Skip to content

'Doing our part': Bradford council aims to cultivate green future

‘We recognize not only are we in a climate crisis, we have a limited amount of time to prevent the worst effects of that from becoming something we’re bequeathing to our kids and grandkids,’ said Coun. Jonathan Scott

Bradford’s Green Initiatives Committee is preparing to dig in and plant the seeds for the town’s future.

Council endorsed the plan at their regular meeting of council in the Don Harrison Auditorium at the Bradford and District Memorial Community Centre earlier this week, after the committee finalized the plan at their meeting on June 28.

New for this term of council, the committee replaces the parks and healthy community committees, and advises council on initiatives that support the environmental health of the town along with the mental, physical and societal benefits for residents, such as the creation or improvement of trails, parks and other public green spaces, and developing an active transportation plan.

The work plan categorizes those efforts into three key areas — climate change mitigation, green infrastructure and green initiatives advocacy — and defines the objectives and steps to accomplish those objectives for each area.

As a result the plan looks something like a large detailed to-do list, but the chair of the committee, Ward 2 Coun. Jonathan Scott, explained it’s more than just a plan to make a plan.

“We recognize not only are we in a climate crisis, we have a limited amount of time to prevent the worst effects of that from becoming something we’re bequeathing to our kids and grandkids. Acting now and keeping the idea of any rise of global temperatures to under 2 C is just an imperative morally, economically, socially and certainly in terms of our health,” he said.

The first step in addressing that issue is also the first key area of the work plan, creating a Climate Change Mitigation Strategy.

To do this, the committee will need to determine specifics for green procurement principles, fleet and equipment electrification, sustainable municipal building construction and operations, attainable net zero goals, community advocacy programs and the development of an implementation plan.

Those specifics will determine, for example, how town buildings are constructed or renovated and which vehicles the town purchases to update or expand their fleet, Scott explained.

“Greening our buildings and making them energy efficient saves the taxpayer money, and the same principal is generally true of vehicles — both have a huge environmental impact in the aggregate,” he said.

The next part of the plan focuses on green infrastructure and will require the committee to figure out how to expand and improve the town’s parks, trails, natural spaces, and the active transportation network.

For an existing example of those types of improvements, Scott points to Taylor Park, which was recently reopened last month at Walker Avenue and Line 6 after an $850,000 transformation that began in 2022 and now includes: an accessible playground, updated play equipment, basketball courts, a community garden, a shade structure, 60 tree plantings and a multi-use trail that extends through the wooded lot to the west and connects to Simcoe Road.

Scott said work is underway to add a shade structure to Legion Park as well.

“Shade is going to be so much more important if we’re having extreme heat from climate change in the summer time,” he said.

Another objective with green infrastructure is expanding the town’s tree planting program.

“I think everyone knows trees are one of the best carbon dioxide filters we have and they’re natural and they make a neighbourhood look more beautiful,” Scott said.

While he acknowledged it can take decades for trees to grow and for those benefits to be fully realized, Scott also explained the town has experimented with planting more mature trees, and pointed to the growth of trees at the BWG Leisure Centre as an example of progress.

“You go to the leisure centre and those trees were planted a decade ago and it’s suddenly starting to feel like there’s some meaningful green coverage and foliage there,” he said.

On the active transportation side of things, Scott references the Transportation Master Plan and the goal of including walking and cycling infrastructure on arterial roads, and cited the Holland Street transformation project which is expected to include wider more pedestrian-friendly sidewalks as well as more tree plantings.

“Frankly, a lot of the Holland Street plan, for instance, is restoring that street to what it was meant to be which is a downtown, not a de facto highway,” he said.

The third key area of green initiatives advocacy includes expanding municipal transit service, promoting incentives for energy conservation in building standards and materials, working to bring electric vehicle charging stations to town, and more.

While Scott acknowledged that some of those changes may have eventually happened on their own, he feels it’s important for the committee to “push it up a notch.”

As an example, Scott pointed to storm water management, which is already well regulated, but can be improved by limiting the amount of salt used on roads and private properties to reduce how much ends up in water run off.

In addition, the committee is considering how those ponds could be better utilized by adding passive recreation facilities like trails and benches directly around them.

For electric vehicles, the committee is investigating a requirement for public buildings to have a set number of charging stations in their parking lots.

“We don’t have a network of electric vehicle charging stations in town currently and we need one,” Scott said.

The town also learned of a few funding opportunities while working on the new social services hub being built at the site of the old Bradford Public School at 177 Church St.

“I think we’ve seen with the public school that including the energy efficiency retrofit component is a bit of an ‘open sesame’ style password to get federal grants,” he said.

The committee is also looking to continue work previously started with the provincial government, as a joint project between the town and York—Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney Minister of Transportation’s office was announced two years ago and aims to bring 40 kilometres of multi-use trail from near Highway 400 all the way along the canal and Holland River into the Scanlon Creek Conservation Area.

A memorandum of understanding has yet to be established for the project, according to Scott, and the town is still looking into the details of how the trail would cross certain properties.

Scott acknowledged the efforts of the committee and the work plan will need to be integrated into other town plans and regulations such as the Transportation Master Plan, the Holland Street revitalization, waste-water treatment standards and stormwater pond standards.

“I suppose you could call it a co-ordinating plan that picks up the pieces of other related plans and tries to sow them all together,” he said.

While all of that may sound like a lot of ground to cover — both literally and figuratively — Scott was confident the end result would be more than worth the effort.

“If we’re having much lower-cost buildings and vehicles and much greener and cooler — in both senses of the word — parks and streets, it’s going to be a better town, a more affordable town and we’ll be doing our part to protect the planet,” he said.

As the next step in process, the committee plans for consultation on the Climate Change Mitigation Strategy to run throughout the winter and is hoping to have it approved by end of June 2024.

In addition to Scott, committee members also include Ward 3 Coun. Ben Verkaik, Ron Orr, Anne Wright, Domenic Filippone, Kathy Howitt, Elizabeth Simpson Hills, Nadia Sinclair and Jody Mott.

Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
Read more

Reader Feedback