie Jr.

“By cutting the trial, we’re absolutely going to end up with a gem,” added Coun. Mark Contois. “This is a gem for the whole community, and I don’t think the farmers should have to (pay for it).”

Jenni Dunning

About the Author: Jenni Dunning

Jenni Dunning is a community editor and reporter who covers news in the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury.
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